The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

Self-Esteem: Do I Really Need It? March 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 3:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

Everything I’ve read about being a survivor says self-esteem is of vital importance and you’ll never recover without it.  Ditto that on DID, only then you have to not only accept/like/love one self, but many.  It sounds like a nice idea, but I’m not convinced anymore that it’s absolutely necessary.


I could go off on a long whine about why I don’t like myself/selves.  I could tell you lots of sad stories about all the people who were mean to me and convinced me I’m worthless.  But I do that enough anyway, and I don’t much see the point.  Today, I’m tired of pity, whether from myself or from others.


I’ve tried the self-esteem workbooks.  I’ve tried looking in the mirror and saying five nice things about myself every day.  I’ve tried asking friends why they like me.  I’ve tried turning every negative thought about myself into a positive one.  And on and on.  None of it has worked because, below the surface, I know I’m just lying to myself.


I know there are good things about me.  I’m smart, I’m pretty, I write well, I’m an excellent knitter, I’m good at improvising, I’m great at memorization, I was a talented gymnast, I read absurdly fast, I’m good at fixing things.  Somehow, though, that doesn’t translate into liking myself or even convincing myself I’m not an utterly worthless, terrible person.


I’ve lived without self-esteem for as long as I can remember.  No, my life hasn’t been anywhere near great, but I’ve survived so far.  I haven’t managed to delete myself or ended up completely broken.  That leads me to question the supposed necessity of self-esteem.  If it were truly so necessary, then how come I’ve managed to make it to 25 without it?


So I’ve decided it isn’t a goal for me anymore.  I want my goals to be more concrete and realistic.  I want to deal with the trauma.  I want to figure out how to function with the DID/depersonalization/derealization.  I want to be financially independent.  I want to develop non-destructive coping skills that actually work.  I want to get the depression and anxiety under control.  I want to go back to school and finish my undergrad work; then I want to go to law school.


Maybe, somewhere in all of that, I’ll spontaneously start liking myself.  Maybe not.  But I’m not going to keep devoting so much time to a goal that no one can tell me, concretely, how to approach.  I’d rather focus on realistic goals.


8 Responses to “Self-Esteem: Do I Really Need It?”

  1. Grainne Says:

    I hear you loud and clear. I spend so much time either avoiding or obsessing over the details that I never feel like i’m getting anywhere…sometimes we need a solid, concrete goal to focus us.

    I’m also thinking of returning to school. I’m a good decade ahead of you so it’s complicated to arrange, but it makes me feel good to think of learning again.

    I think you’ll make an excellent lawyer with your attention to details and understanding of how people work. If it excites you, focus there. I don’t know if you’ll just start loving who you are when you’re doing something you love, but it surely can’t hurt.

  2. ligeandcrew Says:

    I think you’re on to something practical there. I do think self-esteem and the esteem for insiders often happens spontaneously during the course of living. And Stef and I know from bitter experience that trying to rebuild oneself from the ground up *before* getting back into life, simply doesn’t work because life itself doesn’t keep. We age, the world moves on, and time doesn’t wait.
    Not saying that self-esteem and mutual esteem shouldn’t be worked on, far from it. Just saying I think you’re on to something wise. – Celia.

  3. My problem with self-esteem is that I can’t seem to distinguish between it and hubris. Also, I feel like it would mean lying to myself just to make me feel better. It is a priority with me, though. I’ve also gotten through 25 years without self-esteem, but I’m not sure how much more of it I can take. It’s probably because my problem isn’t just lack of self-esteem but the presence of self-hatred. Perhaps all is well as long as you don’t hate yourself. Everyone has different things that would help them, and it sounds to me you’ve got excellent ones. With them, it seems like self-esteem could make a gradual appearance.

    • weordmyndum Says:

      Oh, I’ve definitely got the self-hatred thing happening, too. It sucks. I’ve even had a therapist (at a program for people with treatment-resistant MI, no less!) that she’d never had another patient who was so cruel to themselves. So of course my instant thought was, “Oh, good job, you asshole. Now you’ve even managed to break therapy.” Go figure, right?

      But I’ve found that I can hate myself and still function. I used to be a high achiever; I graduated from the #4 ranked high school in the country and got a full academic scholarship to college. But all through that time, I was starving myself, cutting myself, binging and purging, and compulsively over-exercising. I’m hoping that if I can find a way to have a life and accomplish my goals without using outwardly self-destructive behaviors, then over time the internally self-destructive behaviors will abate, too. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I’m kinda out of other options at this point.

      • My therapist also tells me I’m pretty cruel to myself. I used to be able to hate myself and still function. I was also a high achiever in an academically rigorous high school (not as great as #4 in the country, though), and I graduated from college with a 4.0. I then got a fellowship at a great graduate school for my discipline, but something in me snapped during the years I was in graduate school. I’m a decent writer and have usually had few problems with writing, but I suddenly found myself unable to write articulately. (My discipline required a lot of writing.) I lost the ability to focus, and that graduate school failure has made me hate myself more. Because it wasn’t even that I couldn’t do the work, I knew I was capable of it but was somehow blocked. And ever since then, I haven’t been much of an achiever. That time in graduate school broke a part of me.

        This probably won’t happen to you, but I always thought I could do well even with the self-hatred precisely because I did. Then there came a point where I couldn’t surmount it anymore. I’d say to just be on your guard. I think trying to reduce outwardly self-destructive behaviors is good preparation.

  4. The self esteem part of you wrote this. Sometimes we don’t realize it’s been building and building until it bursts…like steam….
    My therapist told me that even though I always seem to discount my life “I don’t know how the hell I graduated, these shoes are from Ross, Oh Thanks but I really didn’t spend any time on it….”
    That somewhere deep down I always knew I had the fighter in me. It’s just taken a longggggg time for it to appear.
    The Cockroach

    • weordmyndum Says:

      I think, for me, there is a difference between the stubborn parts of me and anything resembling self-esteem.

      I’m a survivor. I’m good at surviving, even when most parts of me don’t want to. There are some times I wish I could find those stubborn parts of me and root them out so I could just say, “Okay. I’m done with life.” But, for better or worse, no one has been able to root out those stubborn parts, not even me.

      But the stubbornness isn’t always good. I’m stubborn about my self-destruction, too, when I get into it. Just like my stubbornness makes me good at surviving, it also makes me good at self-destructing–physically and emotionally. Sometimes I think my intense self-hatred comes from stubbornness too. No matter how many times people say nice things about me, I cannot believe them. I cannot let those things in; nothing brings down my walls.

      Well, that’s not entirely true. I have succumbed to siege. (I may be overextending the metaphor at this point.) The best therapist I ever had was very good at it. She didn’t lob self-esteem grenades o’er the ramparts, didn’t tell me to use affirmations or whatever. She’d quietly point out how harsh I was being toward myself, but she didn’t try to force or guilt-trip me into feeling differently. She just was always there, and she was unfailingly compassionate and kind. After a while, it began to change the self-hatred.

      Of course, as soon as I had to leave that treatment program, everything came crashing down around me again, including the self-hatred. But I guess knowing that something has helped before is useful.

      • Yep. I get it. There have been “glimpses” over the years of the notion, or possibility of letting light in, and I have folded my arms against it so hard and long, it’s what I know. My therapist has only just recently been poking at this wound, showing me in little ways how harsh I (still) am, and how it not only doesn’t serve me anymore, but it makes me less useful to others. One day she was giving me a compliment about something, some writing I read her, and I guess when she was complimenting, my face turned into an unknown person. She said something like, “Oh my god, you should see the look that came over you when I started to tell you I liked your writing, it was as though I was telling you something horrible.” I realized, I am probably not aware of just how much I do that….
        Well, one little crack at a time!!!
        The Cockroach

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