People with low self-esteem have an impaired ability to validate themselves.
I know. I used to be one of them.
When I was successful in my endeavors, I felt fine.
When I was struggling or failing, I felt like a defective human being.
(It’s healthy and normal to feel disappointed by setbacks in life; feeling defective speaks to something deeper... shame and low inherent self-worth.)
You see, I had an impaired ability to tell myself (and to believe) that I’m an inherently worthy person.
Because of this impaired functioning, I needed others to validate me.
In a sense, I had to “borrow” their belief that I’m a worthy human being because I couldn’t see it myself.
This got me into all kinds of trouble.
I strove to succeed not due to any inherent desire to be successful. I did it because of a fear that some part of me would die if I didn’t.
It was a compulsion.
In my personal relationships, I had a very difficult time hearing any feedback.
It’s normal to work together with the key people in your life to co-create the kind of relationship you want (friend-friend, parent-child, spouse-spouse, colleague-colleague).
Giving and receiving feedback is a necessary part of building productive and emotionally healthy relationships.
However, if feedback feels like a judgment of your worth as a human being, it’s impossible to “hear” the feedback as a request to improve the relationship.
It merely feels like a failure to measure up as a human being.
When you lack the ability to self-validate, you inappropriately use everyone else around you to get your validation.
This can get you into all kinds of trouble.
When you can’t self-validate, you continue to work for bosses who treat you poorly in desperate hopes they will change their behavior.
Someone who can self-validate will very quickly say, “I don’t deserve this. If my boss won’t change, I will... by leaving this job.”
When you have an impaired sense of emotional self-soothing, you aren’t able to calm yourself down when you get anxious.
You desperately need the people around you to provide you with constant reassurance. You “borrow” their ability to do this because you can’t do it for yourself.
This behavior is often described as being emotionally needy/clingy or “high maintenance.”
I spent most of my life being both.
Rather than judge myself harshly for exhibiting those behaviors, I’ve come to appreciate that they were merely symptoms of an underlying issue.
When I needed to borrow emotional functioning from others, it was a sign that my own functioning in that area was impaired.
When the ability to self-validate and self-soothe are impaired, that’s often a sign of... low or no self-esteem.
Low self-esteem serves as the underlying root cause for many issues that interfere with living a happy, satisfying, and peaceful life.
Working on this issue in myself has completely transformed my life in so many ways.
When I’m in conflict with another person, I’m genuinely okay with it.
I know who I am. I know what I believe. I know what I want.
And it is okay if the other person has a completely different point of view on all accounts.
When I get anxious about something out of habit, I can calm myself down.
I’m able to remind myself of what I can and cannot control — and not to confuse the two.
(The key to alleviating anxiety is to take action on the things you can control and to “let go” / “give up trying” to control the things that are out of your control.)
I no longer tolerate people who treat me disrespectfully. And I can take action to change the situation without treating them disrespectfully.
The key has been to shift from whom I get my sense of esteem (my feelings about myself).
When my esteem came from others, I didn’t have “self" esteem. I had “others'” esteem.
This inadvertently gave others incredible power and control over my life.
It also led me to feel emotionally helpless and chaotic as my sense of worth was constantly being determined by others.
I recently taught a class on self-esteem — where it comes from, how it works, and how to get it (if you don’t have it).
Much like how I took a complicated topic like the case interview and broke it down into its component parts, I did the same with self-esteem.
I created a framework around it.
I identified how one naturally does (or does not) get self-derived esteem from our parents and caregivers.
I mapped out a set of skills and actions to take to create self-derived esteem as an adult, for those of us who never received this gift in our childhoods.
If you're interested in learning more about this class and how it can benefit you, just Click Here.