Hi. I suffer from depression and very low self-esteem. Both of my parents were very critical of me and I was also bullied all through school which had a detrimental effect on my self-esteem. I hate myself, and am unable to see any good in myself. I have been told all my life that I am smart, and so my entire sense of self-worth has been based on that. I KNOW that I am not pretty, have never been popular or had a lot of friends, am not stylish etc. The only compliment I have ever gotten is that I am smart, so I am very hard on myself when I make a mistake. For example, I am quite upset because I just realized that I made a spelling error in one of the Christmas cards I sent out. I misspelled the word generosity (I spelled it generousity). I feel so stupid, and certain that when the person notices that I made a spelling mistake they will realize that I am not smart at all, and that I am in fact stupid and illiterate! This fear of looking or sounding stupid stops me from doing a lot of things or takes the joy out of doing things I would otherwise enjoy (like sending out Christmas cards). Do you have any advice for me? I know this must sound silly, but I have been agonizing over the fact that I made that mistake, and wondering if I might have made others. I beat myself up for a long time after making a mistake, tell myself I am stupid, worthless etc. This makes my depression worse. Thanks for listening. I hope you can offer some words of advice. It would be greatly appreciated.
With that history, it would be not easy for anyone to develop healthy self-esteem. So how about making your future different?
First, you need a different mindset. Please download the book Mindset by Carol Dweck TODAY. Read it TODAY. It basically states that there are two different types of people. Those who believe that they can practice their way into any skill and those who believe that traits and skills are fixed. Either you have it or you don't. Those who embrace the former can do anything they set their mind to. Those who believe the latter will fall short of their expectations and give up before they can achieve. Basically, the battle is mentally lost before it begins. If you can learn to embrace a growth mindset, you can conquer low self-esteem.
Second, do stuff. Anything. Whatever. Expand your experiences. The more you do, the more open you become to options. You think you are a failure because you haven't found what you love. If you love something, you do more of it. When you do more of it, you become good at it. When you succeed, you believe in yourself. So do stuff.
Third, find a DBT group or get a DBT workbook. It sounds like you don't have enough skills to feel competent in life. These are also learned. Simple things like apologizing less can make a world of difference in feeling competent.
Laura Giles, LCSW