One of the things I struggle a lot with is self love. Or self-esteem. Different word, same concept: Finding myself lovable, worthy of stuff, important, special, all those things. And while self love is among the things that are hard to measure, because you can’t hold a measuring tape up to them, I’m pretty sure I’ve got very little of it.
Signs of low self-esteem are, according to Wikipedia:
- Heavy self-criticism and dissatisfaction
- Hypersensitivity to criticism with resentment against critics and feelings of being attacked
- Chronic indecision and an exaggerated fear of mistakes
- Excessive will to please and unwillingness to displease any petitioner
- Perfectionism, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved
- Neurotic guilt, dwelling on and exaggerating the magnitude of past mistakes
- Floating hostility and general defensiveness and irritability without any proximate cause
- Pessimism and a general negative outlook
- Envy, invidiousness, or general resentment
Those describe me very well. I criticize myself for anything and everything and I hear criticism even when people say innocent things, which makes me feel low and like I need to defend myself. I’m indecisive about even the smallest things. What do I want to wear? What do I want to do? Pink nail polish or black? Do I publish this post or is it silly? I want others to approve of everything first. My mom is probably sick and tired of saying “Lola, it’s fine”, but I need to hear it anyway. I’m also very perfectionist about everything I do and nothing is ever good enough. For example spelling mistakes. I’m not a very good speller, but hate to have spelling mistakes in my posts and rather write everything in word with the spellchecker and look things up, because I’m afraid to make mistakes and look stupid. And when I can’t get things perfect, I often get so frustrated that I completely destroy whatever it was I was doing. Gosh, and neurotic guilt sounds mentally sick in and of itself. But I do dwell on how terrible past mistakes were and beat me up a lot over them, so I suppose it’s alright the word makes me sound like a sick person. Ask my mom about hostility. It flares up easily at any wrong move someone makes, at anything that seems vaguely accusing or criticizing. The only thing I’ve gotten a bit better with is the pessimism. But the envy, that’s me again. I’m a jealous and envious person and even when I feel like I deserve nothing good, I feel upset and like everyone hates me if others have it better, or have something better than what I do. That’s so twisted.
Anyway, so I suppose the opposites of the signs of low self-esteem would be signs of good self esteem or self love:
- Being gentle and forgiving with mistakes and appreciating successes even when they’re small
- Being able to deal with criticism without feeling personally attacked
- Being able to make decisions and feeling okay with them even when there’s no absolute security that they are good decisions
- Being able to please someone because you want to, not because you feel like you must please everyone
- Being composed about not being perfect and not expecting perfection, but being able to tell when something is good enough instead
- Being able to forgive past mistakes
- Benignity in dealing with others and giving them the benefit of the doubt when things are unclear
- Optimism and a positive outlook
- Being happy for others when they have nice things or get attention from someone who is important for me, too.
Looks like the recommendations on how to get there would be rather simple. “Be gentle and forgiving with yourself.” “Don’t take criticism personally and put it in perspective.” “Decide what you want and if it doesn’t harm anyone else, then go with it.” . . .
I think my problem is that I can’t just do that. It’s probably irrational, but if someone told me to do that, I’d probably get defensive and my thinking would be along the lines of: “You do it! I need you to treat me like this! Typical you shirk away from doing it yourself, shoving the fucking mess and responsibility to me instead! That’s how much you love me! I knew it! You hate me! I hate you! I hate myself! I hate my life! I want to die!”
Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’d probably add the ‘I want to die’ anyway, because it sounds serious and like I mean it, because I DO mean it that much, even when I’m not feeling suicidal.
I think the problem about many things is that I don’t want to assume responsibility because that would feel insulting and hurtful, because inside I feel like someone else should! When I see F for therapy, we often talk about that. It’s no secret my mother took bad care of me. She didn’t accept her responsibility. And I think way deep inside, that still hurts so badly that I turn into a sulky little kid crossing her arms, demanding “no, YOU do it, like it would have been your job all along” and would rather hate myself to death than to do someone else’s job of loving me for them. For some weird reason that would feel like admitting defeat. Crazy much, eh?!
So what do I make of self love then? Get over my feelings? I’ll probably have to, somehow. Well, and it helps that I got a mom who loves me first now. Even when I hate her for it on some days, because loving hurts too, you know. But it still makes it easier for me to be a little more accepting of myself, too.
But then, I wonder, what do other people with BPD and/or PTSD do who don’t have anyone to properly love them first? Surely they must manage, too, somehow? In a healthy, not in a “fuck you all, I’m the greatest” way! People do manage that, right?!
But if you ask me how . . . my brain just might explode trying to figure it out, it’s so clueless.