I’ve talked about how your own self-esteem can be your biggest enemy in regards to your recovery, and ability to develop a healthy relationship with your loved ones. Men and women both are at fault in this regard, women more so than men, but neither is immune. I would hesitate to guess how many people in this world are unhappy with their looks, their abilities, or their achievements. There are many in today’s society that would say that the media is to blame. Everywhere we look we see men and women both with airbrushed bodies, styled hair and makeup, not to mention surgically altered breasts, noses, and chins. Perhaps, this plays a part in our poor self-image but it’s not the only thing that has caused us to struggle with our own self-esteem.
From the day we are born we are told what others think of us, the good and the bad. These words are the beginning of our self-image development. If you grow up with confident parents, who share their confidence with you by always letting you know that you are worthy, that you are a unique individual and that YOU are special then you will have a strong foundation to begin your life’s journey. But if you grow up and nothing you ever do is good enough, they tell you how little you’ve done right, how much you’ve disappointed them, how unpleasant you are to look at then your foundation is flawed and your potential for a healthy relationship is damaged.
As we continue to grow and enter school, we find a whole new set of esteem damaging obstacles. Kids are mean, teachers play favourites, struggling to be a good student, a high school athlete, musician or thespian weigh on our young shoulders. For every goal we set for ourselves we are pressured to excel and this is a trend that continues long into our adult lives, we become mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, homemakers and breadwinners, as well as entrepreneurs and business professionals. The problem is that the more we take on as individuals the less time we have for other aspects of our lives. The time we spend at work, takes away from our time with our families, the more time we spend as a good member of society the less time we have for ourselves and our own interests. For those who have a negative foundation this is devastating! You’ll never succeed at any one thing because you’re always focusing on your perceived failures. Rather than accepting that you will never be able to succeed at everything all the time, you need to focus on always improving yourself, knowing that as a human being you’ll never be perfect and never expecting perfection are the first step to having a normal healthy life.
All of us need to take the time to look at our lives, and to stop being our own worst critic. Self-criticism is a deadly blade, it hides in the shadows were we cannot see it, sneaking out when we are our most vulnerable and begins to slice away at our subconscious. For those who have spent any amount of time in a co-dependent relationship with family or loved ones we find it is harder to avoid this negative self-talk. It is allowed to dig deeper into our souls where it takes over and allows us to fall into old patterns of self-destruction
One of the most important steps for the co-dependent to take on the road to recovery is to find their inner confidence, and to regain their confidence and self-esteem. Having the tools to start down this journey is essential:
Keep a diary of your inner dialogue. As crazy as it sounds, keeping a running log of your own negative thoughts will help you to see where you’re tearing yourself down. All of the “I cant’s”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m fat, ugly, too short, stupid, lazy” need to be put into this diary…only then will you be able to start down the road to recovery.
Now look at the words that you’ve written, do you see words like always, and never? That is your inner critic, be honest with yourself, nothing is always or never, these extremes are exaggerations. Remove these words from you vocabulary!
Step away from this inner dialogue, and think about yourself, and your life as a whole. Now write down the things that you like about yourself. You have pretty eyes, you enjoy your job, and you like to work out even if you don’t do it often. You can keep a secret, you care about others. Find the positives; they may be few right now. Keep this list someplace that you will see it often, and ADD to it as you think of new things you like about yourself.
Make a separate list of all the things you dislike about yourself. Everything, from I don’t like the color of my hair, to my feet are too big, or I always procrastinate. This list ….once you complete it, DESTROY IT!! Rip it up, burn it, shred it, remove it from your life! Letting go of the negativity is just the start to you finding your inner child, and allowing them to grow.
Next week we’ll look at some other steps to working out the negative talk within you, and finding a positive path in which to travel. Until then keep in mind that when you make to choice to do one thing, you are accepting that you may do less of another. If you are going to focus on your family, then you may spend less time volunteering for the church. And that is OK! Because no one can always succeed, or never fail, these are absolutes that are not a part of human nature. Mistakes are made, they are normal, natural, and they do not mean that you are a failure. You are a strong person, you are surviving something that would destroy many, you have taken the steps for your own recovery and that is something to be proud of.