To Love Myself: Overcoming Low Self-esteem

This guest post is by Anna Lind Thomas of The Hookup Column

I often try to warn young women of their self-esteem. She can be a self-sabotaging piece of work with only one goal in mind: to do what it takes to alleviate the pain that comes from believing you aren’t good enough.

And if you let her take the reigns in your dating life, she’ll have you in a clinic for an STD test before you realize you weren’t even in to the guy in the first place.

She doesn’t care about consequences. She wants to be loved. She wants to be beautiful. She wants to be noticed.

She wants to be invaluable.

I worked closely with college students for many years, and I saw first hand how destructive low self-esteem could be. It affected their relationships, who or how they would date, or the choices they made when it came to sex, drinking and drugs.

There are fewer tragedies than a woman who doesn’t understand her own worth.

She’s unable to see the beauty in just being a woman, the miracle of being born on this earth, and the belief that she has a purpose only she can fulfill.

Low self-esteem doesn’t care if you fit society’s view of beauty, how much you weigh, if you’re talented, intelligent, poor or wealthy.

She doesn’t discriminate because she was created in a lie, not founded in reality, but of circumstances, tragedies, abuse, or fear. A lie that eventually became a belief. A belief that will eventually inhibit you from being the miraculous human being you were meant to be.

So why me?

We weren’t born lacking self-worth. It takes convincing to separate us from our humanity. We must be taught. Perhaps our parents told us we would never be worth anything. Perhaps someone sexually abused us, teaching us that our body is simply an object. Perhaps we were told we were ugly so many times, we eventually believed it ourselves.

Perhaps we live in a society that creates an unattainable ideal that no one can live up to and we’re bombarded too often with images that remind us … we’re not good enough.

Low self-esteem is a sign that we’ve lost sight of our miraculous existence. That can be a very dangerous sign, indeed.

The dangers of low self-esteem

We often don’t give low self-esteem the respect it deserves. If left to its own devices, it can cause us to make choices that will have devastating effects on not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

A woman who doesn’t believe she is worthy of love may only allow abusive or unhealthy relationships in her life. If she doesn’t believe she deserves better, she will never demand better.

A woman who believes her body has no value may offer it to all who will take it—all who want it—without ever considering what she wants.

A woman who doesn’t believe she is beautiful may hide herself behind extra weight, or baggy clothes to insure she goes unnoticed in the world. Or, she may do the opposite and desperately seek attention from anyone who will give it her. Anyone who will make her feel, even for just a moment, beautiful.

This is when self-esteem has power. We can take the power back.

Understanding the subconscious mind

How we feel about ourselves is a choice, although it often doesn’t feel that way. To better understand this, we need to understand the power of our subconscious mind. According to the late Florence Scovel-Shinn:

“The subconscious is simply power, without direction. It is like a stream of electricity, and it does what it is directed to do; it has no power of induction. Whatever man feels deeply or pictures clearly, is impressed upon the subconscious mind.”

If I believe I am worthless, then at one point I was presented with the idea that I was. Eventually this idea became a belief. Although it was a lie, perhaps it was believed because people I trusted told me so. Perhaps circumstances confirmed it to me. Regardless, the belief was stored away in my subconscious as a truth. Beliefs are assumed. I don’t think I’m worthless, I know I am. And my subconscious will cause me to live in a way that confirms that to be true.

The power of our subconscious is why our low self-esteem can have such a destructive hold on us. It is something so ingrained in us that we unknowingly make decisions limited by the lies of our subconscious.

I remember one young woman who felt she was unattractive and thought no man would love her as she was. She reflected on a sexual encounter she had with someone she barely knew. Her words were, “I have no idea why I slept with him. I knew he didn’t really want me, but I just did it anyway.”

There are times when we are baffled by our own behavior. More often than not, it’s because our subconscious did the decision making for us. If your subconscious does not believe you can be loved as you are, then it will decide that the only other option is to perform for something that seems like love, instead.

Transforming lies to truths

The truth is, your entire existence is miraculous. You are talented. You have purpose. You are beautiful, simply because you’re a human being who has the ability to do good in the world.

If you believe you’re anything less, then you must go to the root of where your self-doubt began. Perhaps it was during your childhood, your marriage, first job, or a party in college. Visualize that moment in your mind. Then confront it.

Be bold, speak out loud, “Although this moment happened to me, the belief I made about myself is not true. It is a lie. The truth is (fill awesome comment about yourself here).”

Think it. Speak it. Shout it. Every day.

This won’t be easy. Reconfiguring your belief system of yourself will be like disciplining an unruly child. It takes time, frequent correction and consistency.

If you’re at a cocktail party and your self-esteem starts throwing a tantrum because she thinks she’s the ugliest girl in the room, then remove her from the situation and put her in a time-out. Then, go look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I’m beautiful. Anything conflicting with that statement is a lie.”

Remember, your subconscious is simply storing information and guiding you based off images, experiences, information and beliefs. You get to control the information it receives. If you are correcting a long held belief, this may take time, but you will do it. Life is too short not too. Your life is too valuable to waste on lies.

As much as I’d like to, I can’t convince you of your beauty, your lovability and worthiness. You wouldn’t believe me if I tried. What I think doesn’t matter anyway.

You are a unique, priceless human being. This phenomenon in itself makes you worthy of every opportunity to experience a life filled with love and joy.

All you have to do is believe it.

Sources: Scovel-Shinn, F. (2009). The Game of Life and How to Play It. United States: Beacon Hill.

Anna Lind Thomas is the creator of The Hookup Column. Her work is the product of years researching hookup culture and female disenchantment. Follow her on Twitter @anna4thehookup

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  1. I have a couple of friends who have this very syndrome of low self esteem. They have been dumped so many times by flirty guys who just come in, flirt with them, sleep with them and then dump them. A little appreciation or a small flatter is enough to get these girls to bed. They don’t want anything more!

    Thanks for the very touchy article, Anna.


  2. Thank you for this. After dealing with years of just what you are talking about, I understand it completely. It took a husband who loved me unconditionally and lots of faith and prayers to regain my self-esteem. Thank you, thank you, for the reminder that we are all of worth. We are all God’s children.

  3. The reality of low self esteem and how it affects young girls so early is a tragedy that makes my heart break a little each time I hear the negative words come out of their tiny mouths. As the mother of a daughter I strive not to allow my ugly low self-esteem monster to surface. But it rages at times and is hard to tame.

    It’s disgusting that so many images bombard young men and women earlier and earlier, telling them what they should look like, act like and sound like so they can be acceptable. I work very hard to find examples of visual beauty from around the world to share with my daughter. I encourage her not to be embarrassed when someone says she’s beautiful or talented or charming or smart.

    It starts so early, telling children not to be boastful of their achievements. Don’t bragg! Don’t be a show off! Don’t do ‘that’ because it makes someone else feel bad.

    What happened to those first few years where everything was “LOOK AT MY KID!”. We’d tell anyone and everyone what color their poop and spit up was because we were so proud. Then something happens. Our own low self-esteem starts to creep up and gets out. And we suppress our joy. And our children pick up on it.

    Thank you for the reminder that low self esteem can be tamed with our own affirmations of greatness. Thank you for the encouragement to say out loud that we are great.

    I recently did a short post about ‘I am Beautiful’ because I wanted to remind myself and my readers that we are all, indeed, worthy of that word. Thank you for reminding me that I need to say it every day – maybe even multiple times a day – so that I never forget its truth.

    • Sara – you just slapped down some knowledge girlfriend!

      “As the mother of a daughter I strive not to allow my ugly low self-esteem monster to surface.”

      It’s so important that mothers, big sisters, mentors – are very careful with our words. Little comments like, “Ugh, I feel like a fat pig” may seem like nothing new to us … but children pick up on those criticisms. They see you as beautiful and if you think you’re a fat pig, then what are they? What will they grow up to be?

      Thanks for amazing insight –

  4. As someone else who often writes on relationship issues, I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said here.

    Self-esteem is such an important base to start from. Without it, everything else is precariously perched, at best.

    I have a very dear friend of mine who has made a lot of poor life choices. Even worse, she continues to make them–even though she knows they’re poor choices. Why? Because she doesn’t think she deserves to be happy. She’s just one of many I’ve known over the years who’ve done similar things.

    I breaks my heart on so many levels to see so many smart, talented, brilliant, and beautiful women (and more than a few men, too) I know feel so powerless and locked in to less than what they deserve.

    Not a single one of them has known unconditional Love and support in their lives with any consistency.

    When did that become such a rare commodity?

  5. Wow, what a powerful post! It’s refreshing to see this topic addressed so openly. It’s rare, with so much stigma attached to things like this, to find quality writing about it. I appreciate your post and it really spoke to me.

    Thanks 🙂

  6. Thank you – for a great reminder in such a well written post.

  7. Daffadill says:

    Low esteem also rears it’s ugly head when only low jobs are available. Most of us are now conditioned to believe work is a means of self respect. After graduating college or not a small portions of work exists to match our intelligence . Educated or not, the world of work is demeaning and no employer wants a thinking mind, the employer wants a mind that can be controlled.

  8. I have struggled with low self esteem and i must admit it cost me a lot.I agree that one ought to go to the root where self doubt began. I dealt with my low self esteem by identifying the cause first and foremost. I realized that it all started when i got a weird skin disease. I no longer wanted to be seen because i was afraid of what people would say.The worst part is that i sought treatment but it kept coming back. I have not given up because i know i will get cured. Right now i am in the process of healing and i must admit that i have experienced tremendous improvement as far as my self esteem is concerned. Reading this post has given me hope that i can actually deal with my low self esteem effectively.

  9. Dear GodPlease untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart and my life.Remove the have nots, the cannots and the do nots that I have in my mind.Erase the will nots, may nots, might nots that may find a home in my heart.Release me from the could nots, woudln nots and should nots that obstruct my life. And most of all, Dear God, I ask that you remove from my mind, my heart and my life all of the am nots’ that I have allowed to hold me back especially the thought that I am not good enough.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think that this article is well-written, and there’s a lot of truth to it. However, I disagree with the statement “What I think doesn’t matter anyway.” It actually contradicts the paragraph where you explained that we weren’t born with low self-esteem but rather we learned it from someone (a parent, family member, friend …). We were meant to live in community with one another, so what other people think of us does matter – at least to some extent. That’s why I would add that it’s important to surround yourself with people who love you, encourage you, and support you and also to avoid people who criticize you and try to tear you down.

    I should know, because I grew up in an abusive home. In fact, there are very few people in my family who aren’t abusive, and I no longer have a relationship with most of my relatives. My mother’s abuse has had a profound impact on my life. It affects every thought I have, every decision I make, and every relationship that I’m in. I spent many years in abusive relationships with both boyfriends and friends (now I don’t have any abusive relationships). And I believe that my mother’s abuse is the reason that I haven’t been able to get married and have children and, in general, have a good life.

    I like to use the analogy that overcoming low self-esteem is like trying to learn a foreign language. For me, low self-esteem is my native language. Even if I live in another country and speak another language for years, I will probably never speak it as well as I speak English. Trying to replace negative, critical thoughts with positive thinking is VERY difficult. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I tend to revert back to negative, critical thinking when things go wrong for me in my life.

    Recently, a guy who I thought was interested in me didn’t end up asking me out like I believed that he would. The first thing I did was text one of my friends and tell her that my mother was right – I’m an undesirable person because this guy wasn’t interested in me. She, of course, listened to me, pointed out that what my mother said was a lie and tried to encourage me, and a couple months later I started to feel better again – a good example of counteracting negative, critical thinking with positive, supportive people.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed reading this article.

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