The Truth About Self-Esteem

It was Wednesday morning and I don’t know if it was the Opalite around my neck but my self-worth kicked in. Though I can’t describe exactly what happened, I knew that I had to stand up for myself and to be treated better. (Disclaimer: this was not a boyfriend situation — he and I are very much still together and things are going great!)

But riddle me this: when did self-respect translate into being rude? When did doing this for the sake of building your own future make you selfish? Why do people get mad when you are just trying to make yourself happy? Don’t people want you to be happy?

Oddly enough, I had a therapy session that same morning. I had to say to him (my therapist) that I instantly felt regret standing up for myself, but why was that? He told me that when you haven’t stood up for yourself in a long time, that feeling of regret tends to occur. It seems sad that it happens. However, I think it’s growth.

The last time I remember this happening, I was called a “petulant child” by a professor and accused of disrespect, which only made me cry harder after sticking up for myself to another professor. I wish I could say to her now that self-respect does not equal disrespect for another individual. Respect is earned, not given freely. And just because you’re an older adult, that doesn’t mean that you have ultimate authority. #SorryNotSorry

With self-worth comes self-esteem. Psychologist, Melanie Fennell concluded the following:

• Throughout your life you form negative beliefs about yourself as a result of the way you have been treated. Psychologists call this your ‘bottom line’ or ‘core belief ’. Your core belief is how you feel about yourself deep down, for example “I’m worthless” or “I’m no good”.


• Confronting core beliefs feels unpleasant, so we all develop rules for living that protect us from our core beliefs. These rules guide how you live your life, and as long as your rules don’t get broken, your core belief stays dormant. People with low self-esteem often have rules that are demanding and rigid, such as “I must always please other people”, or “As long as I don’t get criticized then I’m OK”.


• It can feel very anxiety provoking when it seems like one of your rules might be broken. If one of your rules is “I’m OK as long as everyone is happy”, it might be anxiety provoking if people around you are not happy – you might feel that you have failed.


• When there is a danger that rules might be broken, you might make anxious predictions about what might happen and fear the worst (e.g. “I’ll be rejected if I can’t do everything that is expected of me”), or you might speak to yourself in a critical way, or avoid tricky situations and use strategies to cope.

There’s no doubt that I, and everyone else have had these experiences. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve striven to be perfect to the point of sickness. When I was being bullied severely, I felt like I had to “bow down” to some higher power of what was right versus wrong. I can’t help but wonder now, was that society? Or just simply the place I grew up? I swear, that town had 10 Commandments of being ostensibly cool.

I remember the first day of eighth grade, I had health class at the end of the day and my teacher said to the class, “if you don’t have self-esteem by now, you’re on your own!” Comically enough, I didn’t have any self-esteem. I could have been in a room full of people and still be lonely AF (no pun intended — those are my initials).

I remember crying to my mom, and I choke up as I write this, that whenever I tried to talk, I got laughed and snickered at. When I tried to stand up for myself, I was called mean. Another truth about self-esteem is that is affects every aspect of your life.

My therapist said I had this sort of glow after I stood up for myself. I’ve been constantly worried about telling people what I wanted to do and what I was going to do with my life, but I shouldn’t let that terrify me because what I do is ultimately my choice. You’re the author of your own life. Write your own story without people telling you that what you’re writing is wrong.

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