Self Love For 'Devalued' Kids
Why it's hard to love ourselves and how to build confidence
It's no secret that the early years of our lives shape who we become as adults. Isn't it frightening how so much of our childhood is out of our hands? A devalued kid is someone raised with little to no praise, validation, positivity, or acceptance. The result is things like poor self-esteem, passive-aggressive or avoidance behavior, and people-pleasing personalities. Such behaviors may have begun as survival or coping mechanisms. As grown-ups, it feels as if we left our parents' house and packed the wrong baggage. We've held onto the baggage for so long we don't how else to live. We don't know where or how to start building the right tools we need to let ourselves grow into our potential. Omar Hameed describes The Devalued Self in The Devalued Self: Childhood Emotional Abandonment, Devaluation of the Self, and Anxiety:
"The Devalued Self, being in a state of emotional hunger, seeks validation from the external world, especially from other people, to find a sense of self-value. Our conditioned paradigms tell us that we are not valuable, unworthy of being happy and that we cannot expect good things to happen to us. This results in an internal paradox between our needs and our beliefs, trapping us in a cycle of indecisiveness, anxiety, and suffering; this defines low self-esteem.."
There are lots of ways parents' actions affect their kids' self-esteem. For example, a parent can show favoritism or constantly compare one child to another. Another is when parents focus solely on mistakes their kids make and withhold praise. A parent may do this inadvertently yet give their kids a feeling of worthlessness. Or sadly, they're narcissistic and thrive off of the pain of others. If a child has different or outstanding abilities that threaten an insecure parent, they may target the traits and characteristics of a child to invalidate them. As if nothing would appease the parent's expectations. One can never differ or outshine the parent.
If mistakes were unacceptable growing up, this would lead to feeling devalued. In life, to avoid mistakes is to never grow in profound ways. Having a parent who devalues their kid for making mistakes may shape a person who can't cope with failure, perfectionists, and those who choose the path of least resistance. None of these are ideal ways to live.
It's no surprise that experiencing these situations affects kids' self-esteem. There are more ways than these that your household could've had the same effect. See if you can name a few reasons you not only lacked confidence but had it destroyed from an early time. Understand it had less to do with you and more a reflection of poor judgment or abuse within the household.
As adults, we need to challenge our negative thought cycles and belief systems that are unjust to ourselves. At this point, you're living in a completely independent world. (If you're not, know it will come.) As kids, we relied on others to show us how to value and love ourselves, and the people we trusted failed us. Many of these parents have a complicated relationship with love and self-esteem. Or come from a line of generational issues. The first thing to understand is that it isn't our fault our self-esteem was affected like it was. So what now? Can we undo the 'damage' and start basking in the self-worth we always deserved? Yes.
Building self-esteem will be a process, which improves slowly with time and effort. You've likely internalized low self-worth so much that you don't see the problem. To change, you must rewire your minds, starting with negative thought patterns. You may think hundreds of split-second thoughts per day that undermine your confidence. Have you gotten so used to disliking who you are that the thought passes without notice? Start recognizing when it is harsh, negative, unhealthy, or unpurposeful. If it doesn't uplift you or it isn't fair, reflect on it.
Ask yourself, is this in alignment with my goals? Start paying more attention to the mind and challenging the thoughts, turn them around. Use mindfulness to practice reversing negative thoughts, repeat positive affirmations. They will have an effect, too. Habits are born with practice and begun with intention.
Explore your interests and hobbies; the more you appreciate your innate abilities, the easier it is to be confident. If you don't know what you're interested in, try a variety of things. Avoid getting caught up in being great at it right away. The action itself is a learning experience and enjoyable! Leap to try something new. Then, keep it up. Soon you will see improvement, feel proud, and begin to understand how unique and special you are. Your brain will thank you, too. You're giving it a new challenge and it may release mood-boosting, stress-relieving chemicals.
Surround yourself with love. You've begun the process of 'rewiring self-love' in your mind. It's safe to say that the environment around you will either help you grow or stunt you. It's time to distance yourself from people who don't align with this journey. Anyone who disrespects your needs, desires, and feelings doesn't deserve a place in your life. If keeping distance isn't an option, remember not to believe their words. Not all negativity towards you is your fault but a projection of someone else's poor sense of self. Once you see that people treat you how they see themselves, you refuse to hold yourself accountable for their problems.
Keep a journal. Or other tool to record your thoughts, goals, and milestones. It's an outlet for you to express yourself and a tool for looking back to see just how far you've come. It also gets you used to talking and identifying your emotions instead of disqualifying them or brushing them off.
Use the internet for good. Seek out blogs or pages specifically for people with similar problems. These days there's a group for all kinds of people and your mind will be opened to the fact that you aren't alone. The best advice comes from those who've walked in your shoes.
Make a "confident" playlist. Make a list of your favorite songs. Reflect on the way you feel when you listen, keep a playlist of the most mood-boosting tracks.
Take note of body language. Standing in the "Wonder Woman" pose is known to encourage feelings of power and confidence. Keep your head high and back straight when you walk. Practicing will probably feel odd. But the more we practice confident body language, the better we'll feel and portray it to the world.
Calm the mind, redirect your energy. When your mind tends to worry, race, or overthink, take time to practice ways to slow down. Taking a 10-minute walk break at work or during a difficult situation can instantly help you feel better. Take advantage of guided mediation, yoga, or breathing techniques to recenter yourself. Slow your thoughts, breathe deep and shift yourself to a different state of mind.
Seek counsel. Could be a therapist or a close trusted friend. Reach out and express what's on your mind with someone. You may find it surprising how helpful a listening ear can be or a word of advice. A therapist can help guide you to an even more in-depth look into your experiences and how to improve your sense of self going further.
Challenge fear when it is wrong. It's easy to fall back into the patterns that help us feel safe and secure yet undermine our needs. If you avoid confrontation, try to relax. Two adults expressing different views isn't something to fear. Your beliefs and thoughts are as valid as anyone else's. Anyone with respect for you won't be offended if you share them. The most difficult patterns to break are the ones related to feelings of danger/safety. Practice makes perfect. Try to challenge your perception. Understand that being honest won't typically result in 'danger' of any kind. It can bring a better understanding and improve your situation.
Dress the part. Just as body language can boost confidence, so can how we present ourselves to the world. Rebuild a wardrobe of pieces that help you achieve your best self. How you look matters less than how you feel in it. Express a unique sense of style suitable for you. Your confidence will radiate!
Believe the facts. don't allow abuse tactics from others to cause you to doubt yourself. Words are tools used for a purpose and sometimes wielded by individuals with cruel intentions. Manipulators, abusers, and narcissists will use them as weapons to keep you controllable. It's so easy to get wrapped up in someone who's attempting to define you negatively. After all, seeking outside validation is a prominent mechanism used by devalued kids. If we believe we're worthless, then an abuser has no trouble convincing us that we are. In reality, they're the ones feeling worthless. You were always worthy. Making you doubt it is all they have. Starve them of that power.
The bottom line is that you don't have to keep feeling this way about yourself. Because you were always worthy, it's time you accepted that as truth. Commit to the process of 'rewiring', keep an open mind and enjoy learning to love yourself the way you were meant to.
Every day for a year, multiple times a day, commit to asking yourself, "What would someone who loved themselves do?" Then notice what your intuition says, and act accordingly.
-Teal Swan, Spiritual Teacher