I so often hear people giving others advice about how they should overcome negative sentiments about themselves, and I keep wondering if it’s realistic? The advice most often rendered is ‘love yourself’. Isn’t that the same like telling someone that is depressed to be happy?
I think if we dislike ourselves, it’s not because we simply dislike ourselves, but in fact it’s because there is little that we’re doing or achieving that we find reason to be proud about. Either that, or we’re seeking affirmation from quarters that are uninterested or oblivious to how important they are in our lives. So when someone seems not to like themselves, when they’re self-harming, being reckless with their health or well-being, or just being morbid about life, I somehow doubt that telling them to love themselves is going to change all that.
I really believe that happiness is not a choice, but is in fact a state that is achieved as a result of other conditions or achievements in our lives. Similarly I would argue that dislike for oneself is a result of inactivity or lack of achievement in things that would bring one joy. I guess, at the risk of over-simplifying it, I think it all comes down to what we use as points of reference in our lives. Those points of reference can sometimes be role models, or at other times it could simply be peer pressure. But identifying what about those role models or peers it is that influences us to want to aspire to fit their expectations is key to realising whether or not the reasons for such self-dislike is in fact warranted to begin with.
But even that doesn’t quite answer the question, or resolve the issue. I think the low self esteem finds its roots first in trying to please others, which is easy enough to set in during childhood when we least realise the impact of such a disappointment. This later serves as a distraction that leads us to believe that just because we didn’t measure up to our chosen points of reference, we’re incapable of achieving anything meaningful in our lives. I can barely recall the number of times that I assumed the best of someone, immersed myself into the relationship relative to what prestige they enjoyed in my mind, only to meet a rude awakening when they behaved far short of what I believed their true nature to be.
Sometimes I think we just expect too little from ourselves, and too much from others. Or perhaps that’s just a vicious cycle as well. Our expectations of others are equally as high as their expectations of us, but their expectations of themselves is just as low as our expectations of ourselves. So while we’re beating ourselves up and restraining ourselves from realising our true potential, we’re betraying the expectations of someone else, while they’re doing the same to us. Such is the cycle of stupidity when we measure our self-worth by the veneer of society.
I guess the point is that if we are going to choose a role model, or an ideal to aspire to, we need to be sure that what we’re setting as an objective is in fact the reality of what we really want.