A man with low self-esteem asks Eli and Josie for help in believing his girlfriend when she says she loves him.
Dear Sexes: I am dating this girl and am completely in love with her. And she says that she loves me back but I have such low self-esteem/so much self-loathing that I find it hard to believe it. What should I do? How do I convince myself that she really does mean what she says?
She Said: Man, I wish I could tell you how to do this. I wish I had some words or motivational phrases that could really, truly cure you of your low self-esteem. But honestly, no advice columnist or even friend can really do this for you.
Dealing with debilitating low self-esteem is no joking matter, and should probably be done with the help of a licensed therapist whom you “click” with.
The best I can do is offer some tips, friend-to-friend, as a non-professional.
1. Think about this logically:
—Why would she be with you and say she loves you if she doesn’t? What’s the point of that? What is she getting out of the relationship with you if she doesn’t like you? Wouldn’t she just go be with someone else?
Seriously, force yourself to answer those questions. There are no logical answers. Unless she’s a manipulative, conniving psychopath who is playing some sort of advanced-level mind game, then she’s with you because she likes you.
Yes, she likes you. That’s why she’s with you. It makes perfect sense. You also believe that 1+1=2, right? Well, this is just as obvious.
—Knowing that she wouldn’t be with you if she didn’t like you, you probably also know that believing you’re not really worth her love is, to some degree, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thinking you’re a piece of shit could possibly make you act sort of like a piece of shit. I know it’s not like you can just flip a switch and think you’re an awesome, desirable, loveable, worthy sexgod, but if we get back to our logical-thinking, it doesn’t make sense to continue on in your “I’m not good enough” mindset.
After all, what good does your low self-esteem do you? Protects you from really trusting her in case she dumps you? Well, if you act like that she WILL dump you. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, wouldn’t it only make sense to start doing the daily work (with a therapist, should you need it) to start believing you truly ARE worthy of her love?
2. Do the things that make you feel good, then do them again. And some more.
—Get your body to a place where you can feel good about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean thin or ripped, it means good for you. Gaining or losing weight are secondary to feeling strong or accomplished. Can you chop a pile of wood? Would you like to be able to do it? then work your ass off until you can do it. You’ll feel good about having accomplished that goal, and you’ll have a profound knowledge about yourself and what you’re physically capable of.
Also very handy in a zombie apocalypse, right?
—Do the intellectual and emotional things that make you happy, and damn anyone that doesn’t like them.
Join a Scrabble league, even if it’s populated mostly by Senior Citizens and you’re 25 years old. Read The Hunger Games or cheap crime novels. Go pet cats at the animal shelter. Donate some money or time to a soup kitchen. Sew an apron. I don’t know. What do you like? Do it more.
Ultimately, realize that the things that make you happy are wonderful. They’re valuable. They make you into a better person, even if they’re silly. Feel proud that you like Cosplay or HALO or watching marathons of “Friends” or even Monday Night Football. Smile as you do these things and observe yourself smiling. Let yourself feel that happiness and when you start to bum out, remember the way you felt when you were doing what you loved
I wish I believed that I could just say these things and POOF! you’d feel like a new man. I know I can’t. But I fully believe that you are capable of appreciating your relationship, being present in it, and feeling worthy. It’s not going to be simple, but you’re going to have to actively learn a new way to see yourself. And like any other skill, it’s gonna take time, practice, and failure to get it right.
After all, every new skill takes patience and work. Plug away at it. Commit to it. What’s the worst that can happen by working hard at building up your self-esteem? You’ll be doing fun stuff that you love and thinking positive thoughts about your relationship. So even if the worst happened and she dumped you, you’ve still gained a lot.
He Said: You’re acting as your own worst enemy, so start being friends with yourself. If your girlfriend cares so deeply for you, and expresses her love for you as well, you must have some good attributes. You’re worth loving, and you’re deserving of love. You don’t have to believe me, but you should believe your girlfriend.
If you’re struggling to believe yourself, play the compliment game with yourself. Once a week, take a moment to tell yourself three things you like about yourself. Be specific. Be thoughtful. Maybe you’re caring, because you help your friends by being listening to their struggles? Perhaps you’re intelligent, because you’re a problem solver for obstacles you encounter? If you can’t believe yourself, play the compliment game with your girlfriend—and start listening to her too.
If this exercise seems too silly, it’s not. You need an attitude adjustment when it comes to your perspective on yourself. If the compliment game seems like a cheerleading experiment (it is, but…) add an element: for every three compliments you give yourself, tell yourself one aspect of your life you’d like to improve. Then go out and work on it. If you want to laugh more, go take an improv class. If you want to be more extroverted, plan more events and social engagements for yourself. If you want to get in better shape, exercise more and eat healthier. Of course it’s not that simple, but you get the point. Be good to yourself. Hold yourself to a high standard, but be nurturing too. Stay positive!
The alternative is a dark cloud. If you continue to reject the idea that you’re good, lovable, and deserving of happiness, you will make yourself less attractive to others and you will drive rewarding experiences (for yourself) away. You don’t need to subject yourself to such stormy weather. Make your own blue skies and sunny days. Take care of you, and believe in your own value and goodness. If you need help doing that, call on your family, friends, loved ones, or even a good therapist. You have beauty inside you, and it’s time to let it shine.
Do you have a question for Eli and Josie? Ask it here – anonymously!
Originally appeared at She Said He Said
Photo courtesy of Flickr/pedrosimoes7