If you’ve fallen into the pit of depression and low self-esteem, you might not be able to remember the last time you truly felt self-love. Early childhood, maybe? Adolescence—or maybe even sometime during adulthood? Whenever the loss may have occurred, the emptiness may feel irreparable.
Our hearts might tell us that only acceptance and love from other people has the power to bring us back, but this is the time when we most need to be looking within. Being alone with our thoughts can be scary, especially when we’re in a negative space. We must reach out—to ourselves as well as others—to find real peace.
Our minds often learn to neglect the self, and we may become conditioned to treat ourselves more like enemies than friends. This is likely to stem from society pushing us to fit molds we can’t realistically match. Maybe we never met our parents’ expectations, or perhaps we never managed to fit in with most of our peers; whatever led to that inner dialogue falling onto a negative track, it likely began from somewhere external.
Somewhere along the line, we started believing them—and we started repeating their ugly lies: I’m not worthy. I’ll never be successful. No one will ever love me. Then we turned these lines into self-fulfilled prophecies. We limited ourselves to the narrative, and we kicked ourselves even more when we went nowhere as a result.
To climb out of this rut, we must reject the old dialogue. Remember, every human on the face of this planet is different, with different values and opinions and goals; if we base our self-worth on any of their personal rubrics, we’ll always fall short. We each need to base our self-assessments on our values.
Your opinion of you is the only one that really matters.
Yes, other opinions are important—but yours is the only one that can truly determine your self-worth. Forget the people who make you feel undervalued and unworthy. Gracefully distance yourself from toxic friends and family members. Stop buying into the sickness and begin the work to start healing.
Make two lists: one that includes everything important to you, including abstract values, and another that highlights all of your positive attributes. Don’t force it; take a few days and let items come to you as they will. When you’re satisfied that both are complete, look between the two and see how much you actually have to be proud of.
Now, make another list, one offering steps you can take to become the best possible version of you. Do you require more self-care? Are you taking enough time each week to pursue personal interests or hobbies? Are you giving your body and mind enough nutrition, exercise and sleep? You may not be able to tackle any of these items quite yet, but you’ll want to be ready for them for when you are.
Try a simple exercise: Close your eyes and imagine yourself in your favorite safe space. Imagine all the sights, sounds and smells you might encounter, and give yourself a moment to take in a feeling of security from your surroundings.
Now, imagine another you there, right at your side. They smile with love in their eyes at the sight of you, and the two of you embrace. They tell you they love you, that you’re worthy, that you have it in you to achieve great things. How do you feel? Do you believe it?
Start each day placing your mind in your safe place, with the happy, loving you waiting, and while you’re there, repeat a positive affirmation of your choice; use the same affirmation every morning, and tell it to yourself again as you’re falling asleep each night. Pick something simple and achievable, and say it as though it were already true.
“I am happy” is a great choice. Surround yourself with people who will support your new narrative. It might take a few months, but just like the negative self-talk, the positive words will slowly forge your reality.
Transformation takes change, and it usually isn’t easy. You may need to dig deep and remind yourself often that, yes, you do deserve more in this life. You deserve to have dreams and goals, and you deserve a fighting chance to achieve them. But happiness also takes work, and we each must find the fortitude and desire to meet the Fates halfway. Remember, you’re worth the effort.