You might very well be sitting there thinking what’s positive self-regard? What’s the difference between self-regard, self-esteem and confidence? What are you prattling on about now then Sarah? Possibly accompanied by an eye roll…yeah I get it, I would’ve been the same at the start of my journey, and the only difference is that this sort of scorn would’ve been pointed very firmly in one direction. At myself, because I was my own worst critic.
Let me start by answering your questions, because hopefully it’ll help you see where I’m going with this. Positive self-regard is basically being able to like yourself enough in any situation, no matter how dire. It means that your self-talk is reassuring and you’re able to remain resilient even in the shittiest of circumstances. If you’re able to remain kind to yourself, that little voice that is constantly talking to you reflects that kindness instead of turning into a rabid little fucker that insists you’re worthless.
If your self-talk can remain friendly in these circumstances, it won’t start to flash up all the failures and the small indiscretions as evidence of your worthlessness. The voice will instead become your inner coach, building your resilience and your self-esteem.
So, what’s the difference between self-esteem and confidence? These terms are used interchangeably and you’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, but in my book they aren’t. Speaking from experience I’ve been able to fake-it-to-make-it when it comes to confidence. I could pretend, for short times at any rate, that things were fine, even though my rabid inner critic was doing a number on my self-esteem.
Self-esteem on the other hand is how you actually feel about yourself. If you have low self-esteem, you’ll never like yourself. You’ll be able to paint the exterior with make-up, nice clothes and the latest phone or gadget, but guess what, the inside won’t reflect the shiny outside. Instead the voice will be rampaging about making you feel worthless, and so when you’re alone or when you’re out with friends, you’ll never quite feel like you fit. And that’s when alcohol, drugs, gambling, spending money…whatever makes you feel better, comes into its own, because you need something to damp down the inner critic artificially to function.
But, if you work on yourself, look at all the bits you’re not a fan of, incorporate the shadow aspects of your personality, that rabid little voice gets tamed and you start to realise that you actually like and accept yourself, without the booze, the drugs, the gambling etc… You’ll notice there’s bits to you that you want to see more of, and the flaws aren’t half as bad as you thought. And that, everyone, forms the basis of having positive self-regard which is the very building blocks of good self-esteem. All of which helps you cope with depression, grief or bad times and you start to see flashes of acceptance…ah! The holy grail!
When I write it down like this, it sounds bloody easy, but like all good things, it has to be worked at and it takes time. Because when I remember back to how I was just four years ago, I was very different. And that all came down to not liking myself at all. I struggled with my infertility and the fact that my body didn’t work, so what was the point of me? I was a people-pleaser intent on pleasing others, so I fell to the bottom of my own list of priorities and that only served to emphasise how worthless I was. No boundaries means people trample all over you, and you have no way to tell them that they’ve fucked you off, because you don’t know your own mind enough to say what’s acceptable and what isn’t. So, as you can imagine, I was frustrated, angry and I didn’t have the ability to communicate any of this to myself, let alone anyone else., because I simply didn’t have the emotional depth or confidence to find the language I needed.
Inside, I hated the way I looked, the way I behaved and it all showed in how I carried myself, how I dressed, how I behaved – quietly seething and then blowing up at the innocuous; being happy but then something flashing up my uselessness that took my breath away. If you’d asked me to list five things I liked about myself I would’ve struggled to list even one thing. If you’d asked me what I considered acceptable behaviour from myself and others…pfft! Nothing. I couldn’t have told you. All I knew was that I was angry, frustrated and uncomfortable in my own skin. It was a bloody dark and lonely place to be because if you can’t like yourself, who can?
And, the absolute tragedy is that I see a lot of it on forums and from talking to people that are childless-not-by-choice. It’s not that it’s exclusive to this community, it’s just that when you go through infertility, ill-health, don’t meet the right person, or just can’t get your ducks lined up in a row to have a family, it becomes the ‘evidence’ for not being a ‘good enough’ person. Not quite being ‘enough’ to be a parent, and so never being ‘enough’ in life. It then translates into depression, pain and feeling misunderstood or just not fitting in with the life you’ve built up around you. You reflect, you ruminate on the past to the point that nothing lies there just a stock to beat yourself up with for not having settled for that person, for having ill-health or for taking your time to make sure things were lined up for a family…
There’s no getting away from it, if you try to review the past without having positive self-regard, without any love for yourself, it can turn into a nasty experience. This type of grief is complicated and basically reduces the life you’ve built up to rubble. Without realising it, we have to start over because nothing fits anymore, not even ourselves. Everything gets thrown up in the air and we’re left trying to piece it all back together. But, it can be done, with time, patience and a lot of positive self-regard.
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