“No, I don’t. I don’t like myself.”
“It’s disappointing and sad. I am not supposed to dislike me.”
“I dislike myself because I am not all the things that I want myself to be.”
“I don’t like myself” is becoming a common refrain I hear with clients people around me. I heard this in a conversation with a prospective client yesterday. Some days I hear this voice in my own head.
I hear more than disappointment and frustration in these conversations. I hear self-loathing, despair, pain. It is so important that we like ourselves because this relates to our self-esteem and self-worth which is a key driver of how we respond to life and what we achieve in life.
Why is self-esteem important? Self-esteem is about whether we like ourselves, see ourselves as valuable. A positive self-esteem is essential for our emotional and mental well-being.
When we have a positive self-esteem, we believe we contribute something unique to this world and there is a purpose to our existence. This in turn gives the self-belief needed to achieve the things we want and be the best version of who we are.
When we have a negative self-esteem, we dislike ourselves and believe that we are worthless. We beat ourselves up, put ourselves down and respond to life from a place of helplessness and hopelessness. We become unhappy, unfulfilled, angry, frustrated, disappointed. You name it.
Do I like myself? Honestly, some days I don’t like myself very much, and some days I do. I notice that when the days I dislike myself run for a sustained period of time, my self-esteem plunges and self-loathing rears its ugly head. I have a bad taste in my mouth. I lose the ability to be ‘in flow’. My energy levels plummet. The future looks a little fuzzy and I am not so sure about who I am anymore. This is usually about the time when I buy an air ticket to get away from it all but the pandemic has curtailed my ‘feel good’ outlet. I have to sit with myself and my dislike of myself until this dreadful feeling goes away.
When do I like myself? I like myself when I am being the person I value. This means that I am living in a way that is honouring my highest values, things that are of utmost important to me. I dislike myself when I am not being the person I value. This happens when I am not living a life that is aligned to what I value.
What do I value? I value consistency. When I fall off my routines, I don’t like myself very much. I also value trustworthiness. When I am not consistent in the things that I committed to do, I am not being trustworthy to myself. So I like myself even less. When I keep living a life that is further and further away from what I value, I might start to feel like a failure. Worthless even.
This is the exam question that you have to answer if you want to like yourself and live a life that is the highest expression of who you are. What do you value?
Without knowing what you value, you are like Moses wandering around in the desert for 40 years. Directionless. Your values are your compass that will lead you to the destination that you want to go. When you go off tangent, your compass tells us that you need to get back onto the right direction via your emotions. How you feel about yourself and what’s going on in your life will inform you – emotions such as frustration, dissatisfaction, fear, sadness, anger.
When you find yourself feeling angry or upset with yourself for a period of time, it might be a good time to start examining what is really going on internally. Instead of going at it alone, find a coach to guide you along this experience in a safe and caring space. Trust me, you don’t want to do this on your own because you will end up criticising and judging yourself. We are not very good at having resourceful conversations with ourselves.
How do I start to like myself? By living in accordance with what your highest values.
Start to examine where you are presently:
- how have you been spending your time and energy
- what are the activities have you been engaging in
- who are the people have you been associating with
- how have your activities and people you associate with serve you and what you value
- what are you proud of
- when was the last time you REALLY liked yourself and why
Then identify your values in different parts of your life. Your core values will cut across all the contexts in your life. Again, it is best to work with a coach when eliciting your values to ensure you are extracting your values properly. You want to use a a compass that is calibrated properly, don’t you?
How about passion? Some people tell me that they will start liking themselves when they start to live their ‘passion’. They believe that they need to to be ‘living their passion’ before they like their life, and like who they are. In my map of the world, ‘passion’ is different from values.
‘Passion’ means different things to different people so it is important you ask yourself what passion means to you. For me, ‘passion’ could be ‘something I do’ that allows me to fulfil my values. For example, I may be passionate about art because art allows me to express my values around creativity and authenticity. Or I may be passionate about mountaineering because mountaineering allows me to express my values around adventure and tenacity. Two people could have the same value yet choose to express them in different ways.
But before you go off to find your ‘passion’ or ‘mission’ or ‘purpose’, first identify your values, especially your core values.
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