If you could achieve the right chemical combination to somehow create and bottle self-esteem you would be a billionaire. It would fly off the shelves faster than the production rate, with hundreds of millions seeking its miracle cure, myself included. What has happened to us as a society? We all can’t come from tragic pasts, abuse, neglect or broken families. There must have been some who were raised with love and affection, yet regardless of age, culture, race or religion, so many are bonded by one commonality; a lack of inner confidence.
Self-esteem is essential to live a healthy life; it is more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes. For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves. People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present moment to determine how they feel about themselves. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to depression and other mental illnesses. It can cause people to fall short of their potential and to tolerate abusive situations and relationships.
Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of self-esteem. Building self-confidence is something most parents try desperately to achieve. They praise us when we do well and encourage us when we are trying. They want to send us out into the world feeling confidant, strong, believing in ourselves and able to keep a sense of self through all life’s twists and turns. Then there are parents who have low self-esteem themselves and spend more time discouraging and berating, whilst convincing you it is for your own good…”tough love” as they call it. So how is it, that regardless of upbringing, the number of people who are completely confident is few and far between? Has life beaten that many people down? Are we more sensitive than previous generations? What has caused this influx of loss of confidence? It’s like an egg timer…our parents fill all the sand up at the top, yet somehow life turns us upside down and we are drained and empty before we know it.
For me, I feel like my sand never filled up the top, but instead, the timer was always leaning on a slant downwards. As my Mom tried to fill it up, my Dad and the predators took it away. I was never an outspoken kid, or the one who wanted to be the center of attention. I never wanted to be chosen to answer in class even though I knew what it was, and I skipped almost every oral presentation up until college. Too many eyes on me make me want to crawl out of my skin and that has never changed. I still have difficulty walking into a restaurant or bar alone to meet someone and I don’t do well doing things on my own. Insecurity feeds off of lack of self –esteem.
I have experienced confidence in two different areas of my life; soccer and skiing. Both I became quite accomplished at which seemed at one point to improve how I felt about myself. I knew in my heart that I was good, and for the first time there was something that no one could take from me. My Dad could say all the negative things he wanted and it didn’t hurt. This self-esteem thing was like a shield, keeping me safe, with the words bouncing off it and never sinking in. The sad thing was, with the end of each match or race I found myself empty again, the sense of pride and confidence sunken back down to the depths of my normality.
Not a day goes by where I don’t wish that sense of self-esteem carried over to other areas of my life, spreading like wildflower seeds carried by the wind. I try to bring myself back to those memories in my mind and make a desperate grasp at not only remembering, but feeling what it felt like to “feel good” about yourself, however, as with everything unused, it fades with time. I can picture myself holding the trophies, or being on the podium but for the life of me I can’t remember how it felt, which is not only frustrating, but painful. It is like when my Mom died and within five years I could no longer remember her voice, no matter how hard I struggled to do so. You want something so badly yet it always remains slightly out of your grasp.
I have dealt with and overcome a lot in my life, but no therapists, no self-help books, nothing I have tried has allowed me to gain a positive sense of self, and I am at the point where I wonder if it is even possible. Self-doubt and self-hatred continue to plague me from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I drift off to sleep and I wish to wake up one morning, feeling good about who I am and what I have done for others; to stop not doing things because I don’t have the confidence and I am afraid. Even as I write this, I don’t believe in my heart it is good enough or helpful enough to make a difference. I often question why I continue to write these words and the only reason I can come up with is I don’t want anyone to feel like I do. It is an awful feeling to doubt your own truths.