I am going to put a spot light on this rarely discussed topic. Let’s face it; who wants to admit they have low self-worth? We seem to have structured society in such a way that we all need to look, be, behave in a certain way to be accepted, happy, liked, loved.. I have stumbled through half my adult life in complete ignorance that I had low self-worth. I didn’t realise this was my issue until it no longer was my issue! And while there are a rare few who are self-aware enough to realise they lack self confidence too many of us bury our real self, put on a façade to the world, are not really happy but just accept mediocrity as life.
Why don’t we talk about the importance of self-love? Why don’t we diagnose low self-worth as the main contributing factor to depression? And whose responsibility is it to teach us this invaluable life skill? Should it come from parents or the school system? Do we even recognise that this is a quality required for a successful, happy life? And if we can’t articulate what it looks like or its importance how on earth do we teach it?
I grew up with the firm belief that loving yourself was a derogatory term. Those who were judged as loving themselves where labelled “up” themselves and frowned upon so it was something I avoided at all costs! I was not encouraged to be proud of myself for any achievement and praise was limited or even withheld for fear that I would become “up” myself. And I certainly was not encouraged to look in the mirror and love my body nor was I brought up to nurture and appreciate my unique gifts. When I did attempt to express myself I was told I was too emotional or over sensitive and I was told this well into my adult years. So I spent a lot of my childhood desperately trying to just blend in, keep the peace and be like everyone else.
In retrospect I see this “up” themselves mentality as being derived from people who themselves suffered from low self-worth. Of course they need to put down those people who openly displayed pride in themselves! Anyone who has self-confidence and is at peace with who they are would not feel the need to judge others negatively in the first place…
If we are not provided with role models in parents who radiate self-love and as a result are not supported in feeling good about ourselves we are already on the road to failing in this critical quality without any awareness. And then as girls we are exposed to all forms of media who promote constant comparison with the air brushed parade of perfect female forms. Coupled with very clever advertisements from the beauty, diet and cosmetic industries who have us looking in the mirror and criticising what we see so we are desperate to buy their products to cover up and change ourselves to be like the models or celebrities promoting the product! Gees; is it any wonder that low self-worth is so rampant in society today?
But what saddens me more than all of the above is that so many of us don’t even realise that we have low self-worth and we stumble through life without ever achieving true peace and happiness. Now that I have finally got my shit together, after 46 years of suffering, I so clearly see women all around me who suffer from this unspoken issue and what makes it worse is that the negative feelings they have about themselves are too often projected onto all those around them without any self-awareness whatsoever. I know because that used to be me!
Ever noticed how some people are really easy to be around? They are calm, consistent, peaceful, positive, reliable, happy, quietly confident and they actually make you feel good to interact with. You seek out their company and opinion, you trust their feedback, their energy is positive and inviting, encouraging and supportive. You feel you can be honest and open with them, you feel like you can be yourself around them. This is what healthy self-worth looks and feels like.
And then we have..
The Loud – “Confidence is Silent. Insecurities are Loud!” The girl who speaks loudly, has an opinion on everything and makes sure everyone hears it. Is constantly talking (loudly) about herself and steers the conversation back to her all the time. She might ask you a question but once answered immediately turns the conversation back to herself without hearing what you have said. She also may ask you the same question the very next day! You find yourself avoiding her and limit interactons to necessity only.
The Eggshell – you never know what mood she will be in. Sometimes she is so sweet and nice and the next day or even hour is so abrupt and rude! She will have you questioning yourself and doubting that maybe you have done or said something wrong. You never know what reaction you are going to get so you are in a constant state of apprehension when dealing with her.
The Overly Confident – knows her stuff, confident in her job and is generally in a more senior position. But she is just plain rude to those beneath her (if she acknowledges them at all) or those that are not in an influential position. She may even ignore you completely even though you have sat 20 meters from her in the office for 6 months!
The Backstabber – takes every opportunity to talk about others behind their back and then sickly sweet to their face. And trust me, if she is going to gossip to you about others she is gossiping about you to others also. Thrives on office gossip and will elaborate the truth in order to sensationalise the story and make her look like she is in the know.
The Workaholic – the job is all there is to life. First in and last out at night. Rarely takes leave. No outside interests, hobbies, relationships even. Or there is a relationship at home that they are trying to avoid!
The Obsessive Mother/Wife – cannot talk about anything else but her children/husband. They are the centre of her universe and nothing else exists. Will tell you in minute detail about whatever stage her children or relationship is at and she will always manage to turn the conversation around to mention her child or partner.
The Yo-Yo Dieter – constantly complaining about her weight, (even if she is not actually overweight) starting a new diet every other week and either barely eating anything or is always the one going for seconds or even thirds at morning tea!
The Make You Feel Bad – condescending… has an definite air of being in a higher class and will subtly put you down on any topic. Appears to be giving you a compliment but long after the conversation has ended you realise that it was in fact an insult. Subtly critical of everything and takes pride in pointing out what YOUR problem is.
The Martyr – puts everyone else before herself and is walked all over. Is stressed, tired, running herself ragged to please everyone and often overweight and/or unhealthy and always sick. Constantly apologising.
The Fashion/Beauty Addict – you never see her in the same outfit for weeks on end. Constantly shopping and must have a new outfit for every occasion as you cant possibly be seen in the same dress twice! And usually immaculate with makeup and hair; constantly touching up and checking to ensure all is in place.
The Social Media Addict – portrays the perfect life on social media and constantly posting to gain likes and followers, usually in revealing outfits. Stalking and comparing herself to others is a daily sometimes hourly habit. Often the life that is portrayed in cyber world is very far from her reality.
The Change Hater – stays in the same job for years and years. Still lives with her parents. Still single perhaps. Still doing nothing to make changes to her life to find herself or happiness. The smallest upset is devastating as without life experiences of change there is no reference point of past challenges or pain.
The Just Plain Unhappy – has the man, kids, house, money even but is not happy and cant figure out why.
Jane – I was loud, eggshell, make you feel bad, fashion/beauty addict and overly confident. I was a shocker! I cant believe how badly I have behaved. I seriously had very little awareness of how I impacted others. As I disliked myself so much and felt so insignificant I honestly thought no one even noticed me. Even when I would get feedback during an annual performance review I still didn’t believe it! Surely no one pays any attention to me? I had spent a lifetime hiding the real Jane and trying to blend in, I couldn’t comprehend that anything I said or did actually mattered. Depression and low self-worth is a very inward focused view of the world; you are literally blinded by your own issues as you are trying so hard to cover them up!
Many of the above will have a closet issue that is not obvious on the surface. For me this was debilitating depression; no one at work had a clue how bad I was! Very few people knew as I was so busy hiding the real Jane. Living a façade is just second nature when you have low self-worth. Other issues may include eating disorders, anxiety or substance abuse all of which I dabbled with over the years. In addition to addictions to shopping, TV, celebrity stalking, partying (which are more socially acceptable) anything at all to either take me out of myself, not spend time with myself or to obtain the next material fix to attempt to make me happy.
I am sure reading through that list you can instantly recognise people in your life like this. Or maybe you recognised yourself..? It is sooooooo hard to face! And trust me, I did not wake up one day and decide self-worth was my issue.. I seriously had no clue this was my issue. I stumbled across the answers to my misery purely by accident; by chasing further vanity and external satisfaction. My full journey here.
So if we have the courage to admit we have this issue where did it come from and what do we do about it? It is very clear to me where we learn self-hate and I primarily blame the media and the beauty/fashion industry. (Please read my blogs on these two topics) But for me I know it started well before I was old enough to be influenced by the media. When your parents struggle with their own inner demons it is very hard to instil this in children. With a broken home from an early age and the pursuing conflict fuelled by more insecurities on both sides put together with this whole “up” yourself mentality I seriously was no chance.
Children learn behavioural patterns far more by roll modelling the adults in their lives than anything they will learn at school. I am not sure that self-love needs to be taught but rather influenced and inspired. Parents can certainly foster a more positive environment to nurture this life skill which I have outlined in my blog about raising empowered girls. However, we cant blame our parents, or anyone, and once we are adults we need to take responsibility for our own life and happiness. We must take control of our own wellbeing and destiny rather than allowing conditioning by society to dominate our lives or continually blaming events of the past.
So what do we do about it…? Isn’t that the million dollar question…!! There is no quick fix and it does require a lot of self-reflection and inner work. Yep; all that hooey crap that I dismissed and resisted my entire life! We are not taught how to tend to our emotional wellbeing and main stream does little to promote and encourage such practices although I do feel the tide is turning. The answers to all our problems truly are inside us; yeah I didn’t believe that either. But once we reduce the constant noise that surrounds us we can hear the answers. I know because it happened to me!
Self-worth has now become the core of my coaching and mission. It breaks my heart to see so many women blindly suffer as I have. As others in the office dislike and complain about the behaviour of the women who display the above traits I find myself filled with compassion and sadness. And desperately trying to find a way to connect with the lost soul that I see as the struggling old me.
If anything I have written makes you feel uncomfortable and you would like to explore further I would love to have a confidential chat with you to see how I can support you. Please leave me a comment or contact me here.