Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reprise: Step #5, How to Love Yourself When You're Gay–Believe in Yourself (Conclusion)

The Story So Far:  In Part One of this series, we covered how recognizing the problem of having low self-esteem is critical to improving it.  Frankly, if you don't see your self-esteem is low and needs to be raised, you'll probably never do anything about it.

In Part Two, we talked about living consciously, particularly as it relates to working on learning to love yourself.  If, as you work on raising your self-esteem, you continuously fall back into the same pattern of self-loathing--because you don't know you're doing it--any chance for improvement will be compromised.

In Part Three, we discussed the need to move from having the best intentions to taking action. It's not enough to want to improve your self-esteem, to want to learn to love yourself; you have to be motivated to follow through on the steps you'll need to take in order to achieve that goal.

In Part Four, we reviewed how difficult, but important, change is, particularly when working to improve self-esteem, and a number of suggestions, or baby steps, were offered to help you start to change the perception you have of your self-worth, which is at the root of self-esteem.

Step #5:  Believe in Yourself

If there's one thing I learned for sure in the process of improving my self-esteem, it's how much work was involved, and how long it takes.  My intentions were good from the beginning, because I knew I needed to do this work on myself.  But that didn't make the job any easier.  

Plenty of times, I was frustrated because I thought I had it…and then I didn't.  Just when I let my guard down, I said something negative about myself again.  Even today, I catch myself saying, "You stupid idiot," when I've done something that disappoints me. Hopefully, that's when the concept of living consciously kicks in again--when I prevent myself from going any further, and when, if I have the presence of mind, I try to say a positive affirmation to replace the negative one I just uttered.       

Especially at first, the work involved in raising self-esteem can seem daunting, and the temptation to slide back into old behavior patterns greater than ever. Think about it.  For many years, you've accepted negative comments tossed at you, either directly or indirectly (many from yourself), because you thought you had no choice or, worse, because you believed deep down you deserved them.  Even when people weren't talking about you, I bet you thought they were.  It's become second nature to feel badly about yourself, to deride and insult yourself, and to accept all of it as the truth.  

So how long do you think you'll need to stop the negative talk, to repeat positive affirmations, to stop inappropriate comparisons to other people, to do nice things for yourself, and to take the focus off you and do something nice for someone else–how long do you think you'll need to keep doing all those things before you turn the tide of negativity you've directed at you all these years?  And to start your way back up the mountain again, where you firmly belong?  A few days?  A few weeks?  A few months? Honestly.  You'll be at this a long, long time.  

But it won't be at its most challenging forever, only at the beginning, as you work to turn a long-term, dysfunctional routine into a positive, reaffirming one.  Every day you remain on the track to building your self-esteem is another successful day of tearing down the past and building a solid foundation for the future.  It's also one day closer to achieving your goal.      

You'll get stronger as you go along.  The new reel that will play in your head may not always repeat positive affirmations over and over, but at least it won't be filled with the tripe you tell yourself now.  You will break yourself of the habit of comparing everything in your life to someone else, you'll learn to do nice things for yourself naturally, for no particular reason, just because, and you'll recognize the value you have to those who are most important in your life.      

You'll get to the point where you don't need to wait for someone to say something nice about you to feel good about who you are.  You'll be able to say something nice about yourself--and believe it.  And that will reinforce all the good things you've come to know are true about yourself.        

And so, not only am I asking you to take this journey and to believe in the process of improving your self-esteem, but also I'm asking you to believe in yourself, and in your ability to make this significant change in your life.  You can do this; I know you can.  If I can do it, so can you. Anyone can.  And, as we covered before, only you can do this.  No one can give you self-esteem.  It's up to you.  

In Step #4, Taking Baby Steps Forward, we talked about you being the most important person in your life (you knew I'd get that in there again, didn't you?).  And it's true.  That will never change, no matter how old you become.  But remember, at the end of the day, this is not about being selfish or arrogant or full of yourself. Rather, this is about being self-full--about knowing who you are, about loving who you are, about being satisfied and content and fulfilled in that knowledge, and about being the best you you can be, first, in your life, and then in the lives of all the people you hold most dear.  

There is no substitute for self-esteem.  In our world of material possessions and instant gratification, you cannot buy something at the store to replace the self-esteem you don't have. Retail therapy may make you feel better at first, but that thrill will wear off soon enough, as it always does.  Nothing of this earth will make you feel worthy.  Not a new house, or a new car, or a piece of furniture, or clothing. Nothing.  Not a damn thing you use money to pay for.  

Self-esteem comes from one place and one place only--inside you--and it's not conditional on anything outside of you.  If you don't have it now, there's no better time than this very second to decide you need to do the work on yourself to get it. Hands down, this will be the best investment you've ever made, one you cannot afford to pass up.  It will also be the most important journey you'll ever take.  I guarantee it.

Good luck!  And let me know how you're doing.  I would really like to know.   

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