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My Struggles with Low Self-Esteem

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I am not the brimming, over the top, bubbly person that you may think I am. (Shocking, right??) I’m not particularly outgoing, or even that tenacious. I’ve always been rather shy (unless it’s around people I know very, very well) and an introvert, but one thing that’s really gotten in my way lately has been my self-esteem. And by self-esteem, I don’t mean that I have great confidence in myself, a la Sister Maria from The Sound of Music (is my musical nerd side showing? But seriously, it’s a classic!). No, what I mean is that I have low, poor self-esteem.

I knew this was something I should write about when I was in a group therapy session recently (I try, you guys, I really do). The counselor asked us to write down three names and to assign a monetary value to those people: one person you greatly admired and respected, yourself, and a person you hate. I gave the person I admired the value of a million dollars (I’m quite generous). And I gave the person I hate the value of $50 (he was a d*ck). And I gave myself the value of $250. The counselor was shocked I gave myself such a low value. I replied, “well, I’m $200 more expensive than a person with a really fancy degree and thinks he’s the sh*t, so I think I’m doing okay.” But, honestly, seeing my low value on paper got me thinking that maybe this is something I should address. Finally.

I always kind of knew this was a problem, but for some reason, it’s gotten really bad these last few years. Which is quite ironic, because as a kid, you literally have no inhibitions. I was definitely like that as a kid. I was outgoing (at least to my family and friends), and when I was in middle school, I was so dramatic that I was convinced I was going to be an actress (I was also obsessed with Entertainment Weekly magazine at the time, so that didn’t help either). But as I got older, my mental health wasn’t the best, and as we all know, depression has never been known as a confidence booster. My self-esteem took a hit, but it wasn’t quite as much at an all time low as it is now. Why is that?

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Way Less Entertaining Than the Book Series)

I think it’s just a series of unfortunate events, honestly. From dating a guy who was a bit too honest in his eagerness to try to “help” me by pointing out all of what I haven’t achieved yet, as if I didn’t see these flaws in myself every single damn day of my life (we broke up, don’t worry), my mental health getting better then randomly getting worse, failed job interviews, losing a job, not being able to find a job, etc. All of these things by themselves probably wouldn’t be too bad, but add them all together and then throw in some things on top of those events that come along with them (still living at home, I never got my college degree, not earning enough money…), well, even I have to see how that can be a big blow to my confidence and self-esteem.

Thanks to these events, they’ve all had a negative impact on me and the way I view myself. I’m no longer that little kid who dreams of being an actress (I never would have made it past the first casting call for any part, let’s be honest. I can barely remember anything unless it’s an old TV commercial jingle), but someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. And that’s an important part of being a human being. Sure, you may not be quite as confident as that one friend (everyone always has that one friend) who can talk their way into a job at NASA while only ever majoring in liberal arts, but you should be able to know that you’re capable.

But I don’t know if I am. And I also don’t really believe it.

What My Self-Esteem Tells Me and Makes Me Believe

Now I don’t know if I can ever sit through a job interview again. My very first job interview, I peed my pants right before I went in. I was so nervous that I had to pee, like right this second, and I started peeing even before I could get my pants off in the bathroom stall. Thank god I was wearing black pants and they (hopefully) didn’t notice. It’s a funny story in retrospect, but also a glaring observation of how severe my anxiety was because of said interview. Oh, and I didn’t get the job. Or the job after that. Which makes me even more anxious now to look for a job and that dreaded job interview that comes with it.

And I worry that I will never find a job without a college degree. Even though school has always been a very anxiety provoking part of my life, I couldn’t even make it through online courses without my anxiety overpowering me. I also feel uneducated and stupid for not having a degree, as well. Some people put so much value on where you went to school and what you majored in, that I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t even manage a few simple courses without having a breakdown.

My mental health has always been very up and down as well. From being on different medications for most of my life, going to therapist to psychologist to psychiatrist, my life has been a series of dark depressive or anxious attacks. Who’s to say it will ever go away? And along with my mental health issues, my anxiety triggers a gut reaction, resulting in IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, making it very hard to find a job that would make it easy for be to have full access to a bathroom whenever I need it. Which is why I usually only have stay at home jobs for most of my life. Am I even capable enough of having a job?

And once, in one of the most embarrassing instances of my life, when I was severely depressed and not working, at a party, a friend of a friend asked what I did. I replied in what I hoped was a fun and flippant way, “Oh, right now I’m helping my mom baby-sit.” (Which I was doing at the time) But he persisted. “No, but what do you do?” I was flabbergasted and grasped for an answer. “I’m...I’m...I’m...” I stammered. “I’m taking some time off for my health,” I finally managed to say. He seemed really confused and eventually walked away. I had never felt more ashamed and pathetic.

But the most prominent question that pops in my head is: do I deserve to have anything good happen to me?

And my answer is always: no. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve to have anything. I deserve to have nothing.

Because when you have low-self esteem, you feel like you’re meant to be rejected. That you deserve it. Of course it’s your fault. You’re doing something wrong. You did this to yourself. And everyone can see it.

The job interviewers didn’t give me the job because they knew I wasn’t capable enough. I could barely get through the job interview without shaking violently and having my brain turn to mush when they asked me their questions.

I’m stupid for not having a college degree. Dumber people than me have degrees. I just couldn’t do it because I let my anxiety take over. I wasn’t capable enough to handle it. And everyone judges me for being too stupid to have one.

And why would I even think my mental health would get better? This is the card I’ve been dealt. My gut issues are never getting better. Medications don’t help. The doctors say it stems from my anxiety, and my anxiety stems from gut issues. It’s a vicious circle. Why even dream about getting a normal job? I’m not normal. Not at all.

And Here's What My Low Self-Esteem Makes Me Do

So instead of being rejected, I avoid. I wanted to start a new career years ago, but then when I found out I had to have a college degree plus a master’s, I balked and stopped.

I looked into getting a part-time job, but once I saw the application and realized I would have to do a job interview, I froze. I panicked. I closed my laptop and forgot about it.

My mental health and gut? Well, how could I ever manage anything with that? With frequent, painful trips to the bathroom at inconvenient times? How could I hold a job down with that? I couldn’t, I can’t.

These are all things (and more) that was my low self-esteem says to me. It reminds me of it daily, my weaknesses, my lack of accomplishments, even my lack of trying. It teams up with my depression and anxiety, making me feel blue and irritable that I’m wasting time, not doing anything, for fear of rejection. That everyone can see I’m inadequate, even more than I do.

It’s even the main reason I don’t share anything about my blog with my family or friends. I’m afraid they’ll look at my blog, think my writing isn’t good, or critique it, and say I’m wasting my time. They’ll ask if they really think I can do this as a job, and wouldn’t it be better to have a real job and just keep this a hobby? Or, did I really spend money on this? What a bad investment, especially if your blog never makes any money. What a waste of effort, time, and money.

Low self-esteem is an awful, degrading feeling to have. To have your own mind say you aren’t worth anything, that you don’t deserve anything. All of this just from a combination of bad experiences. Why can’t I just bounce back like other people do? Why do I have to be like this?

But There Is Help. And Hope. (Plus Some Tips!)

And the thing is: I don’t have to be. I’ve talked about this at length with my therapist (I’m under care guys, it’s okay) that this may be the way my brain has rewired from all of these negative thoughts and negative inner voice (in a way, my brain is stuck in a very negative rut), but I can change it. That there are ways to change how I think and feel about myself.

I can stop that negative self talk. That negative inner ear that tells me I’m pathetic, that I’ll never amount to anything, that I don’t deserve any accomplishments, that all I’ll ever be is just a rejected human being.

That I can switch the narrative on that negative voice, turning, “I don’t deserve anything”, to “I deserve something good.” Or “I’ll never find a job that’s right for me,” to “I can find a job that fits most of my needs.” Try taking a negative statement and putting that positive spin on it. It’s amazing how that switch from negative to positive can completely change your view on yourself and what you’re capable of (because we are all capable, no matter what your brain tries to tell you!). It’s realistic and simple, but also, kind of hopeful. And that’s something usually missing with low self-esteem. That hope that you used to have.

I can also start treating myself as a friend aka self-compassion. I’m not at all as harsh to my friends as I am to myself. I’d actually never even talk to someone I hate like the way I talk to myself (not even the $50 guy!). Instead of judging myself, I can try to understand and comfort myself. Remind myself that we’re human and that we’re not all perfect. It’s what I would do for a friend, and shouldn’t I treat myself with that same love and compassion? (You would think, right?)

Another way I’ve heard is to list positive things about yourself. They don’t have to be super specific or important. You could just write “I’m super good at playing Monopoly and usually win!” (which is not an example from my life) or “I love to read and pride myself on how many books I’ve read this year!” (now that is an example from my life). It’s the little things that remind us we’re more than what we think we are not. 

Also, positive affirmations are always another good idea as well. Your own specific ones or even the ones you see all over Pinterest. You can stick them around your room or places you can see them for an added boost of positivity. They can be as sappy or as unsentimental as you want. Just make sure they're positive!

But the one thing that is really helpful is to give yourself small challenges and goals, to push yourself and prove to yourself that you are worthy and you deserve good things in life. I’m slowly trying to do that, by looking for jobs that would suit my needs, go and see my friends more (aka positive- and fun- influences) and trying to be more confident (even though I don’t feel like it. Fake it till you make it!). Don’t push yourself all at once, work up to it, but with each tiny accomplishment, you’ll feel that low self-esteem start to lift away a little bit. Little by little, it does get better (or so I hear).

To (Finally) Wrap It Up (aka Thank You For Reading This Insanely Long Post)

It will take time to rewire your brain from the negative to the positive, but I feel like it’s worth it. It’s the journey I’m currently on and I hope will help with my mental health, my future, and my life. Because deep down, I know that I don’t want to have this low self-esteem. I want to be happy, healthy, and free of the negativity that’s pushing me down and keeping me under. I want to succeed and live and find my self-worth. But I can only do that if I try. And I’m willing to do that. And I hope you are too, if you struggle with low self-esteem. Because you are capable. And you deserve to be happy.

This was my really honest story of my struggles with low self-esteem. This was really hard for me to open up about, so thank you for reading, and I hope some of you may understand what I’m going through. It was, not surprisingly, difficult for me to write, to be so sincere and honest and share such a big and embarrassing and tough part of my life. Mostly because I feel like people would judge me for it and think I'm pathetic (there's that low self-esteem again rearing its ugly head again!). But I hope in a way sharing my struggles will help someone else, and my journey to loving myself and finding my self-worth and believing in myself will in a way hold me accountable for my actions and my negative-hopefully-turned-positive thoughts. I’m worthy of feeling whole, happy, and deserving, and so are you.

*If you’re suffering from low self-esteem, I suggest you see a professional to help with it, as sometimes therapies like CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) or even some medications can help (since low self-esteem can cause or lead to depression). If not, please surround yourself with caring and supportive individuals who will help you. Sending you all my love!*

Stay Weird.

I got some of my tips for helping with low self-esteem from these sites:
Also from my therapist, but she doesn't have a link. Thanks, girl!

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20 comments on "My Struggles with Low Self-Esteem"
  1. Hi Emily, you really got me with this post. I can't believe I cried after I read this, but please don't feel bad as I know you will. I cried because I feel bad for you and I understand.
    As someone who's had problems with employment all my adult life, I relate so much with your situation. Employment is almost synonymous with worth in this society, which isn't right at all! We're all worthy even if we can't find employment (I'm slowly getting myself to feel that way toward myself)!
    I always fear that someone will ask me what I'm doing for work. If someone pressed me about what I'm doing at a party, I know I'll feel the way you did. These days, I say I'm working towards freelance writing, but knowing myself, it's going to take a long while. I look at assignments and doubt I can do it, it makes me so anxious, I too, just close my laptop.
    I also haven't stepped out of my partner's home alone since I returned in March because I feel this huge resistance from within. I wish I could take the bus and go to the city, but I can't. I'm afraid. I pretend I don't go out because it's expensive and there's nothing for me to do in the city, but it's really because I'm too anxious and insecure to go anywhere alone (he's not well and can't accompany me). People encourage me to get out of my shell, I don't know what to say to them.

    I totally understand how these setbacks destroy our self-esteem, especially when we look around and everyone seem to be moving forward in their lives. And we naturally think we're failing. The truth is, we're doing the best we can. We just need a little more time and patience. It's especially difficult for you because your anxiety is so bad.
    I'm sorry I kinda made this comment about me. I'm so glad you're seeing a therapist. I think if anyone deserves to feel better, it's definitely you. You're kind and intelligent, and don't ever let anyone tell you you can't write. You moved me to tears with your words, and I'm pretty hardhearted.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It has to be difficult to share this post with the world, but you did. And thanks to your courage, I feel less alone in my struggles with low self-esteem too. You're worth a million dollars and more!

  2. Oh Julie, thank you so much for your kind, wonderful words! I'm sorry I made you cry! That was not my intention! But your comment did make ME cry, but more because you were so sweet and understanding. You got what I was going through and it was such a relief to read your words! You understand, and that was the most powerful part of your comment. It means so much to me, mostly because I've been afraid to tell anyone (except my therapist!).

    Thank you for sharing your story, and I completely get where you're coming from. It's so difficult to be a part of this conforming world when you're going through something. It kind of feels like the world isn't meant for people like us, but I have to believe there's a way to get through it and thrive, despite our difficulties. I think it's brave of you to say you're working towards freelance writing, because despite it being difficult to start, at least you're actually saying. That in itself is a start! And I'm sure more good and positive things will follow from there. You're right, we're doing the best we can, and time and patience is what we all need.

    And don't be sorry at all! Your comment meant the world to me and reassured me that I wasn't alone in this bubble. Someone else understands, and if there's anything I can take away from posting this, it's that. I somehow needed that confirmation that it's not just me. Thank you so much for saying that! I still don't believe I deserve much, but I know I should start thinking that way! You deserve to feel better as well, and you're such a good writer. Far better than me, and I think your blog will really be big in the blogging world soon! Keep writing!

    Thank you again for your kind and supportive words! You're amazing, Julie!! And you're worth a million+ dollars! <3

  3. This made me cry so many tears. Though it probably doesn't amount to much, I'm always here for you if you need to talk. Everything takes time, and it must've taken so much courage to not only write this but post it. You're honestly one of the most kind people I've ever met, online and not. So much love. 💛💛

    1. I didn't mean to make you cry, I'm sorry! And thank you, that means so much to me that you'd offer! It actually really did take a lot out of me to post this, but I know in the long run hopefully it will be worth it for me and for hopefully someone else! Thank you so much for your sweet, kind, and lovely words, Anne. I'm really honestly truly touched <3 And I will reach out if I need to talk. Thank you :)

  4. I'm glad you posted this cause it definitely helps the rest of us with low self-esteem know others are struggling. Since I was 8, I had horrible thoughts about my body (didnt help others said some nasty stuff) and I'm still working on loving myself.

    I can also relate to not having a degree. Even though I personally hated college, theres always part of me that reminds me I failed to do it and I'll just keep failing (like with my book.)

    It sucks its going to take time for us to get better at how we see ourselves but I'm proud of how far I've gotten and I hope you are too ❤��

    1. Hi Meagan!

      Thank you so much for saying that! I had a lot of doubts and apprehension before posting this but it helped me to think that maybe I might help someone else by posting my experiences. Even though I was super embarrassed after posting this that I hid away from social media for a few days.

      I'm so sorry to hear that! And to hear that other people said things too. Sometimes people are just awful and don't think how their words can really affect a person. I don't mind learning, but I don't know if school right now is the right setting for me, so I completely understand your feelings about not having a degree. Especially when so much rides on that these days. But as far as your book, I think it's fantastic that you're even writing it! Some people just say they're going to write, but you're actually DOING it! That's fantastic and I'll be first in line to read it once you're done with it. Don't give up, because I know you can do it. :)

      Thank you so much for saying that! I'm so happy you can see how far you've come and I know you're going to be in a great place in life soon. I can't tell you how reassuring it is to hear your kind and wonderful words. Thank you so much for reading and reaching out. It truly means a lot to me!

  5. Thank you so much for being so honest and sharing your struggles. As I read your post, I realized how much I relate to what you're going through. I have such low self-esteem and anxiety. Most of my low self-esteem started as a child since I was bullied often through childhood. I have anxiety about working too. I hate my job so much and I'm always told or asked about looking for a new job, but just the thought of doing another assessment and interviews just give me so much anxiety. I still get work anxiety at this job and I've been here for a year now. Even though I have my Bachelors, I don't feel like it was deserved because I feel like I just went through it. Like I didn't actually retain the information so I don't remember much that I learned. I won't make this any longer, but I do relate on things that you're going through and I appreciate the tips you provided ♥

    1. Hi Deandra! Thank you so much for your comment! I'm sorry you've struggled and are still struggling. It's amazing how low self-esteem can just make you feel so unworthy of anything. But what I've read from your blog, you sound like such a lovely and capable person and you deserve the world and more! :)

      Thank you so much for reading this post and commenting. It really does mean so much to me that you did <3

  6. This was so heartfelt. I have to admit, you had me bawling like a wee kid. I'm so, so sorry that you've had to deal with the horrible things your head is telling you. It's not easy to get out of the habit of saying nasty things to ourselves, believe me, I'e suffered 27 years of it and counting. But I'm learning to get to a place where I swat away the nasty, self-deprecating thoughts like Judge Judy with a fly swatter.

    1. Hi Nyxie! Thank you so much for reading!! And oh no, I'm so sorry! That was not my intention! :( I'm glad I'm not alone in this way of thinking, though I'm sorry you've had to deal with this too. It's awful and no one deserves it! But I did have to laugh at your description of swatting them away like Judge Judy with a fly swatter. I'm going to have to start picturing that whenever I have a negative though!! So brilliant and hilarious!

      Thank you so much for reading and your comment!! <3

  7. I hope the journey you are taking will be fruitful and successful! Overcoming the barriers is super hard, but important. You are amazing and deserve all the love ♥
    Hugs and kisses January Girl

    1. Hi Liz! Thank you so much for the kind and inspiring words! It really meant so much to me, thank you <3

  8. I see so much of myself in your words. This resonates so, so, so very much with me. Thank you for sharing your words and making me feel a little bit less alone. I know that it sucks, and I know that it's hard. Stay strong and hang in there <3

    1. Hi Vee! Thank YOU for your kind, wonderful words! It really means a lot that you read this post and I'm sorry if you've struggled too. Just know that you're not alone. I really thought I was until I wrote this post and then it was kind of amazing to see so many people tell me that they feel like this too. If you ever need to talk, just let me know. I'm always here to listen. :) And thank you! You stay strong too! <3

  9. Hi Emily, I can really relate to this post a lot. Thank you for opening up and being so vulnerable. I too struggle with low self-esteem and confidence issues, especially because I took as long as I did to get my Bachelor's degree (8 years instead of the usual 4-5) and it took me a couple of years to get the job I have now. I too have felt stupid and not good or talented enough as a graphic designer compared to my other classmates. I had a lot of setbacks like coping with my lupus flares and my dad's death, so it ended up me getting into depression and having a hard time with my homework and projects. Also I was bullied a lot in middle and high school so that's also why my confidence is shot. Anyway. You absolutely deserve a good and successful life. You're smart and articulate enough to have a blog! And it's awesome you're getting the help you need with your therapist. I am ALWAYS here if you need to talk.


    1. Hi Hannah! Thank you so much for your comment!! It really means so much that you took the time to read my overly long post, haha. But I'm so sorry you've had your struggle with low self-esteem and confidence, too. Despite everything that's happened to you though, it seems like you've still persevered and made it through! That's something you should definitely be proud of. I'm so sorry that you were bullied when you were younger though. That's awful and I know personally that can really take it's toll on you, even years later. Thank you for sharing your story with me. :) And thank you for your incredibly kind words of encouragement and hope! It means the world to me. <3

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you start to gain more confidence soon, but I know that's easier said than done! I've been through similar things, from asshole exs, to also peeing myself in my adult life. I hate the "what do you do?" question - people are more than their job or career, I'd rather be asked "who are you?"

    Ash |

    1. Hi Ash! Thank you so much for reading this! And thank you for saying that. From your lips, haha. I'm sorry you've had some similar struggles (gotta love those exes, right? Ugh). I hate that question too! You're not you're job. Ask me something with more meaning and substance. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels that way either! Thank you for your kind words and reassuring me that I'm not alone in this. <3

  11. Great important post, where you make the main focus, really makes me happy for its necessary of importance.

  12. I'm 2 years late but I needed this. Its always a comfort to find others who feel the way I feel and you highlighted patterns here that I hadn't paid attention to. I hope that by now, you are doing much better ❤


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