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To ask if anyone has successfully increased self esteem as an adult

36 replies

Thingsmustchange · 26/06/2017 08:04

(NC for this) I'm exhausted fighting the voice in my head that says you are useless, you are stupid, you don't deserve any of this. On paper things are good. I have a happy marriage, two DC and a well-paid, responsible part-time job. But as soon as there's a hint of stress or tiredness this internal negative voice pipes up. I desperately want to fit in, be sociable and feel part of something but I feel like I never quite manage it. We moved closer to family fairly recently and it feels like things have got worse since then, although I don't know if this is caused by their input or is more generally due to the stress of moving.

I have previously experienced severe depression and at one point did over a year of counselling. Right now though I'm able to function but I just feel that something constantly holds me back from being able to enjoy life and recognise my achievements. I would love to know if anyone else has ever successfully dealt with these types of issues and found a way to break free and just live.

OP posts:
Lottapianos · 26/06/2017 08:12

Yes. Im in a vastly better place than I was several years ago. Like you, I had a constant critical voice in my head thanks to my narcissistic parents. These days, the voice is still there and I'm aware of it but its like the volume has been turned way down !

I was in therapy for 7 years and it was the most painful but also the best thing I have ever done for myself. I also started taking much better care of myself. I exercise regularly and I love it. I eat well and get enough sleep. I make time to do things that make me feel good - doing my nails, full face of make up every day.

I also tried to reset my inner voice by literally praising myself for every little thing that I got right. So for example, if it was raining and I had an umbrella with me, I would say to myself 'good work babe, you remembered your brolly'. It was something I had to work at for a while but then it became much more automatic and now I do it without thinking about it. I like myself more and have more faith in myself.

So it can be done OP. It takes work but so worth it

Lottapianos · 26/06/2017 08:13

One more thing.... You mention family as a possible aggravating factor. That was certainly the case for me, and going low contact with my family had a very positive effect on my self esteem

CountryCaterpillar · 26/06/2017 08:14

I'm currently attending CBT for self esteem and have wondered this.

I don't feel I fit in (sadly don't have the great home and job but was high achieving and had hoped for these!!) And had a hideous childhood and wonder if these childhood patterns can really be rewritten !

Therealslimshady1 · 26/06/2017 08:16

Yes, by doing activities I love and getting better at them, and by meeting new people via the activity.

If you find fitting in or socialising hard, you are just with the wrong crowd.

bridgetreilly · 26/06/2017 08:16

For me the key was stopping wanting to 'fit in' and learning to love who I actually am, whether that fits or not. It's okay to be different from other people, including your family. Look at what makes you happy and focus on those things, rather than what other people think you ought to be doing. You are brilliant and you don't have to try to be someone else.

IrritatedUser1960 · 26/06/2017 08:18

Yes, from being a quivering worm in my 20s and 30s to super confident at 55. I have a sneaking suspicion it's something to do with hormones. When you no longer have them you don't care what anyone thinks anymore and that is part of the problem that causes low self esteem.

IHaveACrapCat · 26/06/2017 08:21

Yes definitely.

I dint recognise myself now compared to 15-20 years ago.

CBT helped a lot, as did forging positive personal relationships and acknowledging and getting rid of (or reducing) negative ones.

I also stopped giving a shit about fitting in and what others really thought of me. This REALLY helps.

peripateticparents · 26/06/2017 08:23

Yes. I had a real turnaround after doing some Anthony Robbins stuff - nlp basically, but done in a seminar/workshop environment. Now as long as I get some exercise occasionally I'm good.

WorldWideWanderer · 26/06/2017 08:24

Yes, I have....but it took years and years, I am very much older now. I was shy, akward, felt useless. Fell into marriage and spent years trying to be "good". Had depression on and off, although in my younger days I didn't realise that's what it was.
Changes were slow....I started doing some counselling training, thinking I could help others, but soon realised I had a lot of "stuff" I needed to deal with myself, mostly from my family.
Then my father died. It took two yeras of grieving and then one day I woke and relaised I didn't have to be "good" any more, I was no longer my father's 'good' little girl!
Later I divorced and went through the most severe depression of my life, which needed drugs to help. When I came out the other side things got better and better. I have done jobs I never thought I could do, travelled to places I never thought I would see and achieved great things that matter to me.
Age helps. I no longer feel I have to 'fit in' with anyone. I am proud of myself and what I have done, I no longer have that voice in the head which says I'm no good, the voice has gone. I make the friends I want to make, choose my own career or not, travel how I wish. I have self belief and self assurance (different from self confidence, I think) and I am happier and more content than I have ever been in my life before.
It is hard, and a long journey but I promise you, you can make things better. And having less or no contact with a family background which drags you down does help too....

dinosaursandtea · 26/06/2017 08:26

I treat my inner voice like some drunken random yelling at me on the bus - it's there but it's not worth listening to.

Thingsmustchange · 26/06/2017 08:26

Yay, some positivity! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

On the fitting in thing: I don't think I necessarily always feel the pressure to be the same as others but I do want to feel that I belong. Moving to a place where I grew up but no longer really know people hasn't helped.

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Thingsmustchange · 26/06/2017 08:31

WorldWideWanderer: that thing about being Daddy's 'good little girl' really rings true for me. It's not helped by the fact that my brother is NC with my Dad which I think means I feel more pressure to be perfect. What a journey you've been on! Thanks for offering hope.

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Iwasjustabouttosaythat · 26/06/2017 08:35

Yes! I was lucky enough to quit my job to become a SAHM. Funnily enough, when you only have to see people you want to see - immediate family, friends, the nice playgroup mums - you realise you're not the problem. Or maybe I am but I've found my niche. Either way, I get on competently with most everyone I meet now, don't associate with degenerates and feel good.

I should add that forcing myself to go to playgroups helped. I was pretty scared because I had an idea of how awful and competitive the other mums would be. I was totally wrong and I've never met such genuine and caring people. I realise I was very lucky. They really helped me relate to new people in a different way.

Having a baby helps too. Well, a baby then twins. I don't have time for worrying about how things are going. I realise that probably sounds flippant but it's true. When I'm not bouncing sleeping babies while pumping milk and MNing (like now) all I think about is the next task.

So I say keep very busy, meet new people and don't associate with anyone who brings you down.

TheMummyDragon · 26/06/2017 08:35

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Thingsmustchange · 26/06/2017 08:38

Yes, I was definitely at my happiest on maternity leave with our second child with a nearly three year old and a baby for company. The youngest is about to start school now though.

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barrygetamoveonplease · 26/06/2017 08:40

Yes. Lots of counselling. Having to leave a job that was killing me.

Reading MN. Whilst I often rage (usually in my head) against the vipers, their relentless demands to be respected in their relationships has raised my expectations.

Namechange2837 · 26/06/2017 08:41

Yes, I had a short course of CBT a few years ago, and it didn't just flip a switch overnight, but now I am polar opposite of where I used to be in terms of self esteem and feeling secure :)

Thingsmustchange · 26/06/2017 08:41

TheMummyDragon: cross post there, sorry. I'm sorry you've had such a hard time. Good to hear that change is possible though.

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Laiste · 26/06/2017 08:42

Yes, learning to ignore 'the voice' is sloooooow process, but you get there.

I had and ok childhood, but had it drummed into me that there's only one right way to do things and see things. My parents way pretty much rooted in the 1950/60s.

Anything different is 'other', wrong, stupid, self indulgent, silly, asking for trouble and with the sub-context that any future problem you run into - large or small - is your fault for not living their way.

You grow up and see your parents opinions for what they are: just ... other people's opinions. BUT trying to carve out your own ideas and way of life with all that burned into the back of your mind from childhood is very hard. It leads to internal conflict and self doubt.

Even now with 3 of my DCs in their teens and 20s happy and content having being bought up 'my way', I still get disapproval from my mother. I still sometimes have to look around at other people and remind myself they get on fine doing things their own way; lots of different ways; and there's no right and wrong about every last little bloody detail of 'how to live'.

It all sounds ridiculous written down! Our brains our weird.

Buthewasstillhungry · 26/06/2017 08:43

Yes 3 years psychotherapy has reeeeeeeally helped.
Good luck.

lizzyj4 · 26/06/2017 08:44

Yes, I'm in a much better place than I was 30 years ago (had a really poor self-esteem as a teenager/young person due to my mother's psychological and emotional abuse).

I trained as a counsellor and then as a psychotherapist - during both of those processes you need to undertake your own therapy and also really delve into yourself as a person. I was a completely different person when I finished - in a sense, you unpack everything then build it up again in a new way. Although I no longer practice as a therapist, I think the training and accompanying therapy was the single most valuable thing I've ever done for myself and my family. (I was a much better parent, etc. afterwards.)

For me, the key is to learn how to value yourself - to give yourself the approval and love that others might not have given you in your past and might not be able to give you now.

As to fitting in, etc., I really don't 'fit in' most of the time but I just don't give a fig. I don't even try because I've learned that it doesn't matter. (And through talking to my clients, I realised that actually, most people feel that way a lot of the time.)

I'm also NC with my mother, not because of the way she treated us in our childhood (I know she did her best, it's just that, unfortunately, her best was abusive) but because even though she's now elderly, she continues to behave in the same abusive way and I choose not to inflict it on myself or my children.

It's hard work to replace those negative voices with positive ones, but you can definitely do it. You just need to find an approach that works for you, whether that's therapy, coaching or something else.

Coffeetasteslikeshit · 26/06/2017 08:45

Another much more confident person here!

I had my mum's voice in my head for years, telling me that I was doing things wrong. The best thing I ever did was swap this voice for the voice of my closest friend.
To do this, I had to become very aware of my thoughts, so that when my mum's voice piped up I would be able to say 'no mum, what would X say?' and what X would say would normally be along the lines of 'ah coffee, don't beat yourself up, be kind to yourself'.
There is quite a bit of effort involved at first in policing your own thoughts, but eventually it becomes second nature. I'm so much happier now.
I also cut down the amount of time I see my mum. She means well, I think, but she's just so negative.

Stuffofawesome · 26/06/2017 08:47

Kristen Neff writes about self compassion. Her website and YouTube talks might be of interest.

Lottapianos · 26/06/2017 08:47

'Anything different is 'other', wrong, stupid, self indulgent, silly, asking for trouble and with the sub-context that any future problem you run into - large or small - is your fault for not living their way.'

We seem to have grown up in the same house Laiste Smile it's such a damaging environment to live in and having overbearing parents like this really does lead to horrendous self esteem issues

RunYouJuiceBitch · 26/06/2017 08:50

CBT changed my life. Things can change xxx

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