- Mental Health
How to Like Yourself: Building Confidence and Self-Esteem in a Crazy World
The Little Voice
Liking yourself is very important. If you don’t like you, who will? I have struggled with liking myself for, well, my whole life. It’s a constant battle. I can almost always hear that Little Voice in my head, saying “you’re not good enough. Maybe if you were a little smarter, you’d be great. Or better looking. Maybe if you were more stylish, or in better shape. Maybe if you didn’t have gaps between your teeth or weren’t bald, yeah, then you’d be awesome.”
The Voice can be very convincing. It knows your weak spots, and it only looks for evidence that supports what it already believes. This is an important point. If ten people tell me I look great and one person tells me I look like crap, the Voice will latch onto that one person. “Those other people don’t know what they’re talking about,” it will tell me.
I can't decide if I love or hate this song
How can I like myself?
The question then becomes: How do we like ourselves, in spite of that incessant Little Voice, buzzing in our ears?
There are a lot of answers out there. People will tell you all kinds of stuff. And by no means have I personally investigated every method out there. I can only tell you what I have learned from my own experience, reading, and studying.
Is there a problem?
The first step is to admit that you have a problem: you don’t like yourself, and you want to start liking yourself!
Most likely, you already know if you suffer from low self-esteem (which is just a fancy way of saying you don’t like yourself.) But maybe you think you’re justified! Maybe you think you shouldn’t like yourself, because you are worthless. I am telling you right now: You are not worthless. You are worthy.
Your Little Voice is probably telling you, “how does this guy know I’m worthy? He doesn’t even know me?”
I’m speaking directly to your little voice, when I reply: Bullshit!
Failure is an option
Your Little Voice doesn’t recognize your great potential, because it is scared. Your Little Voice is really your ego. It’s the part of you that wants to feel successful, believe it or not. The reason it tells you all those terrible things about yourself is to protect itself. It’s scared that if you like yourself, you might go out and be adventurous, try new things, and possibly fail! Then, it thinks wrongly, you would not feel successful. It imagines that you would feel like a failure.
Your Little Voice doesn’t understand that if you try new things, you will have succeeded already, because you strived and made the effort! We always hear stories about people who fail lots of times before they become successful. What was the difference between those people and you? They didn’t listen to their Little Voice!
Try, try again!
Everybody fails from time to time! Michael Jordan may have won six NBA championships, but he played basketball for fifteen seasons! That means he failed to win the NBA Championship nine times.
There are countless examples of successful famous people failing horribly before eventually becoming successful. However, I will tell you a personal story that I believe reflects this concept.
When I was around 15, I decided I was going to be a published cartoonist. I had been developing a single panel comic strip for several years by that point, and I wanted to be published. I sent it to the New Yorker. Fail. I sent it to several other magazines. Fail. I visited to my local newspaper office. Fail. I found an online list of about 200 hundred local newspapers. I e-mailed every single one of them samples of my comic strip. This took quite a while.
I wish I still had the rejection e-mails. There were so many of them. Most of them were polite, and simply stated that they were not considering new cartoons at this time. Some were slightly less kind. Day after day, for months, I would come home from school, and read these rejections.
Then there came a day in which I received a letter from the Texoma Enterprise in Texas. They wanted to publish my cartoons!
And they did publish a whole bunch of my comics. My dad saved the newspapers they were printed in, and I look at them from time to time. For me, they serve as a reminder that my Little Voice is full of crap.
Therapy Ain’t Just for the rich and crazy!
If you truly don’t like yourself, I recommend that you seek individual or group therapy. If you think you cannot afford therapy, you are incorrect. Many agencies offer counseling on a sliding-scale, based on your income. If you have no income, many places will admit you for no charge.
Seeing a therapist does not mean that you are crazy. It actually means that you are healthy. Healthy people process their thoughts and feelings. Unhealthy people bottle them up and eventually explode. Which one do you want to be?
In therapy, someone will listen to you without judging you. If you are in therapy and feel that your therapist is judging you, you should address it with them. If you are truly uncomfortable with your therapist, switch! You haven’t signed a life-time contract, so go find someone who can help you!
If you are considering suicide, Befrienders Worldwide offers a listing of help-lines all over the world. Please do not be afraid to ask for help.
If you are depressed, or just need someone to talk to, Depression Hotlines and Helplines offers a variety of resources. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you human!
(Contains foul language) This is NOT an accurate portrayal of group therapy
Use a mantra!
One helpful way for dealing with your low self-esteem is to use a “mantra.” A mantra is something that you repeat to yourself in order to help yourself feel better. Although the word has a spiritual connotation, it does not have be seen that way. If you are uncomfortable with spirituality, you can use the word “reminder” instead of “mantra.” If you can think of a better word, please leave a comment and tell me!
If you are struggling to like yourself, the manta that I recommend (and use myself) is very simple. It goes like this: “I like myself.”
Although it is very simple, it is also very powerful. It can stop the Little Voice right in it’s tracks. When the Little Voice hears the statement, “I like myself,” it is helpless to defend itself. It doesn’t know what to do! Here it is, trying to tell you that you’re a worthless hunk of waste matter, and you are basically laughing in it’s face.
Building a habit
This mantra can be very helpful in times of stress, but I suggest that you start using it regularly during less stressful times, as practice. Maybe you’re in the car, using the radio to blare out your Little Voice, as I often do. Turn the radio off for a few moments and remind yourself a few times, “I like myself.”
Keep it up for a few days, and it will begin to become a habit. You may even start to notice how other peoples’ Little Voices hold them back. As you begin to like yourself, you will find that you can be a support for others who suffer as you have suffered. But do not rush into this; the most important thing is to keep the focus on you. Helping other people can sometimes be used as a distraction, so that we don’t have to face our own issues.
Liking yourself is a lifetime journey, with many difficulties along the way. However, if you are persistent and work at it diligently, you will succeed.
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