I have often thought that keeping my self esteem in check was essential for keeping my friends.
In other words, no one likes someone who likes themselves. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself on some level. And to be honest, that’s what I’ve been told in so many words over and over again for much of my life.
People don’t like you because you’re confident.
People don’t like you because they’re jealous.
These are the types of things our mothers and girlfriends tell us when someone dares to not love us, and the message I kept getting from that was: people will hate you if you like yourself. Stay humble. Always remember that there are lots of things about you that are not at all enviable.
I’ve kind of made it my life’s mission to constantly remind myself and everyone around me just how unworthy of jealousy I am. I am constantly pointing out my flaws and downplaying anything resembling a success. I cushion compliments with justifications and sandwich good news between modifiers like, “it could probably happen to anyone” and “I just got lucky”.
The ironic consequence is that this constant flouting of my shortcomings is routinely mistaken for ego and confidence. The more I tried to prostrate myself before would-be judges, the more likely I was to be judged any damn way.
Perhaps this external humility wouldn’t be so bad if repetition didn’t strengthen internal beliefs. But you can’t tell everyone around you how unworthy you are without starting to believe it yourself. And not just in the back of your mind, but deep in your core where messages become so firmly rooted you can’t even tell the difference between truth and lies, reality and perception.
I realized some time ago that no amount of self loathing would protect me from someone else not liking me. Hating me even. Unfortunately, the belief that being lovable was inversely tied to self love had already gained a firm foothold long before this realization occurred. I might be able to consciously tell you that beating yourself up wouldn’t make people like you more, but it sure as hell didn’t stop me from continuing to unconsciously make it so.
You know what did help?
OK, well, therapy, yes. A whole hell of a lot of therapy. Marriage counseling therapy and individual therapy and talk therapy and the kind of therapy where they use little noises to reprogram your brain. I could probably have gone to Europe and back three times with what I’ve spent on therapy in the last year.
But also – I remember something a friend of mine wrote once about how not loving herself enough would push people away. I can’t remember exactly if she said it was being insecure or love or self esteem, but I remember specifically that the idea of poor self esteem having a negative affect on your relationships with other people burrowed itself somewhere into my brain and made me think, “huh, that’s interesting.”
And then of course there was more therapy.
And then I started taking a closer look at my friendships. I started to become more purposeful about how I was investing my relationship energy and in whom I wanted to invested that energy. I noticed that the people who I was most attracted to were people who not only built up those around them, but weren’t afraid to bask in their own awesomeness. Time and time again, I find myself drawn to women who are, for the most part, pretty secure and confident people.
After spending a few months focusing my friendship time and energy almost exclusively on secure women, I’ve noticed some distinct advantages of being friends with people who generally like themselves. For example:
- Secure women don’t take it personally if you forget to call them on their birthday. They understand that your poor manners are a reflection of you, not them, which makes it much easier for them to forgive you (every single year).
- Secure women aren’t afraid to come right out and ask if they think they might have hurt your feelings or pissed you off.
- Secure women can be trusted to tell you, eventually, if you have done something to hurt their feelings or piss them off.
- Secure women can be trusted when they tell you they are happy for you. And they will tell you, because they aren’t threatened by building someone else up.
- Secure women inspire you, in part because they aren’t afraid to share their progress with the world.
- Secure women believe you when you tell them that you love them, and they will continue to believe you until tell (or show) them otherwise. Explicitly. If they haven’t heard from you in a while, they assume you’re busy.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and even the most secure women have soft underbellies and moments of insecurity. We are, none of us, flawless machines. But people who aren’t afraid to love themselves are, it seems, a whole hell of a lot easier to love. It’s as if they are better equipped to accept the love we give them and freely give it back, no strings or funny head games attached.
When I think about these people in my life – and to be fair, I count secure women and men as friends and loved ones – I feel a sense of peace and joy and lightness. Loving them is easy and rewarding. Knowing them enriches my life, and I am not afraid of their self confidence. In fact, I want the people I care about to appreciate the goodness that I see in them.
Logically, then, it makes sense that the people that I count as friends want the same thing for me.
It makes sense, too, that learning to love myself will not be seen as a bad thing to the people who matter.
So I’m giving myself permission, officially, to go there. I’m giving myself permission to say, “yes, I’m proud of myself.” I’m going to learn how to say “thank you”, without adding, ”I got it on sale and it would probably look better on you.” I’m going to forgive myself for past mistakes and hold my head up. I’m going to practice believing people when they tell me that they love me – that I’m lovable.
I am, come hell or high water, going to become more like those secure women that I have so much love, admiration and respect for.
Who’s with me?