How Does One Deal with Low Self Esteem
When I was a Teen
January 26, 2012
This was a real problem before I turned twenty. From the age of thirteen on I had a very low opinion of myself. This was primarily due to a very dysfunctional family life, but it was also exacerbated by a divorce between my parents, a drastic change in living conditions, and my having to relocate and attempt to make friends in a strange neighborhood.
A bright spot in my life was my brother. We always tried to bolster one another's spirits, but being a teen means that depression and self doubt simply come with the territory.
It didn't help that I was gawky, tall, underweight, had crooked teeth, acne, and wore glasses. I'm pretty sure I looked something like an undernourished scarecrow. Of course I was awkward around girls, any girls, and almost as awkward around boys. Because of this I gravitated toward other "freaks" with similar builds and problems.
Though I did not hate jocks and cheerleaders I avoided them as if they had the plague. I'd seen the way a number of these people treated my fellow geeks and had no desire to become the butt of their jokes.
This lingering self doubt was variable. I did not always feel as though I was less than the people around me, but when I did feel that way it was debilitating and I would often stay in bed, curled up in a ball, refusing to face the world or have any human contact. My most common excuse for hiding like this was that I was sick. And more often than not this mood was the direct result of an ego shattering encounter the day before.
Positive Steps in Your Negative Space
Sometimes the Best Cure Is...
Often the best cure is simply growing older and gaining experiences that teach you that you could be more than you thought; to do more than you thought possible of yourself. Only time offers these opportunities, but one must also be open to them.
Another trick is to imagine someone you are envious of in a compromising position. This was something my uncle Ned would say to me from time to time. I've cleaned it up a bit; uncle Ned was considerably more profane.
"Try to imagine the other guy on the potty with his pants down around his ankles" - Uncle Ned
Observing others make mistakes, regardless of their social status also helps. It gives one the perspective that no one is perfect, that everyone is human, and that mistakes are to be expected, not just from you.
It also teaches the observant geek or nerd that mistakes are not the end of the world, but can become opportunities. Observing how a confident person handles a mistake can be very educational. Learning that an attitude of "I can do better next time, because I learned something this time." is far far better than "I can never live this down, I am deeply ashamed of myself."
Stretch Your Comfort Zone
This can be a tough one at first. To the socially awkward it is very difficult to "stretch" him or herself when the overwhelming desire is to dig a hole and crawl into it. So doing something outside of your comfort zone is also an act of bravery. View such an act this way and it will also bolster your self-confidence.
Specifically try something different, something you are certain you can't do. Be sure that when you do this you are surrounded by peers you can trust to offer comfort and encouragement, not criticism. If that's not possible try the new thing in the presence of strangers. It's pretty easy to walk away from people you don't know and don't have to see again. Be sure that whatever you try is unlikely to cause you injury though.
If you fail in your attempt at the new thing, bear in mind that everyone who tried this before you also probably failed. Take comfort in that and then try again.
Force Yourself to Become More Social
Join a Club
Certainly you have interests that are likely not shared by the more socially adept people you know. Likely you are a "book-worm" or computer geek. Good for you.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and (my favorite) Jack Horner were all socially inept geeks. You are in good company.
So joining a club centered around your personal interests will do two things. It will get you into social situations with people you share interests with and it will get you out of the house. Both good things.
Change Your Appearance
People's memories are funny things. If you affect a change in your appearance, even a minor one, just about everyone you know will eventually forget your old look and embrace the new. This could be as simple as wearing slightly different glasses, or changing your attire, or your hair, make-up, or any of a host of other things. If you are forced to wear glasses try wearing some truly geeky frames. They are extremely cool these days.
Have crooked teeth? I became an expert at the closed mouth smile. It was warm, engaging, and different enough that it drew people to me, but they never saw my teeth.
Retain an air of enigma. Be a mystery. It can only work positively for you.
Embrace your Geek
Being geeky, awkward, or socially inept is no longer the mark of shame it once was. It has become quite popular now to showcase people with these problems. One television program in particular does this and it is now the most popular situation comedy being broadcast. It showcases four socially inept young men with varying degrees of social ineptness.
Do you know why that guy or gal likes to pick on you? They have their own issues with low self-esteem. This is simply how they deal with it, by trying to make you feel worse than they already do about themselves.
Of course that does not make it right, but the knowledge that they are as unsure of themselves as you are is a good thing to know.
The "In" Crowd
In ways these guys are worse than the lone bully. They not only have equally low self-esteem, they have to have an audience to make them feel better. They should sell tickets.
You Aren't Alone and You Can be Great
Remember that you are not the only person in the world that feels this way about themselves. The good news is that when you do finally gain your self confidence it will be genuine. Some people, who surround themselves with other self-doubters, never climb out of that hole. You on the other hand and force yourself out of it and become a very strong very functional person.
With my examples above, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak all overcame their personal awkwardness. They are each and every one famous today. And rightly so.
Were You Ever Socially Inept?
Consider Your Health
Having a negative self image not only isolates you, it can be bad for your health. The constant stress, worry, and self-doubt have a cumulative effect on anyone. This can come back to you in your later years with diabetes, heart disease, and the high potential for stroke. All three of these things can kill you, so it's in your own self-interest to get out of your shell and at least attempt to view yourself as a worthy person.
There's one other reason why you should attempt to view yourself in a better light. You ARE a worthy person no matter what others say about you.
The author was not compensated in any way; monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.
Though the author does make a small profit for the advertising attached to this article, the author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.