A friend here on WP just sparked a memory in me that I want to talk about. Self-esteem is one of those things which covers all parts of who we are and how we cope and function in the world. I struggled with self-esteem issues for several decades of my life.
I have never felt unloved. My mom adored me and I always knew that. What I did feel was that love was conditional. If I wasn’t good, she or someone else wouldn’t want me anymore. This lead to some interesting coping skills and self-esteem issues. Overall, I was replaceable. Why would anyone care if I loved or cared about them? Why would it matter if I was there or not? It didn’t.
I always knew I was loved. I always had friends. I wasn’t sure why. I had a hard time imaging that I was worthy of people loving and wanting me around. What in the Hell did I have to offer?!?!?!?
Things started to really shift for me in my late 20s and really early 30s. I landed a job in mental health where my supervisor straight out told me she wanted to hear what I had to say. My thoughts,opinions and ideas mattered. I was a valuable member of her staff. I was back in college and my professors were telling me how incredibly intelligent I am. I was being encouraged to go to graduate school. I made friends with a co-worker that became like an older sister to me. I also found myself so entrenched in my eating disorder that I was forced into treatment which changed my life. I stumbled into AA where I got the support system I needed to grow up in a more healthy manner.
I met a girl in my ED program that required I grow a lot. Part of the growth was being willing to walk away. Not all people who love you are healthy and good for you. One of my most frightening moments of finding self-esteem was sitting with her having a cup of coffee and telling her that she mattered to me… I valued her and her friendship. I cry even now as I write this remembering how vulnerable and afraid I was to tell her that I cared. I struggled with the feeling that it wouldn’t matter to her that I cared. What I got instead was the biggest hug, my tears wiped away and she told me she loved me. I’d faced one of my biggest fears and gotten the validation back I needed.
I met a woman in AA around that same time who scooped me up under her wing and we were fast friends. She had close to 20 years of sobriety at that point. One of the issues I struggled with was showing up for things. No call, no show for social things. Anxiety would set in or I just wouldn’t want to go. I blew off a social situation with her and she said “Do you feel so bad about yourself that you think it doesn’t matter if you’re there or not?” She slapped my face with a truth I hadn’t even considered, but desperately needed to hear. She apologized later for being so harsh. I thank her for being so direct. It’s what I needed to hear and at that time.
Being bipolar, my emotions and behavior can be really erratic at times. I’m not always easy to be around. Hell, it’s hard for me to be with myself sometimes! Amazingly, people who get to know me don’t leave me when I am difficult. I always come back to my sweet, caring, intelligent self. Daddy calls me His sourpatch kid for just this reason. I’ve been judged and criticized, labeled, and yes, abandoned by people for being bipolar and all that goes with it. I struggle with feeling lovable when I tip too far either direction. There are times I ask Daddy if He’ll always love me no matter what and if He still loves me when I’m off kilter. I know He does and will, but I need the reminder in the moment. One of the biggest gifts I was given was years ago when a friend told me, “You’re a fucking nutball, but I love you!” wrapping his arm around me in the biggest hug. I’m worthy of being loved even when I’m crazy and difficult.
There are million moments along my journey to feeling like I’m worthy of being loved. I don’t question or deny compliments anymore. I don’t worry if people in my life really like me anymore. I don’t feel like I have to be perfect for others to love me. I don’t hide in the shadows trying to make myself invisible or stay quiet because I don’t think I’m worthy of sharing my thoughts. I don’t bend over backwards putting others first or feel responsible for them in fear they won’t stay around. I only keep people in my life who truly care and treat me well. I’m not afraid that if I let someone go I’ll be alone and I’ll never have anyone again.
If you’re struggling, please tell yourself:
I Am Lovable & Likable