person holding a love leaf

For a few weeks now I’ve been sitting on a ‘Self-esteem in a nutshell’ post to follow up my ‘Relationships in a nutshell’ post. I’ve been pondering why I’ve held back, tweaked it etc and I guess it’s because while I can explain the importance of self-esteem in under 1300 words, why we don’t have good self-esteem has to be acknowledged before getting into the importance of it.

I’ve only had good self-esteem for almost six years. The difference between me now and back then is that I believe I’m a person of value, that’s worthwhile and worthy of being treated decently and I have enough confidence in myself that I will do whatever it takes to behave in line with that value and steer clear of anything or anyone that detracts from me.That’s the very basics of self-esteem.

All I have to do is look at a ‘relationship resume’ that reads like a series of bad romances on fast forward as a reminder of what happens when you bowl around looking for love in the wrong places trying to make people create feelings in you that you should be creating for yourself.

When you have low self-esteem, when you follow the path of your choices and actions and your thinking and beliefs behind it and get right down to the starting point, it likely says ‘I don’t believe I’m good enough’.

In feeling this way, you just can’t believe that you’re a person of value, that you’re worthy of a better relationship, that you deserve to have your boundaries respected or to be able to vocalise your concerns or opinions. You’ll be cautious of people that don’t have similar outlooks and if you get involved with them you may think they’re ‘too nice’ or even privately wonder why the hell they’re making a ‘bad’ investment in you.

You’ll find any and all reasons to take a parachute and jump or sabotage when things are going well. You won’t be convinced that a valuable person and a valuable relationship would want to have you in it. You’ll take refuge in a limited relationship and then focus on their problems.

When you don’t have good self-esteem it’s because in having conditional love for yourself, you try to get people (and sometimes objects and substances) to create feelings in you that you don’t feel yourself. You make external sources the solution to your internal problems, after all, if you don’t like and love you, why would you believe that you could entrust yourself with the responsibility of you?

If the only thing you’ve ever known is to not feel good enough, it’s hard to imagine even an entire day where you can genuinely like and love you. You’d be subconsciously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You’re seeing other people’s actions (or lack there of) and your experiences as being directly linked to your worth.

Even if you haven’t specifically done anything to bring about something, at some point you’ve taught yourself that ‘this’ wouldn’t happen to a ‘better’ person. Much of your emotional schooling happens in childhood and if how you’re treated by your parents (or people of authority) and your emotional interactions didn’t communicate that you’re a person of value and worthwhile, that’s the lens that you’ll use to navigate and view the world. You won’t handle rejection very well and you’ll shoot down some of your capabilities or overcompensate in areas such as intelligence, looks, or even sex.

Low self-esteem is like a special language and in your mental translation book, when you look up what certain things mean, you keep getting back the same meaning:

Parents didn’t stay together = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Not interested in me = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Didn’t get the job = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Won’t leave their partner = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Parent(s) were/are addicts or abusers = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Won’t change into the person I want = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Wants to do things differently to me = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Won’t develop empathy = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Does something that annoys me (and possibly others) = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Relationship didn’t work out = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Emotionally unavailable and have always been emotionally unavailable = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Can only get it up to porn = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Has different values = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Won’t make me the exception to their rule of behaviour = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

Father springs a new sibling on you 5 mins before you meet them (completely true) = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

You get the idea.

And maybe that’s the crux of the matter: When you have low self-esteem, you see your experiences and the world around you as an extension of how you feel about you. People do what they do, not because they’re independent individual entities, but because of something in you that brings about their actions and thinking, and life happens, shit happens even, not because there are a gazillion other reasons or factors that could have brought it about, but because of something in you.

I’m fundamentally the same person and while I have good self-esteem, I still have to actively work on managing the little girl within me. My taste in relationships has obviously dramatically changed, but most of the factors that contributed to how I saw myself still exist and have changed very little – I’ve just dramatically lessened the impact and importance of them.

My father is still the original Mr Unavailable in my life and puts me through the hot and cold rinse, over-promising, under-delivering, Future Faking and the list goes on. I have had to work very hard not to be drawn into the cycle of it and periodically there are tears although few and far between. My mum is still my mum – we didn’t speak for 9 months last year and I think 5-6 months the previous year. Unfortunately having boundaries and not being willing to live up to the perception of you does bring conflict but after years of avoiding it or exploding, I’ve discovered the sky doesn’t fall in when I stand up for myself. The past is still there, my childhood isn’t about to magic itself into a fairy tale, and in the background of my life is an element of processing the past.

I’ve had people ask me how they can possibly have a decent relationship or be happy with the childhoods that they have or the relationship history – you can. I’ve stopped going out with variations of my father with sprinklings of my mother with a side order of unrealistic and unhealthy beliefs and expectations. It takes work, but it can and does happen when you press pause on the tape that says you’re not good enough.

Like forgiveness, self-esteem isn’t something that has to wait until you’re done with processing all the anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment, pain, sorrow, shame, blame, the who, what, where’s and how’s, and the whole kit and kaboodle. If I’d waited until I never gave my past or my parents a thought and the pain had dried up and everyone spontaneously combusted into doing the ‘right thing’ and automatically knowing my value, I’d still be single and careering around on the unavailable motorway of life and probably would be for the rest of my days.

Take off the lens that says you’re not good enough – you’ll discover a whole new world with new possibilities with you in them.

Your thoughts?

Image source - SXC

Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .

Natalie (NML) – who has written posts on Baggage Reclaim by Natalie Lue.


FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

190 Responses to I’m Not Good Enough – The world through a low self-esteem lens

  1. Happy Girl says:

    “And maybe that’s the crux of the matter: When you have low self-esteem, you see your experiences and the world around you as an extension of how you feel about you. People do what they do, not because they’re independent individual entities, but because of something in you that brings about their actions and thinking, and life happens, shit happens even, not because there are a gazillion other reasons or factors that could have brought it about, but because of something in you.”

    As always, great timing. I have had dysfuntional relationships with all 3 of my parents-my mom, dad, and step-dad. I often wonder if I actively seek out people like them to try to change them, or if I subconciously pinpoint characteristics in people and start to play out the same dynamics. That point is moot, however. As the oldest of 3, I always had a lot of responsibilty put on me. And if something went wrong, I was often blamed. I’ve definitely carried that negative attitude into adult hood. I noticed that when I finally accepted my parents for who they were and my childhood as past and limited my interaction with them, I stopped noticing their characteristics in others and put up healtheir boundaries with everyone. I’m not responsible for every bad thing that happens, and I’m not responsible for other people I don’t have to worry about other people treating me badly or making me feel bad, because my actions and self esteem have finally begun to filter out the negative effects from other people. I quit having to waste my precious time and energy analyzing it and figuring out how to “fix” things or make someone “like me” again. When you like yourself for who you are and quit trying live up to other people’s expectation of what you should be, you stop worrying about their happiness more than your own. The world becomes a much different, better place for you. It’ can be hard but worth it, and this blog was my starting point. Thank you!

    • NML says:

      Great comment Happy Girl. I hear you on the stepfather bit too and being the eldest. It’s like you’re supposed to just go off and raise yourself! Keep loving and nurturing you because when you can love yourself you can truly love others and receive love.

  2. RES says:

    Natalie….

    This is absolutely fabulous…. You’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head (yet again). I remember when I first wrote to you… I had come to the realization that the only common denominator in my 7 years of unfulfilling relationships was ME!!! You know, recent events have made realize how much of a changed person I am..I have a friend who is dealing with an AC. I see things as a simply “foot over the boundary, you’re history” model…LOL….I’m tough now. A colleague once told me that she regrets that after her miserable marriage that she can’t “give her whole heart again”…. I disagree. To love regardless of how you are treated isn’t healthy, and to “lose yourself” in some one is co-dependence (of which I am into neither). After all….I can love deeply, but I also love ME too :-)

    Once year wedding anniversary next month :-)

    • NML says:

      So good to hear from you! Congratulations on a year of marriage! You’ve come a long way and I’m so happy for you and I’m honoured to have been part of your journey. Hugs nat xxx

  3. LostEnergy says:

    “When you have low self-esteem, you see your experiences and the world around you as an extension of how you feel about you. People do what they do, not because they’re independent individual entities, but because of something in you that brings about their actions and thinking, and life happens, shit happens even, not because there are a gazillion other reasons or factors that could have brought it about, but because of something in you.”
    I can definitely say I have spent many years feeling this way, right down to the way people look at me, their tone of voice etc. Has taken me a while to pick out the good guys from the not so good guys -but am definitely seeing the wood for the trees more now.
    I think this quote also demonstrates an area where people get hung up on (and this relates very closely to many self-help books) “I’m sending out a negative vibe and attracting negativity and it’s all my fault, it’s aaall my fault.” I need to change myself, must change self = self is no good … & round & round the cycle of low self esteem descends. The law of attraction theory can sometimes have very negative impact on self esteem I think.
    Getting out, meeting people, doing and improving performance on work or leisure activities has all positive impact on self esteem. It helps if we meet nice caring people and go out and increase our chances of doing that to get positive feedback, so we can compare it with any negative comments/feedback that we may want to discard if it bears no relevance or value to us.
    I wrote a poem once, aged about 12 at school -my Mum was completely unimpressed and said it was a bit stupid. My 2 English Teachers (1 Head of English) absolutely loved it and asked me to recite it at school. That helped my self-esteem and gave me a direct barometer to use.

    • leisha says:

      Lostenergy: I think it is also interesting how the law of attraction theory can cut…perhaps the theory isn’t expanded enough or interpreted in a way that is also along the lines of “when the student is ready a teacher will appear”…being thinking people we can think of exceptions and go around in circles tripping ourselves up…perhaps another spin on the law of attraction and the teacher appearing is that we get chances to test ourselves on what we have learned…do we graduate yet? Have we retained what we’ve learned enough to demonstrate it in action and not just in our heads/projection? Instead of thinking: I screwed up and earned this crap…it’s karma…we can think: okay, I’ve been here before or I’ve read about this type of thing. This “x” is a red flag, a deal breaker, NOT what I want…FLUSH

      • LostEnergy says:

        Hi Leisha,
        Yeh I agree it’s coz were thinking peple, as you say, that it can be easy to tie ourselves up in knots and also; find exceptions to theories. Having personally struggled with where to place my belive system over the past five years (the basis for this search was a lack of trust in myself and belief in my own judgement as a direct result of marrying an A/C) I now believe *Reality* is where all my beliefs should be based. Things like; fate, law of attraction, horoscopes, what people or friends say and even all the rules of 1 religion(for me) are not what I should base my beliefs in. (Although I do appreciate religions and feel affinity to 2 many religious beleifs, and listen to friends advice -but don’t follow it all blindly.) As essentially it is handing over my command of my own direction and decision making to another source, which affects self-esteem, by definition.
        So I guess your last line is all about looking at reality without rose coloured glasses or the fur coat of denial and dealing with what *is*, with both feet in reality. It’s where I used to be when I was younger really, but I appreaciate the learning curve to know that for me reality is definitely the way forward. I now intend to base all my decisions on science and fact -this also boosts my self esteem as I realise how much I know about the reality and facts of life:-)
        Hope that makes sense too;-p !!

    • NML says:

      LostEnergy I agree re misintepretation of law of attraction. We can only really enable existing behaviour. It’s not like anyone magically decides to be an asshole down to our actions.

      • Natasha says:

        “It’s not like anyone magically decides to be an asshole down to our actions.” Siiiiiiiiigh, if only I’d read that sentence five years ago. It really is a game changer of epic proportions when you’ve had crappy relationships and you stop blaming yourself for their actions and put your energy into what was going on with you that you enabled it. I mean, speaking personally, I really believed that my ex-AC wouldn’t have been such a jackass if I had been better/smarter/prettier/could do long division standing on my head while simultaneously signing the Ukranian national anthem and making french toast. It really makes me sad to even admit that, but at least it’s progress. In a way, I owe him one (figuratively, not literally…clearly.), because if he hadn’t resurfaced and I hadn’t sucked it and saw, it never would have gone all wrong and I would have STILL been sitting here thinking he was The One Who Got Away Because I Couldn’t Measure Up. I wish I would have chosen a much less painful route to realizing I had a self esteem problem to clear up, but better this way than not at all I guess!

  4. allie says:

    “Take off the lens that says you’re not good enough – you’ll discover a whole new world with new possibilities with you in them.”

    Excellent, that’s gold. I have been living prisoner of my own walls that I have built around me for my insecurities. It is time to brake free!!!

    Thanks Natalie !

  5. Trinity says:

    I was concerned for myself because i had already started to go to councelling before my last failed realtionship. Id worked really hard on myself and when i met the new guy i remember thinking its all paid off . like a gift plus i was already feeling pretty good about things in general before i met him. When the last relationship failed it was one of the most painful break ups for me, very similiar to how i felt when my very 1st realtionship fell apart My concern was that id go straight back to believeing that evrything was me, im unlovable . Because here i was in the same boat, what i thought was a different type of person, after all my hard work, all the changes id made and at the end of it as usual i was tossed away. Is it me ?!?
    I stuck with councelling, found this site and luckily for me although at the time i didnt feel so lucky :) i still hard to work with the x and still do to this day. It was extremely hard and painful for me. However it also offered great insight in to seeing this guy from a far. Seeing that he acted the way he did whether i was his partner, his friend, his enemy or being completly neutral. Hearing how other people feel about him. A little voice inside of me, kind of like a friend said that “im o.k and there is nothing wrong with you” I think that was from the previous councelling. I built on that little voice and kept believing in myself which was hard when history and everything that was happening kept pushing towards “im unlovable, its me”
    The whole relatiosnhip was unessasarily hard, the break up was awful and having to see him every day torterous. However as said im kinda glad the ending was as hard as it was as it gave me so many lessons to learn and insight and most importantly that i survived it and came out better the other end. This adds to that little voice inside that reminds me im o.k :)
    One of the very big lesson which i build on each day is that, what people do usually says more about them then anything to do with you, in fact it very often has nothing to with you. Now I never allow my self worth to be quantified by anyone BUT ME. This includes friends, work collegues, strangers, partners, x partners and even my…

    • brokenheartedbabble says:

      I’m envious. Where do you get that little voice? My little voice always whispers “not good enough.” I stick my chin out and tell it to shut up, but how do you make that happen when everything all your life – the job, the parents, the mirror, the kids, the ex that tells you you’re not worth the trouble, the lover who says it’s too far to drive to your house – always comes down to “not good enough?”

      • Trinity says:

        I know exactly what you mean and if i let myself indulge i could easily swing that way again, i mean like you stated history keeps showing me im worthless. Im not sure how to explain the little voice but your question has reminded me that ive had it since i was little. Even when my parents did certian things or behaved in certain ways something inside me would say “they are so wrong”.
        I told my counceller that and she said it was like an intuitive thing, being fairly wise as a kid. So i guess its still the same the difference being it disappeared for awhile but came back as i started coucelling. I guess i know to believe me more than history because i worked out why i was in the bad situations. I was abdonned so i kept recreating it and trying to fix it so i could heal old wounds. So i picked people, friends, men who would always let me down. Only thing is it just fed that monster that told me im worthless and unlovable. Once i started to understand this and a whole bunch of other stuff i finally realised im am lovable, very ! and worthwhile. I mean why the hell should i blame me when its the other person being horrible or doing the worng thing? Doesnt even make sense does it? You have to know why your finding yourself in those situations and work from there. What people do and the way they choose to act always says way more about them then your self worth, never let anyone tell you who you are, what your worth and if you deserve to be loved.

        • Trinity says:

          as a side note, if you do figure out you created your situations due to whatever reasons, lessons to learn do not feel bad about this. In fact in a way its very freeing because i dont know about you but i hated feeling like i was just at the mercy of fate , people or events or what ever you want to call it. I have no choice, no matter what i do im treated bad. That made me feel helpless which can lead to feeling very depressed. If you know your part and you have created certain events, then you have the control , in fact a lot of control which means you can start to turn it all around. Your not at anyones mercy :) I like that idea alot and builds up my confidence levels.

  6. yoghurt says:

    I’m particularly interested in “you’ll shoot down some of your capabilities or overcompensate in areas such as intelligence, looks, or even sex”. My parents are nice and good people (I know I’m very lucky) and I always knew that they loved me without question, but I never got the impression that they liked me particularly. They value qualities like perseverance, kindness, goodness and honesty, they don’t have much time for the fun superficial stuff like beauty or charm and they encouraged me not to either.
    Consequently (I think – I’m still trying to work this out) that whilst I know that I’m a clever, hard-working, capable, honest, kind and strong person – not to mention modest :D – I don’t have an awful lot of faith in my ability to project well. And when I look at my relationship disasters, they seem to involve people who have a lot of the superficial qualities but not so many of the enduring ones.
    I’m working on the principle that it’s a process akin to being raised on wholesome nourishing lentil soup and as a result developing an addiction to doughnuts in later life. The last EUM was a doughnut and a half, absolulutely delicious but no nutritional value whatsoever. And gave me spots.
    I don’t know why I would keep gravitating towards the cheap and the nasty over and above the enduring and good and I don’t know why I don’t value my better attributes too highly to barter them for a bit of a superficial ego-boost. I might have self-esteem issues or I might just be really really silly. It depresses me some, though.

    • Maya says:

      I think the doughnut analogy is fantastic! I was raised in a loving household and very caring parents, my dad is a real ‘tiger’ and never understands how i battle with self esteem. I sometimes wonder if it was because I was bullied badly by racists and girls who had a problem with me doing well academically in my childhood through to early teens… The school never helped even though I was a ‘model student’ etc and my parents decided to take me out and put me in a different school. My parents never confronted the school/ bullies were never reprimanded. I just left without a word (‘dignified silence’ was the way to go in their eyes), I suspect my self esteem issues may have stemmed from there as I have always battled with it for years, though seem outwardly confident now. Whenever things have not worked out/ the guy I fell for moved on and married, I always thought ‘I am not good enough’; despite blossoming into someone attractive/warm/good career. I have been working on self esteem on the inside/ towards men and dating, especially since I found BR… After things ended with my exEUM last year I blamed myself in a massachistic way, felt that it was all about ‘how i was not good enough’ and could never put any of his behaviour/ action down to him. I have learnt now slowly. Very slowly and it feels much better.

      Spending my

      • Magnolia says:

        Hi Maya,

        I too was bullied badly in racist and awful sexual ways, while maintaining my spot at the top of the class. NML’s point about overcompensating has been very true for me (I always thought, well, if I’m that unattractive, I guess I’ll have to be smart).

        I just wanted to reach out to you because I have found that early experiences of being afraid and shamed by groups of peers, unresponded to by the adults in my life, have done a huge number on my self-esteem. NML’s description of how the world looks when you have low-self-esteem is totally true, and as an adult I’m so glad I have a chance to change that world view.

        A kid’s mind has to make sense of all the aggression coming at her. Not a far leap to assume that “who she is” is worthy of nothing but derision.

        Again, I’m so glad to have the power now to define my own value – sounds like you have too – and hearing the success of others with histories similar to mine really warms my heart and keeps me stoked to keep working on myself! So thanks!

      • cavewoman says:

        Well-adjusted people are just darn lucky — everyone else is simply a typical average human being. My parents are also caring, devoted people – the most caring and devoted I’ve known, anxiously doting in fact, and perhaps that’s my problem right there… How did all that super duper conscientious parenting produce the maladjusted neurotic dear that I am? Good parents struggle, too, with the ‘problem child’ (what a damning label!) who is perfectly normal, just different. I grew up feeling different and misunderstood… I used to fantasize about finding out I’d been adopted into my picture perfect home. I made up my adoption story to explain how my temperament could be so different. Throw in a few traumatic adult relationships later in life, and you can still lose confidence and get stuck in a pattern of dysfunction. Lentils to doughnuts! so true!
        Here’s the good news, everyone – your’re resilient and healthy, I know it because you’re taking the time to read this blog! You’re already okay, you just can’t believe it yet. Don’t get impatient with yourselves. Natalie, I couldn’t agree more with your final remark. We’re works in progress. Don’t ever put off accepting yourself until the messy stuff is neatly resolved. That’s not acceptance, and it’s not self-love.
        Self love for me is to know that I used to have a really insane conviction that I can will certain men to change and fit into my master plan. Self love is to admit this with ease, and to smile about it instead of berating myself (or worse, denying it). Hey, you can’t blame me for trying, it IS a very compelling fantasy. I will simply stop it now, and mind my own business from now on.

    • Magnolia says:

      yoghurt, I can relate! so interesting to hear your story.

      My folks are kind and good also. Ours is an handicraftish family where the pursuit of money was considered superficial and the dolled-up stuff that goes with it – gladhanding, parties, self-promotion, fancy clothes/hair – was deemed “not us.” I followed in their footsteps and have done well following their values of art, craftsmanship, hard work, etc but after dating a string of guys at the centre of their particular art scenes or other scenes I realize somewhere along the way I had turned into a bit of a closet glamour-wh*re.

      I now put those choices down to not being able to admit I like getting dolled up every now and then and enjoying some popularity (and with my self-esteem, I have often been too scared to admit I wanted to socialize). I’d go after guys who did the mirror-gazing and popularity-contest-winning for both of us.

      More balance has come by realizing if I want to go enjoy parties I need more confidence on my own, and to allow a time and place for that fun/superficial stuff because there is a lot of power in being able to negotiate that world. Just as long as I don’t do a 180 and make glamour my be-all end-all.

  7. CC says:

    My father abandoned our family when I was 14. My mother just as well supported that decision as she had enough hatred and bitterness to last her for 30 more years of singledom and rejection of all men. Not exactly the best role models for healthy relationships or attitudes towards men. Every relationship I’ve had with men, with one exception (thankfully), have been unhealthy. I’ve tried to win over men whose hearts are unwinnable, even if they “committed” to me. I was drawn to the hard to get man, the handsome, tall, witty bachelor. The ones that say “I’m never getting married”. And then I would try and be the one they would change for, replaying daddy issues over and over.

    At age 40 I finally faced the fact that I had low self esteem. I thought because I wasn’t getting the guy, that I wasn’t good enough. Oh man, what 16 mos of cold hard work on myself has acheived! I feel like a different woman, I feel in control. I feel happy and calm in my own skin for once, just by myself, looking the way I look, weighing what I weigh, missing a week at the gym, and staying home on a Friday night all by my lonesome. In fact, I am starting to revel in my stillness and calmness because it’s so refreshingly new that I can actually be happy that way!

    It’s hard not to beat myself up about the quality years that I wasted but I remind myself that I could have wasted another 40 feeling that something was wrong with me. It has truly been a gift to have these articles as incredible lessons that none of us are alone and we can help and encourage each other to think so much better of ourselves. I have to say, for me Natalie, this article is truly the crux of matter. If you can dig deep on this stuff and work it out you can literally change your life! Spot on Natalie!

    • Lisa says:

      CC and others,

      How did you do it? What steps/actions helped you feel better about yourself? I am 38 and feel like I have a legacy of rejection that all serves as material evidence that I am not attractive. Not because they were all EU/AC’s because these men have had relationships, they just didn’t want one with me and because of my low self-esteem and fear of having nothing at all, I made myself available for sex, ego stroking etc. This latest situation was the kicker and I have been really struggling to keep my head above water. I look around and all I see are more attractive people and I feel invisible and it makes sense to me why the last guy didn’t want me. He was cool and handsome and tall and talented and I desperately wanted his validation and I didn’t get it. I got used an discarded and I let it happen. I don’t know how to feel good about me when I am scared I will be alone for a long time because I just don’t measure up. I know people say looks aren’t everything and I believe that but guys won’t even want to read the book if they don’t like the package. I am not sure how to look in the mirror and feel good again.

      • Magnolia says:

        Hi Lisa,

        I had to LEARN to be attractive. I was told I was ugly to my face for years, and internalizing that, I told myself that they wouldn’t have said that if it weren’t true. The next twenty years of poor relationships seemed to prove I was unattractive.

        I finally looked at a few women I knew who were not conventionally pretty but radiated attractiveness and who therefore attracted good things. I started to pretend I believed I was decent-looking. I began not arguing with people or blowing it off when they said I looked nice. Then I started to pretend I believed I was pretty. It worked. Now when I have newer friends say I’m gorgeous, I do my best not to discount it, but if it’s safe, I’ll confide that I taught myself to be that way, taking the first step of fake-it-till-you-make-it at age 30.

        There are still days when I look in the mirror and see a disgusting dog but on those days I now know that means I’m tired, or stressed, or need a bit of self-love because when I feel good about me, I feel good about my looks. It’s really ultimately not about your features.

        I should say that it got a bit out of control when I went too far and attracted a few guys only into looks, and felt super validated for, oh, about three dates, then got to experience the different shade of hell that “attractive” women feel when they’re with someone acquisitive who only values the package.

        • Nikki says:

          Here’s the thing, why would anybody EVER tell someone they were ugly unless it was to hurt them? You are taking their word without question. Why? None of those people are God. None of them speak for you, all of humanity, or universal truth. Your premise that they wouldn’t say it unless it was true is a million miles off and resembles the way a child thinks about an their parents opinion of them. Work at discrediting those early critics and see their abusiveness clearly. The point isn’t whether you actually are attractive or not. The points to be debated and destroyed are the ideas that these people had a right to talk to you that way, that they had a right to spew hatred and contempt on you, that they had a right to make you hate yourself. They didn’t have the right and it’s time you defeated their destructive programming.

      • CC says:

        Hi Lisa,

        For me I had to start #1 by going NC with my EUM. That’s first and foremost, cutting off your current painsource asap. Next I went to therapy and really started to examine my childhood and adolescent emotional connections, wounds, and previous boyfriends. I already realized I had a pattern (which brought me to BR and therapy in the first place)… what I didn’t know was WHY.

        I was diligent in talking these issues out, also journaling helped a lot, writing our your feelings… talking them through and then getting conscious of where your wounds are and the things you use to validate them. You will start to see your behaviours and patterns in all your relationships but especially with men and your choices in mates. I for one was choosing EUMs but did not realize I was EUM myself and did not have the proper toolset to flush them early on due to lack of self esteem. With self esteem you would rather happily stay home alone than deal with a mixed message texting charmer who you’re not sure where you stand with. With self esteem you happily say.. uh, no thanks bozo. Take the shenanigans elsewhere… I’m looking for a real man!

        I can feel in your comment your pain. I know its painful and frustrating and feels so rejective but by doing this type of work you will be able to get to place where you realize that other people’s actions, words, or behaviours are not a reflection of YOU or your value as a person. It is a reflection of them. And most of them are just trying to fill their own wounds and using up the attention of women to do it. Read Nat’s article on “why her and not me”… with self esteem you realize that you don’t want the wishy washy guy… and he may run hot with someone else but typically they never change. And you’ll be glad you can now take control of your love life and chose men who fit your criteria. And I’m guessing love, respect, and quality time are all part of your requirements. Keep reading BR!!

      • Allison says:

        Lisa,

        It has very little to do with looks.
        My ex was not attractive, but b/c he was very charming, many women overlooked this-turned out to be an ass in the end.

        I think the best way to start to build the self-esteem, is to start saying no, and instill some boundaries. People that respect themselves and don’t allow themselves to trampled upon are very attractive. I think that when you are able to begin to put yourself first, you will attract more quality individuals.

        Will you date someone who is average looking or do they have to be handsome?

        • Lisa says:

          Thank you for the responses everyone. Allison, you raise a very interesting question about whether I would date someone average looking. I probably overemphasize looks to validate me but I don’t need Brad Pitt, just someone who is attractive to me.

          I am scared to believe something different about myself because if no one else see’s it then I am still going to be on my own. Everyone wants to belong and it’s scary to me to think of living out my life without someone to cuddle, who has my back. It’s hard for me to balance having a realistic perception of myself and having a good self image.

      • cavewoman says:

        Lisa, so that last guy uses and discards people. Good riddance. Your worth is not and never was dependent on validation by cold and unscrupulous people. Heavens, what would it mean about you if his sleaziness thought highly of you?!
        Your worth is not even dependent on validation by kind and righteous people. Your worth is where you set it, regardless of others. It’s entirely up to you! You’re in charge. Aim high!

        • Lisa says:

          Cavewoman and the other Amazing Women,

          Such wisdom, insight and strength on this site. I hear your point about caring about the opinion of a user who discarded me. I am struggling to shake the image of him being in love with someone else (he has been in relationships before and lived with them). I saw little glimpses of what he might look like in love by the way he treated his friends and at times when he was worried I would leave. I know the way he treated me is still part of his character but there are other parts as well that i didn’t get the full benefit of and that’s what makes me feel less than/passed over. Even though it’s possible I may have dodged a bullet by his lack of interest, I think sometimes it is a personal rejection. They have seen what is on offer and they said no thanks. It’s hard not to internalize that. I guess I am struggling with thinking different thoughts, having hope, moving on because I am scared I am still going to feel invisible.

    • cavewoman says:

      Hi CC,
      I’m almost 39 and I’ve been divorced for two years. In addition to the 15 years of feeling lonely despite being married, I have been committed to some boy or man, (not always mutually at that) since age 17. With no longer than a few weeks’ break in between, but never long enough to actually take a good long look within and experience what it would be to go on about my life, independently of anyone else.

      Again, two years ago, a few weeks into my separation I met the EUA who ultimately led me to google my way to Baggagereclaim. He supplied the diversion, and once again I avoided that ‘single’ label by way of chasing him for well over a year… then being bitter and angry with him for really being who he said he was all along…

      Phew.
      Now that I’ve given up, and I see myself free in the big wide world, it’s terrifying and exhilarating at once. And just plain disorienting. I can think whatever I want, I am only beholden to myself (and my kids of course). Wow. Some days are like a heaviness has lifted. This is going to be good, simple, easy, adventurous… I completely agree with you, it’s not at all too late. For one, I’m feeling younger because I take care of myself and make sure I’m in better physical shape than when I’m unhappy, insomniac, inactive, and overeating. This is a gift, a once in a lifetime project, and the last thing I intend to do for a good long while is get sidetracked into accommodating some man again. No more shortcuts to true love for me.

  8. Dee Dee says:

    Nat! I don’t know you but I love you.
    Are you a mind reader? My dad is Mr. Unavailable. I’ve had over 10 years of therapy to get over him being a jackwagon. Usually I think I’m over it. It pops up every so often, like when my film got turned down for the Cannes Short Film Corner couple of weeks ago. Or when a guy I think is ‘the one’ tries to Future Fake just to get into my pants (didn’t happen), or when an online dates seem promising but when I look at their profile he is being spoon-fed by another woman! Or my beloved best friend who is divorcing his wife tries to flirt with me when I know he’s damaged and needs lots of time to get over their relationship.
    Yes it all comes down to feeling good enough.
    You have helped me just by me reading your words on my Facebook page then I link over here.
    You help much more then you realize.
    You are a group therapist for a world of women too ashamed or broke to go to a therapist.
    You are loved and appreciated by many and I am here to let you know this.

    THANK YOU, NAT
    with appreciation
    Dee Dee

  9. Spinster says:

    The title alone….. I can’t read the whole thing right now because I’m on the verge of tears and my family is around. Just the first few paragraphs did it for me, so reading the whole thing may not be a good idea around my loved ones. When I head home in a few days (or when they go to sleep tonight), I’ll read more and cry in private.

    • NML says:

      I hope you’re OK. With some of our synergy in childhoods, I’m not surprised it’s hard. Loving ourselves in spite of a lifetime of thinking different is a big shift. I still cry occasionally – not because I’m wishing they could be or do any better but I think it’s when a memory catches you off guard. You know one day you just don’t want to be that child anymore or participate in the drama.

      • Spinster says:

        Yep, sounds about right. :-|

        (reading through each & every one of these comments; light bulbs are going off in my mind at the speed of light)

  10. runnergirl says:

    Thank you again Natalie. I had such a dysfunctional childhood, it’s amazing I’m a semi-functional adult, at least professionally. I’ve always defined my self-esteem in terms of my academic and professional achievements. It wan’t until I I started reading your blog and the comments that I realized just how low my self-esteem actally was. Being the Other Woman for two-years and tolerating a string of dubious EUAcademics could only be due to extremely low self-esteem and zero boundaries. I made the mistake of assuming that because a guy was intelligent, a healthy relationship would follow. That’s so wrongheaded. Comments from Cavewoman and others prompted that revelation. I made the mistake of assuming that earning degrees and having a good job meant high self-esteem. Also wrong. Just because War and Peace was our favorite novel didn’t translate into a healthy relationship. So, now it’s down to just me. NC is helping give me the time to focus on me. Not the ex MM, some other messed up smart male or my job. What a gift, thank you.

    I’ve still got a ton of work to do on my self-esteem (this article is very helpful) and boundaries but I can see I’ve made a little progress. When I broke NC and responded to the exMM’s phone call this weekend, the conversation wasn’t the same. I was not even remotely interested in repeating the misery of being the Other Woman again and I wasn’t interested in seeing him while we creep around behind his wife’s back. I know those are quite normal boundaries for a lot of folks but I’m starting from stratch. Please forgive me. I also knew that I deserved better and most of all I want something better for me. He hasn’t changed but I have, although I have a ton more work to do. I believe I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to talk to him. Thank you for all your assistance. hugs

    • Allison says:

      Runner,

      Why haven’t you blocked the e-mail and changed your number?

      • runnergirl says:

        I’ve given up trying to block him. Now he calls from the land line in his office which registers as a “private number” or an “unknown number”. This time he got through my work email, which I totally forgot about. I’m going to have to simply not pick up or respond. Although my self-esteem is wobbly like another poster said, I’m getting to the point where I’m simply not interested in hitting the reset button and going back down the rabbit hole. It’s dark and nasty down there and has nothing to offer me. After reading this site, I’ve also set my sights on an honest, happy, healthy, co-piloted relationship. He can’t offer that and is unwilling to address his issues. I’m getting to the point that I accept that fact and the fact that I can’t change him. It is time to find someone who has something to offer other than stale crumbs, lies, and deceit. I’m starting to have more good days than bad but I still struggle and get nostaligic and wonder what if? That’s what happened this weekend. He answered the “what if” with simply hitting the reset button.

        • Magnolia says:

          Ugh. Support from over here! I thankfully have not seen my ex since December. It would be picking off some still fresh scabs to get into any conversation with him about the past. Hugs!

          I’m in a raw place now, not because of missing the ex, but raw because I’m working to let out the real available me. The other night at a bar I saw his best buddy – a man with whom the ex and I once spent many evenings. Buddy and I said nothing to one another, though we clearly each knew the other was there. It’s funny, maybe my self-esteem is building, because I have anticipated such a meeting for months and always wondered what I’d say, or if this guy would show contempt. In the end I handled myself very well, with no drama, and walked away knowing that I have no clue what this guy thinks and care less than I thought. It occurred to me that he might know very well what his friend is about and have more respect for me now than he ever did. More importantly I have a lot of respect for how I handled the situation.

          I want more of this self-respect business! It feels great.

          • runnergirl says:

            Good for you Magnolia. Who gives a flip what Buddy thinks about anything. That’s real progress. Thank you for the support. Getting back on the NC wagon feels much more comfortable than the rabbit hole. I think this self-esteem stuff is pretty amazing.

            Allison, I would make those threats but since he has the resilience of a cockroach after a nuclear bomb, I’m afraid I’d have to made good on the threats. Plus, I know him and he’d test me. If I don’t respond, he’ll stop. Natalie is right. By responding to him, I’m avoiding the grief and uncomfortable feelings by trying to stem the rejection.

            I’m still laughing today Natalie. You sure have a gift for words.

        • Allison says:

          Runner,

          Why not tell him that you will get a restraining order or contact his wife if he continues to contact? From what you’ve already said, is that he places his career in the number one position, I’m certain he would back off if you made this threat.

    • NML says:

      You don’t need forgiveness. You’re human and some people who are cut off have the resilience of a cockroach after a nuclear bomb and the persistence of a shameless telesales rep. All you can do is learn and move on and stop avoiding the grief and uncomfortable feelings by trying to stem the rejection x

      • runnergirl says:

        I don’t know Natalie if your reply was meant for me but it totally works and made me laugh. Yup, he’s got the resilience of a cockroach after a nuclear bomb. Reminded me of halloween when I asked what he was going to be. His response: “I’m a politician and lawyer. Isn’t that scary enough? Why should I dress up?” Swear to God he said that and it always stuck with me for some reason.

        I’m learning, gaining self-esteem, writing down my boundaries, and no longer feel rejected by a cowardly MM who is so scary he doesn’t need to dress up for halloween! Love your blog and your brilliance. Thank you for sharing it with us.

      • Magnolia says:

        “some people who are cut off have the resilience of a cockroach after a nuclear bomb and the persistence of a shameless telesales rep …”

        ha ha ha!!!

        I want that – in pursuit of my own meaningful life!!

      • runnergirl says:

        A follow-up: Yesterday was my B-Day and I planned a BBQ with my daughter and friends. It was a great day. Of course, I was on guard. And NOTHING! Today I check my snail mail and guess what? Yup, a B-Day card. Snail mail? Who uses snail mail? You can’t block snail mail. I’m thinking of joining the Witness Protection Program….LOL. You were spot on Natalie.

        • Allison says:

          Runner,

          Happy Belated!!!!! :)

          What did you do with it??

        • Magnolia says:

          Happy birthday Runner!
          I think there’s an Elvis song about what you can do with the card… ;)

          • runnergirl says:

            After I opened it, I thought of you Allison and your suggestions and Natalie’s cockroach analogy. Fortunately, the tidbits of self-esteem I’ve managed to muster up helped me ignore it. Magnolia, I might have followed Elvis’ advice but there was no return address. I do know his home address though and I don’t think his wife would appreciate the little note.

            I recieved a Kindle for my birthday and finally have a little down time before summer school so I downloaded Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl. It is fabulous. I didn’t realize the difference between EUM’s and EUW’s and what a number being involved with one can do on your self-esteem. “Emotionally unavailable men choose emotionally unavailable women that facilitate their emotionally unavailable behavior and make them feel good about themselves. Emotionally unavailable women choose emotionally unavailable meen the facilitate their beliefs and disbeliefs about themselves and make them feel bad about themselves. Emotional unavailability massages men’s egos and massages women’s insecurity.” Some how when it is stated like that making him feel good about himself while I feel bad about myself doesn’t seem appealing. The funniest line is that EUM’s can’t committ to anything, even not being with you. That’s his problem right now, he has to committ to not being with me. Also, as Natalie so perfectly describes, the minute he thinks I’m moving on, he’ll blow hot and he is.

            Thank you for the b-day wishes. Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl was the best b-day present ever and I bought it for me. I’m starting to believe in me more than I believe in him!

        • NML says:

          Belated happy birthday Runnergirl! I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend! As you’ve discovered with your ex, originality isn’t his strong suit. He doesn’t realise that there are many No Action Men dolls just like him just with different packaging pulling the same tired moves.

  11. colororange says:

    Recently I changed up my hairstyle and wore a new cute outfit to work. I felt OK until I got to work. Then I felt uncomfortable. My hair wasn’t as cute as when the woman cut it and nobody said they liked it. Nor did anyone comment on my clothes. In my head when I would remember to, I would tell myself that I look pretty (what I want others to say to me). Admittedly, there was a tiny voice that said “well, no one approved of your physical appearance today so it means you don’t look good or your hair is a flop”. I’ve seen women look atrocious but carry themselves with poise and confidence and I’m wondering how do they do that? I have this unrealistic fear that when I am outside EVERYONE is looking at me/judging me/making fun of me. There are times when people say rude comments or shout out their car window at me and I become so angry. All those years of taking in the garbage my dad spewed at me and not being able to ever defend myself has left me with a short fuse when it comes to other people’s bullshit remarks. Partly why I can not take a joke when it has to do with something I’ve been teased about, etc.

    This is hard work! I appreciate this post so much today.

    • Magnolia says:

      You go, colororange! You’re awesome.

      • Leigh says:

        We’re all beautiful! :) I had this recently, too. I changed my hair and changed some clothes and didn’t get a comment and I almost reverted back to “oh well, obviously I’m not looking nice today.”

        My sister had the right idea from an early age. Every morning, without fail, I would hear her in the bathroom looking at herself in the morning saying to herself “God you look so beautiful today!” She’s 54 now and she still says she’s beautiful and she is! It was a standing joke in the family how she would do this every morning – she believes in herself and I have taken her as an example onboard.

        I know it’s starting to work for me! Yesterday, a guy from my past came back into my life – we are firm friends. He was married when I first knew him and so was I. It didn’t progress as we were both married. Now he’s divorced and so am I. His current relationship is on the rocks (long story but I knew it wouldn’t last). He’s at a distance from me but has asked to see me if I’m free to and available when I’m in the area again even if it’s not too close he will make the effort to spend time with me. So I replied that I would love to, if he becomes available!

        Now, I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I’ve set a boundary. I can only see the guy if he’s free! That to me is progress and I’m smiling huge today – if someone wants me, then they have to be a free agent – bottom line :)

        • Allison says:

          Leigh,

          How far does he live from you?

          • Leigh says:

            Allison,

            He’s across the pond but I’ve known him for years. Last time I saw him was in London a couple of years ago.

            The distance is too great if he were here permanently I would date him. I’m constantly travelling and he’s willing to meet me on my travels and he’s willing to come to London – I would have him stay with me. My issue with him is that he’s involved with someone else (albeit at an end). I won’t entertain being with a man involved or at an end with someone else (he’s been dating her for eight months)

            The great thing is that we’ve been firm friends for years and have seen each other through some bad patches. He’s a good guy, a bit of a dreamer and I know he’s looking to settle with someone suitable. He has his good and bad points like I do. The other thing I like about him is that he was sensible enough to refrain from dating and get over his divorce – it took him four years to date!

            It’s nice to have him as a friend – he’s one of the good guys :)

          • Allison says:

            Leigh,

            I’m happy to hear that you would wait for a suitable amount of time for him to recover.
            The other key point that I thought was good, is that you will not date if he does not live close by. I did this many times-truly shows how unavailable I was by thinking I could have a long distance relationship-as it prevented the relationship from growing into something real.

            Good luck

        • colororange says:

          Leigh so happy to hear you’re staying away from him until he is single! Though it is tempting. Good for you!

      • colororange says:

        You are too Magnolia!

    • grace says:

      color
      it may be that people are a bit scared of you? i can appear very standoffish and blank people without meaning to. i didn’t learn any social skills from my parents and had a very shut off childhood, very few friends, didn’t go out much. i got used to feeling invisible and wanted to be invisible – bullied at home and at school, and in the street because i’m chinese. i don’t believe people want me to say hello to them or to talk to them. it’s taken a lot of feedback from friends to realise that i could warm up a bit. on the plus side, it’s very easy for me to avoid catty people and mean people. they’re scared of me ha ha.
      people shouting out from car windows – they’re morons but they probably do it because you’re attractive. for me, i’ve had a fair amount of racist comments from young men. i don’t think the racists can deal with finding someone attractive of another race and lash out. they’re idiots and it doesn’t reflect on me at all. but yeah it is horrid. i used to pray that i would wake up “white” but thankfully God didn’t agree!

      • leisha says:

        Grace: All I know is you are one wise woman. WISE. Strong. Awesome!

        colororange: people will likely be uncomfortable as you up loving yourself (claiming your self-esteem)…don’t be surprised…change is frequently threatening to others especially when they’ve boxed you in categories and you no longer “fit”. IMO that is good for them to grow as well as great for you to BE you even as it is a struggle to bloom. BTW no comment can also indicate acceptance.

      • Natasha says:

        Grace, I was thinking the same thing, i.e. they are probably yelling at her because she’s so pretty!! Colororange, I know what self hatred is too and I know how easy it is to project onto other people how we feel about ourselves. I’m sending you lots of love!

      • colororange says:

        grace you told part of my story..

        I know I come off as standoffish but I don’t trust most people. All the gossip and talking shit behind people’s back or telling personal info. That is a huge turn off and a lot of people do this so I keep to myself mostly. I’m aloof, can’t stand the fakery. I’d just assume keep interaction at a minimum. This is where some of my unavailability is. The thought is there when I talk to people, “is his person going to gossip about me when I’m not around”. It may sound paranoid.
        I wasn’t socialized very well either as a child. my dad is still socially backward. so i didn’t have much of a social life. yet i excelled in other areas. There is a constant battle between me wanting and loving my space and wanting to be close to others. It is easier to be free and do what I want when I am alone, don’t have to answer to anyone or accommodate someone. Yet I don’t really have any one besides maybe 2 people I can call up about something I am super excited about. It is lonely not having people to share my life with.

        • meagen19 says:

          Color
          I am the same way. I have only a few, close friends (but I’m ok with that) and all of them said thier 1st impression of me was that I was angry/stand-offish/quiet (i became this way as a child in reaction to mental bullying by peers). Really what I was doing was watching and evaluating them to see if I could trust them, and when I decided I could I’d let them in. This is a good tactic to getting to know people as friends – and I have high quality and loyal friends as a result who, amazingly, seem to like me for who I am- but sucks when dating. I can’t get into a guy in 1,2 or even 3 dates. I need to know him for a while and trust (or at least get the vibe he’s trustworthy) before I can be serious. But of course no one actively dating/looking for a relationship is going to sit around waiting for me to determine whether I can trust him!

        • Natasha says:

          Colororange, I’ve been thinking about you today and how similar our stories are in some ways. I want to share with you an experience I went through and how I finally got over it – I hope this helps! Many years ago, I was working in an office with a bunch of people my age (I was 24 at the time) and got involved with one of the men in the office. Now, being that I was still pretty young and hadn’t had a real relationship since high school, I didn’t really understand that he only wanted “one thing” from me. He had a really good female friend in the office that I was close with as well. One day, he dropped me like a hot rock and she started acting strange around me. I couldn’t figure out why, but I wasn’t going to force the issue, as I already felt rejected enough. A few days later, one of my friends called me and told me I really needed to look at this man’s roomate’s blog on Myspace. Well, not only did it include that this man was now dating this other girl in the office, half of the blog was devoted to making fun of me. I mean, it was BAD. Like, specific quotes from me and illustrating how they proved indisputably that I was dumb. He also went into detail about how he could tell I’d had some plastic surgery recently and referred to me as “rock hard t*ts”. Now, I wasn’t on Myspace, but…pretty much all of my coworkers were, so they’d obviously seen this. Suffice to say, I was devestated. I quit that job and pretty much shunned the world for a time. After some time went on, I realized that not everyone in the world is an asshole and if I cut myself off from everyone, I was cutting myself off from the good people too. I really, really hope this helps and I’m wishing you all the best!!

          • Used says:

            people who act like this are just jealous. and users. assholes. period.

          • colororange says:

            What a douchebag thing to do! See I do not comprehend (though I guess somewhere in my life I may have participated in that kind of cruelty or am capable of it) that bullcrap. Obviously to some people being a total prick like that is nothing. I would be inclined to bring out something about the ex EUM if I ever got wind he was making fun of me. But that would be stooping to his level.

            And I’ve done quite a bit in my life that could embarrass me if people found out. But I am human, subject to f*ck up over and over again. Do things out of character or unexpected. I can not live in the fear that people will find out. That is giving them control and I’ve done that enough in my life. Giving others say so over who I am. I know a lot of my “misdeeds” came from ignorance, self-hatred and wanting SOMEONE to love me no matter who they were.

            Being on this site with everyone has helped me see that I am not alone. Nor am the only one who does things that could be considered shameful. I admire and am inspired by people who have seen/done and been through it all and are stronger because of it. They own what they’ve done and don’t try to hide. That is the woman I want to be. Right now I am working on just speaking up when usually I was afraid of criticism. Sometimes I walk away worrying how what I said was taken; conscientiousness to the extreme. I am really working on loving and accepting myself around others especially people with “big personalities”. I tend to want to hide or shrink away from them and lose myself, afraid of what they may say. Tend to let them take the lead. I don’t like how I feel, like a frightened child, around those loud/overbearing people.

          • Natasha says:

            Used, I agree. Last year I ran into the guy (not the roommate, thankfully) and he spotted me before I spotted him and he was staring at me with this pitiful look on his face. Though it wasn’t him who wrote it, a decent person would have made the roommate take it down. I said nothing and kept walking. As for the roommate, all I can say is anyone who badmouths a woman on the internet that they’ve only met, oh, a half dozen times and hasn’t actually DONE anything to them….has some issues.

          • Natasha says:

            Color, yes indeed we ALL f*ck something up at some point and we ALL have things we are ashamed of. I struggle to let go of stuff like that too, so I totally understand where you’re coming from and you’re not alone at all! I couldn’t even tell that story to a therapist I went to two years after the fact and now it’s just a story from a long time ago. It might help to remember too that people who are louder and more outgoing have their insecurities just like anyone, so try to think of them more as just people who make more noise than you. I can tell you that in person I’m very extroverted for the most part and still was even at my most insecure. Hope this helps!

    • MaryC says:

      I’ve always been told I was beautiful but trust me its not all that its cracked up to be. I have a brain, I’m educated and funny, I can cook a great meal, I’ve hit a hole in one, traveled to other countries and I can tell you every thing that’s going on in the world but no one ever notices or comments that. I guess no matter what we think about ourselves we always wants others to think the same and it does hurt to be pidegon holed when we know we’re so much more.

      • Leigh says:

        I think it’s part of human nature to want to be acknowledged in some way or regocnised not just for looks but for knowledge. The danger is when we let others tap into that part of our ego and we define ourselves on what others think of us. Our self esteem get more affected when we base who we are on others opinions.

        It’s difficult to “turn the other cheek” when someone is being abusive about your looks or your level of intelligence or when we are pigeon holed into “the office beauty or the cook or the housewife” Identity can be lost only if we take it on board. The true value of who we are is only appreciated by the people who see us as a complete package not by the AC’s that want to put us into boxes to suit their own needs or boost their own egos.

        Belief in oneself is hard work – but it’s rewarding! That sense of self esteem helps to whittle out the bad guys from the good guys and attracts the good.

    • Natasha says:

      Colororange, I’ve been there too. Five years ago I had a nose job and a job of the mammary variety (I’m happy with both, but good GOD does plastic surgery hurt. Seriously, it f*cking HURTS.) and I still sometimes had moments when I felt like the least attractive female on this Earth. I had to get that under control, majorly. At the end of the day, what I had to tell myself is that even if no one told me I looked good or I felt like people thought I looked terrible, basing my opinion of myself on what others said was a recipe for misery. Years later, I’m finally learning how to stop doing that in my dating life. I’m so sorry to hear that your father treated you like that and I’m certain that no one is judging you or making fun of you….that would mean that there are WAY more morons per capita than current research suggests. I like Leigh’s sister’s routine and I’m sure all of womankind could benefit from doing the same :)

    • NML says:

      Colorange if I could hug you I would. Don’t do things for the attention of others – do it to please you. As someone that used to be told to smile and cheer up by strangers and couldn’t smile for photos because I was so unhappy, it’s very easy to think the world is looking at you funny. Cars move – those same road ragers make faces at others along the road.
      I was criticised almost every day, told I’d amount to nothing, worthless, and the list goes on. Also hypersensitive to criticism. I guess what I’m saying is that these things are manageable. Your hurt and your experience is your own but you are not that one in ten billion gazillion person that has had her cards marked by the universe. How would people know it was you? What could you possibly radiate that even a stranger in a car would make faces?

      Self hate is a horrible vicious circle. You hate yourself to validate the worst you think of you and because you think there’s something about you. Then you hate yourself for hating yourself and not loving you and then hate yourself for not just automatically doing it like you think others do. It’s also easy to hate yourself when the people who should love you (patents) abuse you.

      People don’t automatically love themselves. They’re taught to as children or they have to do it themselves.

      If you want a job done well, do it yourself.

      • colororange says:

        I’ve had people tell me to smile too or they would say “it can’t be that bad”. That just made it even worse. I have pretty much forgiven my dad for the things he said/did to me but yeah those memories creep up from time to time. How he in his drunken rages would yell at me and call me a bastard saying I wasn’t his. Going on and on about how my mom was a bitch. Ugghh it was horrendous. That stuff juts made me crouch over in a corner and quieten down. I think with all the stuff that happened it sort of warped my brain into thinking everyone everywhere thinks ill of me.

        As far as what I am radiating….I don’t know. I know I don’t readily smile at people; usually I look the other way. Though I have been practicing making eye contact. It’s when I get around a group of people (namely men) that I feel uncomfortable. Usually one of them makes some ridiculous comment. Today even driving home some guy on a bike shouts “hey hun” or when I’m driving to work on the morning some guys on the street yell “hey baby” or some nonsense. It’s the WAY they say it and it makes me feel icky. But I keep working at it. Today in between negative self-talk I reminded myself ” I am pretty. I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else”. It’s remembering that I don’t think too much when I see other people so I doubt (hopefully) that all these people are thinking so poorly of me. I’m not that old but even in looking at high school pictures I was very pretty. People would even tell me that but I paid attention to the assholes who told me otherwise. I have an older friend in her 70′s and she tells me don’t wait until you’re fifty to appreciate your beauty/body.

        And I would welcome a hug from you!

        • meagen19 says:

          I hate when people tell me to “smile”. 9 x out of 10 it’s a man. Culturally women are EXPECTED to smile and many men feel they have a right to demand that we provide one (I read an article about this last year). I’m not a raging feminist, but that’s just offensively sexist. Most times I’ll just stare blankly at the guy. I’ve decided the next time I get that line I’m going to come back with a particularly pointed reply.

        • AMD says:

          Colororange, Your story sounds a lot like me. I was so touched I just had to respond. I too felt very self conscious around men. What I have discovered about myself through work here at br is that because of conditioning by my mother that ALL men are no good, I set them apart from the human race. I could never wrap my brain around what men are and what they want, I was totally clueless, they were like creatures from another planet! In response to that, the AC that attached itself to me, could tell me anything and do anything and I believed him, thinking that this is the way men are. Now I get that they are just human, just like me and there is no mystery, they don’t have special powers and they can’t read minds and they don’t have capes. I hold them to the same standards that I would hold myself any of my friends and I approach them as I would any other person.

        • jennynic says:

          I feel similar to you color. I get told to smile by strangers too and have heard the same things…..smile, it can’t be that bad. I was picked on my whole childhood for my severely bucked and crooked teeth. When someone would tell a joke and I laughed, all of a sudden I was the joke and I was getting laughed at. This happened every day until I was 15 yars old. I stopped smiling because all it brought me was more pain and ridicule to show my teeth. I was told I was ugly and called a varmit. I had them fixed and now people tell me I have a beautiful smile but I suppose my personality was partially shaped by this and so was my being guarded. I get comments now on my looks in positive ways but sometimes I just don’t see it. I also don’t buy into fakery. I can’t do it and have been told I am too serious. I am think I scare people by my intensity and have been called intimidating and unapproachable. I have noticed though when I make it a point to smile more, people are way more interactive with me. I end up feeling more positive.

  12. Natasha says:

    Natalie, I honestly don’t know how I’d have gotten through the past few months without this site. I’m blessed with wonderful friends, but none of them really understood how I felt and I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me that everyone else had a boyfriend/was getting married and I was always knee-deep in rejection. I’m also INCREDIBLY lucky to have fantastic parents that have a healthy relationship. However, I was always the “nerd” in school that none of the boys liked, so when I grew up I fashioned myself into a sexpot and good Lord was that a heck of a bad idea in my case. I ended up being used for sex/an ego boost by every man I was involved with and ended up with even more terrible self esteem. I thought the only solution was for some guy to come along and tell me I deserved better. This is how I ended up in a five-year yo-yo debacle, because I thought, “Aha! If I can get this one guy to tell me I’m good enough for a relationship, it’s all going to be fine! I must win with this one, or I’m really screwed.” Thank you, thank you for showing me a better way :)

  13. GTash says:

    “I’ve tried to win over men whose hearts are unwinnable, even if they “committed” to me. I was drawn to the hard to get man, the handsome, tall, witty bachelor. The ones that say “I’m never getting married”. And then I would try and be the one they would change for, replaying daddy issues over and over”.

    CC like yourself I have always been attracted to the challenge of being the woman who gets a player or bad boy to revoke his wild ways and settle down and of course when it doesn’t happen I blame myself – obviously I wasn’t good enough in bed, sexy enough, beautiful enough, rich enough whatever enough to get them to stay when in fact it wasn’t my fault at all and that no matter what they would never commit to me or anyone else.

    Since discovering this site and installing some pretty strong boundaries and standards my whole attitude has changed – I am good enough and EUMs and assclowns are no longer good enough for me. Funnily enough since I’ve started to set standards and follow my own rules friends have commented on how strong my self esteem is. If I’d only known it was that easy I would have done it years ago!

    • CC says:

      Like button!!

    • CC says:

      Just to add, yes it seems so easy and SO GOOD to me now too. Once you start to institute new boundaries they really start to build upon each other rather quickly and you cand get to a good place if you keep on reinforcing this. But I feel for so many of the readers as I was there a short year and a half ago… not understanding, feeling completely out of control and not good enough. It was definitely not easy for me then… but let that be encouragement to all the BR readers… it gets SO much easier! The first step I ever took was googling “why does he leave and then come back” and fell upon BR. Ha (red flag or what?!!).

      • Minky says:

        I googled ‘yo-yo relationships’ and ended up here. I remember that day so clearly! Thank goodness is all i can say! I have dealt with so many of my issues and am not baffled by idiotic antics anymore (why is so and so acting this way!? i would not act this way!!). I just put it down to ‘those people are not like me, they have their own stuff to deal with’ and move on. Yipee! :)

  14. TeaTime says:

    This article hit home so hard it brought tears to my eyes. I can definitely look back at myself before NC – 5 months ago now – and see the person I was. Like you said, everything boiled down to ‘there’s something wrong with me = I’m not good enough’. I already had low self esteem before meeting the xAC, so when he came along he just destroyed every last crumb.

    Today I see a difference in myself already. I went to counselling, took a self-esteem workshop, and I religiously read your blog after luckily coming across it a mere two weeks after the fiasco was over. I feel like my self esteem has increased – I’m speaking up more, learning to say ‘no’, and not running away from confrontation – but there’s still oh so much work to be done, and as you said it’s pretty darn hard work!! Everytime I feel like I’m going backwards, I remind myself I am an intelligent, honest, kind and loving person who has worth and deserves love, care, trust and respect in return. I just thank my lucky stars I am climbing out of this mess as a better person.

  15. Jg says:

    Best post – ever. Going back to reread, slowly.

  16. Elle says:

    Chimed with me:

    ” Emotionally unavailable and have always been emotionally unavailable = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough

    Has different values = Something wrong with me = I’m not good enough”

    This is it, Natalie. If you’re not good at loving yourself, you’re far less likely to be good at loving someone else – you’ll either be clingy and not truly supportive or resentful that they’re taking up energy you’d like to put into yourself (if only you knew how to effectively).

    I have noticed that since the A-Clown I am FAR better at noticing when I am engaging in self-love and when I am about to commit the old self-sabotage, AND (and this is important) actually choosing not to self-sabotage (sometimes I notice I am doing it – but still want to).

    What I am looking forward to is getting to a place where I can notice these things and not have to be quite so intensely analytical and dramatic about it; when I can just have a quiet, maybe not even fully conscious, realisation that I need to move away from or towards something. I am still learning, so I find it takes me some time, for example, dividing what is rightfully my crap and what is the other person’s. I still often need someone else (even this site) to vouch for my feelings and actions. It sometimes doesn’t help to allow other people to comment on your choices. (This was recently revealed by the EUM guy I saw for a bit saying that he thought I was about ‘a quarter’ to blame for things not working out!). Eventually, I have to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on my own and not care so much about feedback and whether it makes ‘objective’ sense.

    (BTW, just so you know, I am helping my closest male friend – a gorgeous, lovely, successful guy – through his own relationship with an EUW. I can see his struggle. He even said to me: ‘Part of the reason I am sticking around is because I can’t believe the sorts of delusions I must have about this woman. I don’t want to see them.’)

    (And well done, CC!!)

  17. PJM says:

    Amen to that, Dee Dee! I second that emotion – or emoticon, whichever you prefer.

    Mother’s Day was – ahem – somewhat difficult for me this year, as I was foolish enough to visit my parents, and got a nice knife in the ribs and a good dose of not-good-enough for me to brood on afterwards.

    And then instead of brooding and feeling powerless and self-pitying, I processed it on the way home: my elderly father’s beginning to dement. My mother is stuck with him all day (by her own choice, having interspersed herself between my dad and his children very efficiently, and with his consent). She is going stir crazy because she can’t drive and is totally dependent on him. He’s being a complete old bugger. My sister and her son are living with them temporarily, and she resents my friendship with my sister. She’s 84 years old. So no WONDER she’s getting snippy at me!

    So it wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough, and it had nothing to do with my childhood problems with her. It actually had much more to do with present-day stresses, and with my mother’s own personality, which is very jealous, territorial and arrogant.

    I found this hugely empowering – it got me OUT of my childhood dramas and into the present day. It also gave me a good red flag of my own: to tone down my own jealousy, territory and arrogance issues, so I don’t go down the same path.

    My goodness, it’s been a long time coming, though. I am perimenopausal, unmarried, childless and 42, and some days all the unfinished business of life rises up in a tsunami and just hits you head on. But in a way it’s good that I’m undistracted: instead of rushing home to cry on someone’s shoulder, I am forced to be my own counselor and comforter, and it’s really helping the process of growing out of this baggage.

    Attagirl, Natalie.

    • Mae West says:

      I was introduced by my mother to her old friends at a party as “ 42, childless, and unmarried”. I looked good that day, not fat and frumpy, so she could not made me feel bad the usual way. I felt embarrassed for her.
      For some women middle age is when you realise you no longer stop traffic or men don’t look as you, some choose the wax look . For others, and me, it’s a time when you shed old skin, old persona and pay less and less attention to what people think, look inward. Instead of looking for what you haven’t got, you focus on what you have gained, self esteem and a love for the self that you had to build yourself. It last longer than botox and makes you look more attractive.

      Natalie

      Your blog is great, where were you when I was dating in my twenties, the ironic thing is that I would not have been ready to read it or understood it.
      many thanks.

  18. NRP says:

    Thank you so much for this article. My mother was and still can be the unavailable one. But I have learned to forgive her and let some things go. Sometimes I have to let her have it to make her back up off of me but if it means doing that to keep my sanity I do what I have to do. :)

    I never thought I would be at a place where I am seeing my worth. I thought I would leave this earth still feeling the same way about myself. Reading your blog and working on myself has really helped. There is still a lot more growth to be done but I feel so much better about myself. It is an ongoing journey.

    Thank you so much for helping with that. What a gift you are. You are very appreciated.

    NRP

  19. Cam says:

    “I still have to actively work on managing the little girl within me.”

    Wow I needed these truths – perfect timing. A battle against low self esteem involves constant awareness to overcome it.

  20. anon says:

    whoa.

  21. anon says:

    ok, more than whoa…
    still wrapping brain around not trying to demand/convince someone to treat you better. much of this is hard to acknowledge. think i simply wasn’t able to learn much about what is normal/acceptable. it all became mixed up.brain is trying.thank you.

  22. Magnolia says:

    “… self-esteem isn’t something that has to wait until you’re done with processing …”

    Wha?? Really?

    Really????

    That sounds so exciting! Today I pretended for two solid minutes of not to worry that I had something wrong with me and it was great. It also felt totally premature and false, like I was grabbing a cookie before I’d eaten my vegetables.

    This post addresses so many of my questions, and is so timely, that I expect to read it a dozen times within the next couple days. Thanks so much Natalie, particularly for giving us your first-person account.

    • Leigh says:

      Fake it until you make it! Believe in yourself :) I’ve been doing that and it works!

    • cavewoman says:

      Yes this really is the best news. Yes you may forgive yourself, accept yourself, be proud of yourself NOW. Just because. You’re free to do so. It is delicious.

    • colororange says:

      LOL Magnolia, don’t you know you’re allowed to have dessert BEFORE the main course? :)

  23. Melinda says:

    Wow–me to a tea:
    ….if you get involved with them you may think they’re ‘too nice’ or even privately wonder why the hell they’re making a ‘bad’ investment in you. You’ll find any and all reasons to take a parachute and jump or sabotage when things are going well. You won’t be convinced that a valuable person and a valuable relationship would want to have you in it. You’ll take refuge in a limited relationship and then focus on their problems.” I was just discussing this behavior with my counselor tonight. She said that as “impractical” or new-agey as it sounds, one has to heal the heart and find forgiveness and love of oneself WITHIN oneself and not look for external validation. External validation just puts too much power (and responsibility) for our wellbeing in the hands of someone else! I’m coming around on this one, but it’s hard to practice, especially after a lifetime of feeling and thinking otherwise.

    • Minky says:

      I struggle with this one too! “External validation just puts too much power (and responsibility) for our wellbeing in the hands of someone else” – absolutely!

      I was starting to do this with the boyfriend recently and really winding myself up, until i caught myself. Articles like this and posts like yours really help though.

  24. Jennifer says:

    I completely agree with this article, but I am wondering if you ladies can help me with one thing: HOW do I go about raising my self-esteem? I’ve gotten a lot better at identifying EUMs and I steer clear of them, but I find I still am not attracted to better men and spend a lot of time thinking about the men I am trying to avoid, picturing myself saying witty things to them, picturing them being impressed with me, etc.

    I try to force these types of thoughts out of my head but am having a hard time. The truth is that I know I am attractive but I am still attracted to the wrong men which means my self-esteem still needs work, but… how to work on it? What to do exactly?

    Thanks for your help, ladies. You are all so amazing and I am so glad I found this site!

    • CC says:

      Jennifer,

      Stick with it… keep with your boundaries and it will get easier. After a while even you might get to a point where meeting, charming, or talking to “a guy” isn’t the most important thing in life. What’s important is YOU, are you happy, healthy, doing the things you love, fulfilling your passion in life. The guy will then be viewed as a bonus… if and only if he comes into your life as nothing less than warm, loving, and respectful. I certainly relate to where you are, my growth came in waves and different phases. Keep putting the focus back on yourself, how you can crack yourself up… how witty you think YOU are. I’m sure men will be bound to notice and if they don’t… their loss!

    • cavewoman says:

      I think it’s perfectly fine if you’re not attracted to anyone for now. Are you wondering if something’s wrong with you because you’re not drawn to some type of guy? Gotcha! You’re thinking something’s wrong with you. Quit it. NOTHING is wrong.

      I still do the same, by the way, running the movies in my brain about dazzlin’ them bad boys. When you catch yourself, simply change the channel. I repeat: nothing is wrong with you. Your thoughts are just thoughts. Just habits. When you see them for what they are, automatic routine habits, you have the chance to start new habits of your choice.

      • Jennifer says:

        You’re so right. Now this may sound incredibly stupid, but what do you think about instead? It’s like I don’t even know how to fill my own head if I’m not fantasizing about sweeping an unavailable guy off his feet. I tried thinking about how great I am *cough* but it got boring way faster than the Mr. Unavailable fantasy. Suggestions?

        • Allison says:

          When you get to a better place, you will find these fools repugnant! I can spot one almost immediately now, and I can tell you there is NO interest at all. I don’t have the energy or time for people that bring any sort of drama into my life.

        • Minky says:

          I agree with Allison – once you get your self-esteem to healthy levels, the idea of going out with one of these men seems as absurd as dating a dog walking on its hind legs! It’s just not something that would seem remotely attractive.

          Everyone is different re gaining self esteem, but for me it was getting into the habit of trusting myself, of talking *myself* out of ridiculous thoughts, rather than asking other people what they thought, or needing people to tell me i was right/ justified/ not being irrational. Now i decide when i am being silly and tell myself so, or when i have done the right thing in defending my boundaries (still nerve-wracking sometimes), or that i am loved and deserve to be so – i don’t need people to keep telling me that i am. It is a long process and you do have to keep talking to yourself (not necessarily out loud!) and diverting your thoughts a different way. At first it’s like you’re arguing with yourself internally! :) Your new, healthy voice, vs your old, unhealthy thought patterns. Hope this helps!

        • Magnolia says:

          Jennifer … such a good question. I’m still working on a list of things to think about now that thinking about all the things I need to fix about myself is off the table.

          * organizing my office
          * building a website
          * finding a running group
          * learning about painting
          * writing a couple new resumes, look up people to talk to about a new line of work
          * decide whether I want a big vacation within the next five years
          * decide whether to have a baby on my own, when might that be
          * pick an acquaintance to look up and contact
          * organize my finances
          * plan a fun weekend
          * etc

          and when I’m caught with “nothing” to think about (seriously, some of my best self-berating has been done in that call-of-nature time when I sit there for two minutes and obsess) I now think, I love you Magnolia while you are doing x, I love you while you are thinking about y, I love you while you are just sitting there, you are a wonderful person and I will never abandon you, etc etc.

          it can take just as much creativity to come up with a million ways to tell yourself you love you as it did to find a million ways to find fault!

          • Lisa says:

            Magnolia,

            I was so touched by reading about how you tell yourself that you love yourself and won’t abandon yourself, it made my cry and it exactly what I need to do. I was reassured that others have questioned, what do I think about if I am not thinking about this? I have spent so much time on my not good enough story…if I were prettier story…I haven’t paid enough attention/built up other areas of my life so now with the boy gone, it’s kinda quiet and scary but now I gotta build. I still wake up obsessing about how he would have returned my love/wanted a relationship if I looked like my friend that was his type, who he thought was hot and it makes me feel like shit. I guess those are one of the kinds of thoughts people are talking about diverting themselves from but these thoughts are seductive…so deliciously self torturous and seductive. It does take mental discipline and that I need to build. Thank you for your wisdom and help everyone….would love to keep hearing more about how you divert, build, etc.

          • Magnolia says:

            Thanks Lisa. So glad it meant something to you because it’s new to me! It sounds hokey but it works.

            Sometimes the “me” I’m talking to responds to the “me” who is doing the talking: “So what if you love me? You’re me. You don’t count.” (Kind of like responding to one’s mom saying you’re pretty.) Or, interestingly, “You loving me is not helping me finish this paper/lose weight/find a job.”

            I’ve actually had to ask myself. What DOES it mean to say I love me? I always spent so much time with people who couldn’t say they loved me, that when I’m with a person that does all the time (me), I now get to ask: well, what’s behind those words? Talk is cheap!

            I’ve realized two things that give me a sense of what real love is. First, I do abandon myself whenever my mind goes off anywhere from where my body is. If I’m off obsessing about the ex, or fantasizing about job success or how great I’ll look when I finally work out – I’ve abandoned me. The me sitting in my room at home feels boring and not special and I have to work to stay present and love me while I’m just there. So now I have to work to trust myself when I say I love myself, because one part of me is like, yeah right, you wish I were prettier, more successful, etc. Hence, “I love you and am here with you and not leaving you as you pick gross bits out of the kitchen sink.”

            Then, that for me, loving me means easing up in some areas (self-criticism) and toughening up in others (loving discipline). Because I love me I do want to trust myself to give me exercise, lots of water, lots of kindness, and in fact everything I need to function well. I’ve been focusing on my sleeping-in habit and watching how I talk to myself as I strive for the work satisfaction/sense of purpose I’ve been looking for my whole life. I have had a habit of enabling my own depression/laziness cycle.

            I’m learning a self-love that isn’t all talk, though I’m getting there through an “I love you” tape in my head set on infinite replay. Funnily enough it DOES help me finish my paper! :)

  25. Gingerbell says:

    This was a good post for me to open up since I had a rough weekend and my self esteem is deep in the toilet again.
    Well I let my ex through the door on Saturday night, I know.. I know. It’s been 8 months since he left, the roughest most insanely frustrating pseudo recovery and then I let him in just to “test myself”.. or what was I doing? Well guess what? I failed and now my head is low again and I question every notch of improvement I thought I was making out of my misery.. I knew it was a mistake. I had even changed his name in my phone so when I saw a text from “Lying Cheating Pig”, why didn’t I just say go away? Well I didn’t so the vulnerable me started to emerge and I heard the me who was suffering heart ache over time once again. I had the audacity to ask him today if he missed me and he replied, “Sometimes and sometimes not” : ( ..Instant chain saw to the heart. Now it is startling clear to me that I have not done the work towards emotional freedom and healthy self esteem.. because clearly if I had one, I wouldn’t have to share this story about how I let this jerk through my door. I realize I am still weighing my self worth on what this guy thinks.. that it validates me to know he’s still thinking of me. Why does this even feel good? When everything else he did feel so bad, why would I take any pride from this? So I am also learning that my ego has little to do with my self esteem.. and all this time I thought I was getting stronger, I wasn’t.. I was relying on a false sense of self. So I open myself up here because I need to get real about my recovery from him. I screwed up.. but why can’t I see that it’s only a reflection of how I see myself that I chose to engage (AGAIN) with someone who has been so horrible to me? Instead of thinking he’s the bees knees and what is wrong with me that he doesn’t think I am good enough for him? Yikers.

    • JB says:

      @ Gingerbell

      Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s kind of like smoking- you DID quit him for a while, you were successful in that, and you slipped up. Doesn’t invalidate the hard work you’ve done and you should focus on that. Just get back on the horse.

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Gingerbell, I had a rough weekend too, although I didn’t agree to meet him or let him in the door. Don’t beat yourself up. You just screwed up that’s all. We’ve all screwed up and we’ve all made mistakes. Get right back on the NC wagon and back to work. I don’t think your last 8 mos have been wasted as you seem to imply. There’s just more work to do. Like Natalie saide: “Like forgiveness, self-esteem isn’t something that has to wait until you’re done with processing all the anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment, pain, sorrow, shame, blame, the who, what, where’s and how’s, and the whole kit and kaboodle.”

      He sounds like a jerk and he is the jerk, not you. If you can, separate him and his actions from you and your actions, like Natalie said in this article. I saw the difference between my ex MM and me very clearly this weekend when we talked. His problems and lack of unavailability have nothing whatsoever to do with me. Forgive yourself for screwing up and back to NC. My brush with the ex reinforced why I am NC. We will get to the point where when they call, we can just laugh instead of pick up.

      • Gingerbell says:

        Thank you. He just has a way of making me feel like it’s all my fault. He told me yesterday that I “push and push” and always did “smother” him and that is why he can’t be in a relationship. I guess by smothering him he means that I preferred him come home (eventually) at night, that he treat me like a valued member in the relationship etc.. Then I started to think, did I do this? Because I am not secure enough to believe I not pushy or smothering? It was challenging to hear that again because it’s not something I believe myself to be, in fact I thought the opposite. I don’t know anyone who would put up with so much from one guy and continued to love him whole heartedly. I guess that is his definition of smothering.
        I have to get back on the horse , for sure and try to pick up where I left off. It’s hard. I realize a hiccup can draw you right back to that place of grief pretty quickly which is why now, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to let an ex through the door. I need to refrain from giving this guy so much credit.

      • cavewoman says:

        Runnergirl said it right Gingerbell,
        this time around it only took you a few hours… it’s not whether it still hurts, it’s how fast you start doing what’s good for you once it’s hurting. These people are trouble. It hurts because they are trouble, not because you’re weak … This would hurt anyone in your position. It’s like being re-traumatized, with post-traumatic stress… it’s a normal and natural reaction. I’m so sorry he got to you … you’re doing the right thing, getting back to NC, getting support here. Take care of yourself!

  26. grace says:

    Terrific post
    Self-esteem is not about being a bighead or thinking you’re better than other people. And having low self-esteem doesn’t make you a hopeless wimp who can’t achieve anything.
    For me, having low self-esteem manifested itself in a complete inability to make decisions concerning my relationships.I’d end up with men I didn’t even like much just because they pursued and I went along with it. I even married someone because I was unable to say no. Time and again I see posts from women who know they should leave but can’t. They can’t exercise control over their own lives. It’s like stuff just happens to us.
    I’d add this as an important marker of good self-esteem. The ability to assess a situation and make a decision. Not just obssess about it (though we call it analysing cos it sounds more scientific).

    • jennynic says:

      “The ability to assess a situation and make a decision.” So true, to often we do assess it and then do nothing (we complain)…..we see the writing on the wall but need to be slapped in the face with it before we do anything about it. I am so guilty of that.

      • grace says:

        Aw Jenny, it’s not about being guilty or to blame. We use these terms because we’ve no other way of seeing the world – we’re doing something wrong, we’re guilty, we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, we have to be better, different, more this, less that etc.
        You ARE good enough already, just as you are. You just need to believe it. And when you believe it, you’ll believe you can make decisions and in the choices you make. We shouldn’t go the other way and be blindly arrogant and not admit any mistakes, but I that’s the least of our worries.

    • CC says:

      Exactly… about gaining the ability to look at what a man is offering you objectively and making decisions based on that. Taking control of your love life and putting yourself in the driver’s seat because YOU can decide and act upon who you will allow in. Not just take whatever is on offer because it feels good in the short term.

  27. GoldieGirl says:

    Oh God. Ouch. As I read this my first thought was “…. but I’m NOT good enough. If I was my EUM would change and love me.” Constantly trying to “win” him. But if I do, is he really the prize I want ? Like GTash, I have always been attracted to the men who said they never wanted to get married. I was determined to change their minds. I believed if I could get someone like that to marry me then I must be “good enough”. Long line of disastrous painful relationships culminating in this current one – my finest yet. The usual voice in my head is my mother, who would most days tell me I was ugly, unloved, unpopular and hard-hearted and sometimes – very rarely – that I was beautiful and clever. Guess which version of me I believe? But at least I now know, that if I can only find that friendly, kind “little voice” somewhere in my head, I have hope.

    Thanks everyone for sharing.

  28. jennynic says:

    I was doing well and working hard to sort out my baggage and my self esteem was getting better after 10 months of NC from an ex AC, but I have hit a few bumps in the road just recently over a new relationship and tonight caught myself saying to my own reflection in the mirror, “welcome back stupid”. I took a few steps backward this past couple months and engaged in defending my boundaries too many times and wasn’t being taken seriously. Tonight he pushed them again so I told him to leave, handed him a pile of his things….then got called a bitch as he left. This stung and made me feel kind of low but now after a few hours I am feeling okay and am glad I stood up for myself. I’m learning that having some self esteem or boundaries isn’t going to make everyone respect you. Its hard not to take it personally. The ones that don’t never will and its time to walk away. Although walking away can be hard it gives you back our power and teaches you to respect YOURSELF. This is the road to self esteem. Working on your self esteem when you are coming from a place where you had very little left is hard work . I also was bullied and picked on as a child, had a very dysfunctional family, a cheating lying dad and a mom with no self esteem and let him walk all over her. I grew up not trusting in anyone and had no idea what it meant to be respected or what a healthy relationship looked like. I am just now learning in my 40′s. This site has been really helpful to keep me in check, even when I take a few steps backwards. I can’t see myself going under like I always did in the past. The self esteem I have gained is a little like walking around on new legs, still a little wobbly but I have both feet on the ground. I have to remind myself that I decide the direction I walk and to be proud for the progress I have made instead of calling myself stupid when I make a mistake.

    • leisha says:

      Jennynic: great! Not only did you demonstrate respect of yourself but respect for yourself…bet you shocked that fool…good for you. Yep, it’s tough. There are consequences to standing up for yourself. Many jerks who fed on you will be disgruntled. Yep, they’ll try and put you down. However, in the process of showing their displeasure they are telling you who they are and you are gaining insight into them. That in itself is priceless learning.

      • jennynic says:

        I did learn a lot about him by his reaction to me. I feel all funky today, a little sad, a little hollow, and having annoying doubts about my perception. I keep reminding myself that specifically because the issue was not a huge one, but was important to me none the less, it is a good indicator of how he handles me needing something. I have been supportive of his issues, and my life has been very open to him, my home, my shower, my kitchen, my hangouts (he lives in a place with no shower or kitchen). This wasn’t being reciprocated, he spent lots of time with me but whenever he went to his favorite places, somehow I never got included or invited. I felt left out and like he was comfortable with the relationship when it was in my world, not his. He wouldn’t budge. He is not married or involved with anyone else, but I felt like he was keeping me separate from parts of his life when he felt very comfortable being immersed in mine. I started to feel like I was being used. It would of been simple enough to just invite me once but he dug his feet in deeper. He gave me a ‘one time in bandcamp story’. I bought it for a day or so but realized that no matter his reasons, it still wasn’t okay with me that he was minimizing something that was making me uncomfortable and it made me have less trust in him. Things weren’t balanced, he had a chance to make it right but refused and dumped the blame on me.

        • jennynic says:

          I want to add that his issues involve alcoholism and pot. I was warned by a few of you that this was a no win for me, and you were all correct. As predicted, his first love is his beer. He texted me this morning that he was sorry and that he wasn’t hiding anything, loves me, but just needs more room to be him. What I need makes no difference.
          i sucked it and saw.

          • NML says:

            Jennynic, must say I was surprised to twig that this is the guy from a few months back if I recall correctly. Only you know why you would try to make yourself the exception to the rule of a worldwide known problem. There are a million guys like him doing the exact same thing no doubt disappointing a similar number of partners. He’s not special or unusual.

    • Elle says:

      jennynic – I’ve had v similar experiences: an AC, followed by a brief encounter with an EUM who also responded terribly to ANY boundary-enforcing, right down to simple things like me saying I felt too tired to do something. This led to him calling me a b*tch late last week, for not being up for a booty call (not my scene!). I had a day of feeling a bit unsure about myself – mainly because it hit a nerve about me being hyper-aware (I haven’t quite recalibrated since the AC, getting better though), but then I realised that that’s a separate issue to enforcing a healthy boundary. I’m now back on Team Elle. I think you should stay on your Team too. Dignity is good. It’s everything. Love and honesty attach to dignity.

      • jennynic says:

        NML, I guess I felt like I had become stronger and was in control of things more when I first started dating him and didn’t know these things about him. I was wrong, I had a hard time walking away when I new it was really my only sane option. Truth is, I am lonely and he filled up that space for me. I am not in love with him, but feel hurt and disappointed, because I did like him. I feel shakey now about myself. I am trying not to beat myself up about it, but I knew the road I was walking down. Grace said something earlier on this post that made sense for what I was doing…..about being able to assess the info but not acting on it. Thats what I did and I did need to get slapped in the face with the info before I made a move. I guess I still need to be the exception deep down, still seeking validation, and am having a hard time undoing this type of thinking, as much as I want to change it. I thought I might be ready for a relationship, clearly I am not and failed my own test. Now I feel like crap and I did it to myself. I don’t know how to get down into the heart of these things in me and unravel them, but I will get back up on the horse and keep trying.

  29. Zsuzsi says:

    “Take off the lens that says you’re not good enough – you’ll discover a whole new world with new possibilities with you in them.”

    For me, learning about feminism did it. That, I found out, is actually viewing things from a DIFFERENT perspective.
    Everything you consider as normal or given in life, society, relationships between any kind of people, choices, roles, economy, whatever- all which determines your sense of self without you knowing- can be questioned.

  30. debra says:

    I found this website in the midst of the pain and anguish of having an abusive, narcissistic man hurt me. What a strange long journey it has been. What lead me here was him but what I have found is me. I have to admit, focusing on him and his problems were easier but it is what I am learning about myself that is invaluable.

    For the first 45 years of my life, I convinced myself that my mother loved me. You couldn’t have made me think otherwise. Now, having shed countless layers of denial, I have to admit she doesn’t – not because there is anything wrong with me (although that is a completely new thought in my life, as this post points out) or because she is evil. She doesn’t love herself and has nothing to give to me, no matter how hard she might try or may want to. No wonder I ended up chasing assclowns.

    Not everyone who doesn’t love is bad or evil or an assclown. Mostly, they just don’t love themselves. Same goes for me. I thought I was the healthy, loving one in the relationship with the AC but until I learn to love me, all I was trying to do was get someone to feel about me the way I couldn’t feel about myself. Whether that is low self-esteem or something else – put whatever label works for you on it and then work to fix it.

  31. JB says:

    Thanks again NML. This is something I’m really working on. My issue right now is that my ex who dumped me about a month ago was definitely EU- but I don’t really have any reason to believe (or disbelieve) that he was that way before me or will be that way after me. It’s not like there is string of ex girlfriends to indicate this is just how he is. So It is hard to believe that it has nothing to do with me, and very easy to believe I just wasn’t good enough! My therapist is trying to wean me of this kind of thinking, but… slow progress

  32. j d says:

    The comments are mostly by people with low self-esteem. It’s also difficult to date those with self-esteem problems, if they are not dealing with them.

    My ex had issues from her childhood and in our relationship alternated between clingy and flight response. The closer we got, the bigger the swings. I tried to accept it because I saw many good qualities in her which she couldn’t see. We had never traveled together and my suggesting that we go on vacation for a few days panicked her. After disappearing for three days, and me sending an ‘I’m done’ email, she called me. It was our last conversation, and she finally admitted that she was afraid to let herself be happy. What a sad life.

    • gala says:

      Indeed. Poor girl. And for her to have received no support or understanding either…that must have been tough on her.

    • leisha says:

      jd, this is why Natalie suggests not dating until we have the self-esteem to do so. The woman you were seeing needed help. Hopefully she will get it. It would be nice if she knew about this site.

      • leisha says:

        In addition to having self-esteem, we all need the tools to counteract those who would knock us down if we didn’t have the additional tools of boundaries and knowledge of the many games that people play. It is not enough to have self-esteem alone if you don’t know what to do to protect yourself.

        • leisha says:

          jd, the person you were seeing may not have been aware of her intimacy problems until they hit her while with you. It is possible that you acted as a catalyst for her. I firmly believe that no experience is wasted. The unfortunate thing about childhood and adolescent wounds is we are getting taught and unable to resist the learning at that time due to lack of experience. Searching for the answers after experiencing things that just don’t feel good is part of the reprograming that so many of us have had to do. It must have been difficult for you, but there is hope for her. I think that you have probably gained knowledge from the experience as well. Many of us have been in hers and your shoes. Experiencing things from both ends is very educational. It can definately aid in developing empathy and compassion if you let it.

          • j d says:

            As far as her knowing about the site, I considered sending her the link but decided against it. She isn’t my business any more; that was her choice. I only found this site while researching her behavior and decided to hang around a bit; I’m learning.

            If the other respondent above is inferring that I was not supportive, I can assure you that my one paragraph does not encompass the entire relationship, or my attempts to hold it together, or her behavior in it, or my feelings at things ending. I hope you don’t have to experience what I did in a relationship; it wasn’t pleasant.

            • NML says:

              j d, I’m sorry. I just had a look at the comment you were referring to and I should apologise as I must have been half asleep approving comments yesterday morning.

              Gala, I hold my hands up – I shouldn’t have published your comment and must have misread it because I now see that you are basically saying that j d was of no support and being very judgemental which is not appropriate or within commenting guidelines.

              Just like there is only so much that many other readers can tolerate, j d has a *right* to respect his own boundaries and to honour his own judgement of what is a pretty damn difficult situation for *both* of them and to opt out of a situation that is causing him to end up detracting from himself. It is not the job of a partner to play Florence.

              • Natasha says:

                I really like that this came up, because it really drives home the point of what bad self esteem can do to a potentially healthy relationship. When we find our self esteem and self respect, we find that relationships with EUM’s and AC’s don’t work for us anymore. Likewise, you can’t expect a man with healthy relationship habits to think it works for him to be constantly propping up low self esteem and have his relationship needs fall by the wayside because of the woman on the other end of the equation’s issues. Those of us who’ve been involved with EUM’s and AC’s can forget that there are men out there who WANT to do things that future fakers bs about, i.e. vacations, moving in together, marriage, etc. I think that part of the reward for improving self esteem is the chance to get into a relationship where these things actually are on offer and it’s selling ourselves short not to do the work on ourselves that gives us that chance.

              • NML says:

                J d just to update – I had a response from Gala who says that there was a misunderstanding, it wasn’t intended to be judgemental and that she was referring to your ex not having friends or family support and being a loner, or at least assuming that she doesn’t.

                • leisha says:

                  Wasn’t this just an excellent lesson in communication?! Standing up for oneself, checking out an issue for whether it was understood, receiving feedback. Wow. Lessons in action. Just goes to show how things can become misconstrued so fast without intending to do so…I’m so proud of us here!

          • Magnolia says:

            jd

            I’ll start with a disclaimer: your words are so close to those my ex-AC used to describe me that I almost wondered if you were him, and was quite triggered. I travelled with my ex, however, so I’m assuming you’re not.

            My ex was unavailable himself, and my low-self-esteem contributed to my being in the relationship with him, and I exhibited escalating cling/flight behaviour as I tried to figure stuff out. He narrated quite a few of his past relationships as having been with women who “just couldn’t accept him being good to her” and “believed they didn’t deserve happiness.” I said such things about myself, too, to the ex when I was very confused.

            It was one of the toughest bits of mindfoolery I dealt with was having this guy call my resistance to choosing him a resistance to being happy. He saw himself as the most supportive guy ever, and while in some ways he was the most showily “giving” guy ever, calling every day, talking to me at length about my misgivings, financially supportive, he refused to acknowledge the ways in which it worked for him for me to have low self esteem.

            He surely would describe me in the terms you use for your ex. So I wonder if you’ve looked at Nat’s article on the unavailability of exes reflecting aspects of oneself?

  33. Magdalena says:

    This is a great post.

    I used to think that I’d suddenly be awarded self-esteem some day, like a one time trophy.

    Now I know that its the sum of all of the little things I do every single day that show that I am completely committed to making myself the biggest priority in my life.

    It is, in other words, a constant process rather than a static state.

    Onward.

    • annemari says:

      Like button!!!! :)

      “Now I know that its the sum of all of the little things I do every single day that show that I am completely committed to making myself the biggest priority in my life.”

  34. gala says:

    “You’ll be cautious of people that don’t have similar outlooks and if you get involved with them you may think they’re ‘too nice’…”
    “You’ll find any and all reasons to take a parachute and jump or sabotage when things are going well. ”
    How can you tell if you are sabotaging a good relationship or just looking after yourself by opting out of a bad relationship?
    Sometimes there’s a lot of manipulating when the guy tries to convince you that you see things in a wrong way and there are times when you do see things in a wrong way. Sometimes it’s a very subtle crossing of a boundary that you may not even be convinced it’s a good one (and you have it because you know you have issues). How can you tell the difference?

  35. gina says:

    You are so right about the importance of having self-esteem. That is something I have been working on. As much as I know I am a person of value, the years of being abused in my childhood and adulthood (mainly because I was living in an unconscious fog, surrounded by toxicity) there is almost a battle wound that at times, I’m not sure how to heal. I was reading about codependency and their need to be a victim and that definitely rung a bell with me. For some reason, as much as I try to rationalize, I’m still getting acquaited with people treating me with respect, kindness, etc… it’s like I’m nervous to be me at times and it feels unnatural at this point (at times) to bond with my peers. When my parents went through their divorce, my dad being an abuser and my mom an addict, I was constantly rejected in school, then when I went out in the world at a young age, I continued dysfunctional actions/relationships, until I hit my mid twenties, had my share of unavailables, heartaches, toxic friendships and seeing a cloud of fog over me. Now, things are alot brighter. I’m just wondering when I can shake these feelings of inadequency, it’s a deep wound, and I suppose it takes time! Thanks for your post.

  36. EmLAW says:

    For anyone who has read my posts I am trying very hard to break this bond I have with a MM. The BS Diet post started me down the right path and then the Relationship Drivers and Co-Piolets send me further down the path but for some reason reading this post made everything so beautifully clear to me.

    ITS NOT ME, ITS HIM!!! You can not tell someone you are building a foundation together and make them believe and trust in the foundation and be married to someone else. I am way too important a person to accept crumbs or to be putting my life on hold while he jerks me around…playing with my emotions on a daily basis. The truth is at this point no contact can not possibily be as painful as the hot and cold, daily dissapointments I am getting now. My time and my life are far too important to have to keep reminding someone how I need to be treated only to go back to the same ole same ole the next day.

    I may faulter along the way but I honestly think that I have just had
    “the moment” I needed to stand up and walk away. I can honestly say thank god he only broke my heart and didn’t ruin my whole life or spirit!

    Thank you Natalie! Thank you everyone.

    • runnergirl says:

      EmLaw, I’ve been reading your posts and I’m right there with you trying to break the bond with an MM. Around Christmastime, I got to the point where no pain could be as bad as the unspeakable pain of being the Other Woman. After 5 months NC, with a few slips via telephone, I can tell you with certainty, the pain of being without him is bad; the pain of being the Other Woman was unpeakable, at least for me. It sounds like you may there too.

      Re: Foundation with a MM: I had the same relevation one day when I read Natalie’s article on being the “Exception to the Rule” (great article and great comments). My take-away was: By definition, a MM is unavailable. MM’s rarely leave their wives for the mistress. Therefore, there is no relationship, foundation or future with a MM unless you are willing to sit on the sidelines and settle for crumbs for maybe ever. When I finally got it, I wanted to run down the street screaming “I’m not going to be the exception to the rule”. Wahoo!
      I broke 5 something months of NC this weekend for a phone conversation with him. I realized the exact same thing. IT IS HIM, NOT ME. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not absolving myself of lying, cheating, and decieving everybody. I’ve done my share of beating myself up over my role in the duplicity. After I was done, I realized I want to have a happy, healthy, committed, exclusive, co-piloted relationship and he cannot offer that. He is still unwillingly to address his issues. However, I’m willing to address mine, starting with my self-esteem and boundaries.

      You are too valuable, worthy, and important to be jerked around by a MM and so am I. We are here if you decide to do NC. I’d be happy to exchange email addresses if that is permitted and there is a mechanism. I know the folks on this site and Natalie provided me with such invaluable assistance when I finally realized the only way out is through. My best to you.

      • EmLAW says:

        My MM would/could go on like this for ever…so he would be considered a cake eater too I guess! I am trying a new approach…stepping away quietly but very nicely. I would love to swap MM stories.

  37. Oldenoughtoknowbetter says:

    I have been reading these posts and I would just like to say something about the physical attractiveness = self esteem. NOT! Both of my parents are very attractive people, and therefore their children are all attractive. We are not supermodels, but even at almost 50 my sisters and I all still turn heads. I am also very educated and have a high paying job in a lucrative field. I know I am attractive, successful, etc…and I still have low self esteem and issues with validation and feeling worthy and dating the wrong guys. I do not have to listen to a little inner voice that tells me I am “good looking” enough for any guy I date, my inner voice believes I am not worthy because my dad is an asshole who hates women, no matter how attractive they are, therefore I am unworthy just because I am FEMALE!! I have a great friend who was born with facial deformities. I mean serious ones, she was born with her eyes on the side of her head and almost no nose and has endured many surgeries just to look somewhat normal. If I ever had to call someone physically unattractive, it would be her. And yet she has a great job, a great life, dates a lot, and has way more self-esteem than I do. Once I asked her why she was so confident and she told me her family loved her so much and told her this so often that she didn’t even know she was different until she was about 5 years old! Her family gave her everything she needed INSIDE to be a happy, confident person! So which parents would you have rather had, mine with great genes or hers, with great hearts? BTW, I admire and love her very much, and she has more friends than anyone I know.

    One last comment: sometimes I walk around in a bubble and I don’t recognize that someone got a new hairstyle or lost 20 lbs! From now on, after reading this, I am going to try to be better at sincerely complimenting people, as so many of you have said you feel invisible. But others may be like me, they are just so focused on their own little lives they are not even noticing, and you do look absolutely wonderful, whether all of us out here notice or not!!! :-)

  38. Lynda from L says:

    Thanks Natalie. This article moved me so much, but also moved me to action, recognition of myself and how I treat others.
    Those of us with low self esteem either have learned how to ‘fake it’ I personally have faked self esteem for years…in all sorts of personal, work situations. I use humour a lot, learned in childhood, to try and evaporate tension or anger against me. It helps the other person but not yourself. You laugh… but still feel put down,chastised inside.
    I realized reading the article how difficult it has always been for me to ask for help, not my role, I help others!!
    I hate above all things to be pitied…therefore,I used to get my esteem needs met helping others. If I was the helper then they wouldn’t see how unhappy or confused I was.
    It remains today, as I write this, one of the biggest challenges to my developing healthy relationships. I am not always the ‘Healthy Fixer’… I need work too,help, and to ask for that.
    As I read my post back, it is the perfect or ‘imperfect’ summation of my early relationships with my parents and this article has helped me, in a great way, to remind myself that although I am a product of this..the product can be altered.

  39. T says:

    Oh gosh, isn’t it true? Let me give a very simple example:

    Last night I was trying to hug my daughter but she wouldn’t let me. Shortly after, she began to cry hysterically over something she’d done and thought I’d be mad at her. As much as I tried to console her, comfort her and hold her close, she wouldn’t let me. It wasn’t until she finally came clean that she’d taken some money from my purse that she felt better. Then, when I tried to hold her, she allowed me to.

    Funny how when we’re not being our true authentic selves, in other words, we believe the “lies” of unworthiness, we push love away too. When we finally come clean as imperfect but always worthy that we accept the love that is offered all around us.

    Great, as always Natalie!

  40. Cinderella says:

    This is so important. Perfect timing, Nat. Thank you.

    I still don’t have it in terms of believing good things can happen to me romantically.

    I’ve learned to have the self-esteem to screen out the bad; but yesterday someone told me that they had someone for me to meet and my first thought was ‘oh he won’t want me, it’ll never work’.

    That whole self-talk and learning how to change my perceptions and belief syystems is something I still need to do a lot of work on.

  41. Low-La says:

    I really needed to read this. I have been crying in the bathroom all day at work and crying reading this post. I have no self esteem whatsoever and because of this I cling to a bf that I”m not sure if he’s treating me badly or if it’s just me being hyper-sensitive to the slightest thing. when we fight and it seems like we are going to break up AGAIN (it’s happened about a half dozen times in the past 8 months or so) I just dissolve and can’t function. I have so little confidence in myself, despite people telling me I’m gorgeous, funny, smart, talented, that I can’t imagine that there will be anyone else in my life ever and can’t even imagine how I will function and go on. When we fight, I don’t eat and just lay in bed and cry, like I am now. I’ve just found a therapist and will see her again in a few days, but not sure how i will make it till then. I’ve tried with other therapists to work on self esteem,but I’ve never had one person on my side, ever. I was abused by all members of my family (i’m the youngest) and now have only one half-decent friend I can talk to and feel like I”m a burden to him so try not to contact him too much. Mine is not a little voice saying not good enough, it’s a booming loudspeaker and I can’t shut it off.
    I’m glad I read this today.

    • annemari says:

      Wow, this reminds me of an ex-boyfriend:

      You said:

      “I’m not sure if he’s treating me badly or if it’s just me being hyper-sensitive to the slightest thing.”

      I looked back over my old diaries and journals and realized that I had been so preoccupied with this question. Not trusting myself.
      I just want to say that if it feels like he is treating you badly, he probably is.

      May all of us learn to trust ourselves more, and love ourselves.

  42. Sydney Wilson says:

    Thank you Natalie, for sharing your own past in this May 9th blog regarding low self esteem. (I just bought NCR and it is helping me tremendously.) I am wrting to simply say Thank You for your creation of this badly needed blog, Baggage Reclaim. I just discovered it!
    Sincerely,
    SBW
    Annapolis, MD USA

  43. Emily says:

    Natalie,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all your words of wisdom and for telling us “straight up” these messages that we didn’t learn early on. I’m nearly 4 months NC from my “Epiphany Relationship”. I’ve bought your books and read your blogs — drinking in words and a way of viewing relationships that I never had before. I started therapy two months ago, and for the first time in my 40+ years I’m dealing with my abusive childhood and dysfunctional models I had for relationships, and I’ve returned to my “higher power” — so that I can keep my focus on something bigger and more important.

    I love your expressions and they have become like mantras to me: “Trust, Care, Respect, Mutual Love, Progression, and Building Bridges” — wow! Those are all like foreign concepts to me. I love how you make things real and your phrases are great “relationship intelligence”, “future faking”, “fast forward”, “just using you for as an emotional airbag and ego stroke”, “building sandcastles”, “dating is discovery not a relationship”– these are all great images and powerful words and they’ve become my landmarks to assess my past. (I’m staying away from dating for awhile, but I’m hoping these will become so engrained in me that they will help me when I do decide to date again).

    I also so appreciate how you are real about your own childhood and that it continues to be a daily journey and you have to just keep at it with your own family. That was really helpful for me. This latest post was extremely helpful and made me laugh at myself … my whole history with me can be summarized by your phrase ” = something wrong with me = I’m not good enough”. Thanks for keeping it real with us, and putting your experience in such wonderful terms that helps shake my distorted thinking. I know I need to keep hearing these same messages…

    You rock! :)

  44. Magnolia says:

    I’d like to second Gala’s question, “How can you tell if you are sabotaging a good relationship or just looking after yourself by opting out of a bad relationship?” Maybe growth is exactly that, being able to tell.

    Tonight I’m putting forth some effort to stay grounded after an intense confrontation with my roommate. She said some stuff yesterday – she is a white woman who sometimes makes comments about race that to me are insensitive, not because she’s mean, but because she genuinely feels she is an understanding person and sometimes decides she can ‘relate’ to me by telling me of an experience of hers that I’m supposed to take to mean she ‘gets’ where I’m coming from when I express an opinion.

    Yesterday she said something that made me so mad I immediately decided to go for a walk rather than explode. When I came back, I meant to stay out of her path until I’d cooled down, but she asked if I was okay, so I told her that when she said x, I was very angry. I stayed as calm as I could, used communicative language, tried to emphasize that our relationship was important to me so I wanted to walk and decompress before expressing how I felt.

    She went and cried in the bathroom, I went out, she went to bed before I got back, left before I got and now has not come home. I feel like I’m supposed to apologize for getting mad and that “something is wrong with me” for being (so) angry.

    It’s like I’m not sure what level of anger is appropriate. And am I sabotaging something good? Or taking a risk to express a boundary? Either way it’s a big blip in our otherwise getting along and even though I do think she was insensitive, I think she’s no more insensitive than a lot of people, so …

    I don’t know what is the most self-loving attitude to take to this conflict. I was mad at myself afterward for saying, well, you know my experiences make me super-sensitive to this stuff … and mad that in our conversation she defended her actions.

    This reminds me so much of fights I’d have with the ex-AC where I’d end up apologizing for being too sensitive that I’m confused: have I been ignoring how I really feel about my roommate’s behaviour, as well, or am I still hypersensitive and needing to…

    • grace says:

      magnolia
      racists are tricky. it’s not based on logic so it’s impossible to argue or discuss. and not all racists are obnoxious, if only it were that simple. so you feel that you can discuss with them – they seem okay and “mean no harm”. but you can’t. in my dealings with anti-semites and anti- blacks and anti-whatever, i just say “that’s racist”, make it plain I disagree. and leave it at that.
      there really is no point trying to get them to see your point of view.
      i think you’ve got two options – (i) don’t discuss it (like religion and politics) and put some polite distance between you or (ii) decide that your values are too different and make the break, which will probably involve moving out.
      Setting a boundary etc does not necessarily mean that the two of you have to be close and friendly. It may require a respectable distance.
      By the way, I dropped all contact with the racists – in the end it just wasn’t worth it. There’s enough decent people in the world.
      On the other hand, if we all stuck to people who were exactly the same as us, no-one would ever develop or change. So, it’s your call. Just don’t doubt yourself or question yourself too much. You know the right thing to do for you.

      • Magnolia says:

        Thanks Grace.

        “Not all racists are obnoxious” is right. This is one of the biggest hurdles for me in trusting my own gut and validating my own feelings.

        I feel like I have attracted / been attracted by a particular kind of person who generally thinks of themselves as helping the downtrodden, and then running into friction first when I feel lumped into their “helped” pile, and then when they say something that shows that their interest in people of other cultures has an element of adding to their resume (“I did a summer internship in Cuba,” “I volunteered in Africa”).

        I just find it so damn condescending and thoughtless when she equates going overseas and dating a non-white AC who tried to knock her self-esteem around race and returning home to her secure status in North America, to my North American childhood and adolescence marked by racial abuse and a lifetime of living and working in a place where I will be asked where I am from for the rest of my life, and to this day find myself in executive rooms where I’m the only one who looks like me and everyone else is the same colour.

        This kind of thing makes self-esteem, for me, a pursuit that goes well beyond finding a good date. I want to find men and friends who don’t think they’re living some kind of personal United Colors of Benetton because they’ve befriended a brown woman.

        But no one I’ve ever met would ever admit to doing that. No one who is pulling that is going to validate my perception – friends of colour might be able to relate and say yes, that has happened to me, too – but as if they were EUMs, I keep going back to these benevolent helper people to try to ask them/tell them why and how they are subtlely taking advantage of me. But “they’re not going to educate us on how to avoid people like themselves!”

        And like EUMs, they may not have done it intentionally. They might not even know they are doing it. But until I get my self-esteem in check, and stop expecting to be disadvantaged by my own race, it seems I’m going to keep drawing in this breed of Florences.

        • NML says:

          Hi Magnolia. I thought that sharing a story may help here.

          I was brought up in Dublin from the age of 10 and for many people in their thirties from there, I or someone in my family, are the first black person they met. In a country that associated black folk with the kids on Trocaire collection boxes, I was a novelty and a curiosity.

          I have many great memories of growing up there and still maintain many of my friendships, but being black took its toll. From relationship problems blamed on me being black, to being taunted, verbally abused, called a N by a ‘friend’ that was angry that a guy was interested in me, to being harassed at work and called a N. I had some serious identity issues and felt very confused about both the positive and negative attention I received. I was relieved to travel to the US and then moved to the UK over 10 years ago. Great! I thought. No colour issues. Within 2 weeks I was being stalked at university by a black guy that thought I should want to be with him and his friends. He roughed me up one day and it was witnessed and he was asked to leave. I felt like I couldn’t get away from myself. I wished that these things didn’t happen and that people didn’t say things.
          Now I had two choices – be idealistic and wait around for the world to be perfect or deal with how I felt about me. It doesn’t change what happened but when you embrace your colour and your identity and assume that you are valid and welcome until someone says otherwise (and then deal with it as it arises), the ability to be affected by other peoples ignorance, racism, and other such stuff is reduced. It’s not that some of those things won’t still hurt but they hurt more when you have your own issues with your race or when your self- esteem is low. Also I don’t expect people not to notice I’m black and I have many friends of other races and I think sincere people, curious or not, aren’t trying to stage a Benetton ad. Also while I take your point about your friend I do think that you have to respect the validity of her experience. She may not have worded it right or intended to convey that you have equal experiences but that doesn’t invalidate her experience. My mother once told me that when we (her kids) experience something bad that she tends to think it’s not as bad as something that’s happened to her…

    • Allison says:

      Magnolia,

      If she didn’t mean to make a racist comment, I would apologize for blowing up.

      I was with a group of friends, when one of my female friends made an inappropriate comment about gays-my brother was gay and I have many gay friends. She wasn’t trying to be mean but, it was a stupid comment. I calmly told her that her comment was inappropriate and was hurtful to me. She apologized and we were able to move on.

      If someone does not say something maliciously, I think we should make them aware of the inappropriateness of their comments-I know I’ve made enough stupid comments- or how else will they know.

      It does not sound like she is trying to hurt you, but that she is unaware.

      • Magnolia says:

        @Natalie:
        Thank you for sharing your story; it helps to hear how issues of self-esteem intersect with the realities of the world. I don’t think all my friends are doing the Benetton thing. The dynamic I’m describing, I think, fits my own pattern of having low-self esteem and sometimes drawing in people who like to be around that as it makes them feel more solid. This isn’t everyone I know; but when I do encounter this dynamic I have always felt it was my fault for not teaching them to treat me with a peer’s respect. I have friends who love me for my strengths and a few who take some comfort from my weakness; more and more I’m seeing which of those people are which.

        That said I do think she has been through her own hell with ACs. Our conversations have an element of one-upmanship that isn’t confined to whose-pain-is-worse; and sometimes if I say I had a meeting with so-and-so, her next line is “I had a meeting with Super-So-And-So.” That annoys me, too, so I work on my own competitiveness that fuels such conversations. I do have a hard time when I think someone is saying their pain was equivalent to mine. If we’re going to talk about it, I want the specificity acknowledged. Maybe I’m the only one who can give me that.

        @Allison:
        I didn’t blow up. I went out specifically so I would be able to speak calmly. She is indeed unaware, but also is heavily invested in thinking of herself as already aware. I did my best to communicate that I knew she didn’t do it on purpose.

        Again, maybe this is another instance of me assuming that because someone is an intellectual and is very accomplished in international relief, etc that they are more than they are emotionally. She has made mistakes like this before and I have mentioned it even more calmly before and found myself argued with.

        I’ve thought about it a lot over the past 24 hrs and am more confident, not less, that I need to accept my own assessment of my friend and not try to change her mind, or change her, but acknowledge that sometimes she says things that really don’t work for me. I’m strangely much more at peace when I allow that my roommate may not ever see things my way and that I’m not interested in apologizing or arguing.

        • Allison says:

          I’m sorry, I misunderstood, I thought she went away crying.

          The one-upmanship can be very annoying. Sign of insecurity.

          I think you’re right, in that you can not change her, and need to accept her for who she is. Might want to consider a new roommate.

  45. Magnolia says:

    … manage the kid in me?

    • Magnolia says:

      A follow up: my roommate and I had the talk that needed to happen, after two days of taking space (some intentional, some just because our schedules worked out that way).

      She did feel invalidated and very upset. I apologized for that, as straightforwardly as possible. I had no intention of invalidating her experience, especially not when invalidation is exactly what I felt was so wrong. She also gave me some information that put some of the things she has said repeatedly into the context that finally makes me understand why she kept bringing up a particular thing that happened to her as related to my experience.

      I was able to say more clearly how her words had affected me. She did not try to “relate.” I said there was a line where I felt that her saying, “Yeah, that happened to me too,” went from feeling like sharing experience to totally overwriting my reality. If anything, it was a good talk where we affirmed that we both have some pretty charged histories that get triggered by certain conversations, and that our experiences are both totally individualized and valid and real.

      I did not apologize for feeling as I did, nor did my roommate feel I had to, and we agreed that how I handled it was fine (go for a walk, cool down) and can even be the default course of action should something trigger either of us. We agreed that a code word might be good, something code for “I’m so upset I can’t talk carefully right now.”

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a conflict feel so genuinely resolved. We never talked through stuff in my family. This is a really hopeful experience.

      • NML says:

        Magnolia that’s fantastic and well done. You absolutely didn’t need to apologise for feeling as you did, especially as those feelings would still have existed after the apology. I love that you are gaining so much growth and insight from your experiences. Keep going x

        • Magnolia says:

          Thanks Natalie. I owe a lot of this year’s learning to Baggage Reclaim. Someone could write a women’s studies, social work or women’s health article on the community you’ve built through this blog and the real change it brings to people’s outlooks and their lives (said the academic ^ _ ^).

          I’m still pinching myself: you mean you can get this mad at someone, tell them about it, and it doesn’t have to mean they withdraw and start silently, or passive aggressively, punishing you? Amazing. Yay. This is a new standard of interaction I never realized I could hope for.

  46. Ria says:

    Take off the lens that says you’re not good enough – you’ll discover a whole new world with new possibilities with you in them.

    I have to say this last sentence of the topic, is so true. I had been suffering from an AC EUM, for 5 years, and l belived, that l had not only the future, but l lacked that something, that makes ANY man to love me. (call it appeal or charm or…). It felt like living as half dead – you see life is happening around you, but somehow you are not taking part of it, even if you wanted to. And its not just your “wrong thinking”, its just that your wings are cut and you wont be able to fly.
    I realized that for me, changing the way l was thinking about myself (not good enough) somehow didnt work as fast. I started my mornings in a mood of: today it will benew day, and in the evening…it was all the same. i needed an action:
    -At first, l went to couple of events that were addressed to single people. I was surprised of how different the outcome was – l met couple of people (men) , who were like 180 degree different (and they still are my friends) they were treating me with value and respect. With no explanation, it boosted my self image rapidly and l saw that there ARE better options for me and the AC EUM isnt the standard of my happiness with men.
    -l took time to overcome my shyness and finally did some of my dreams come true, that l had planned long time.
    -l learned a very good and simple lesson – ask and you will be given.

    to sum it up, l slowly started to navigate my sinking Titanic into other direction and l saw, that if l stay home and keep thinking l am not good enough, l am missing the most important, and that is – that life with realizing, you actually HAVE hope, can be such a blessing.

  47. Fats says:

    Hi Nat
    it’s been long since I commented or said anything
    I read some makes sense and others I struggle with as I have just come to acceptence now with a lot of bitter swallowing!
    I wear these lenses everyday and have started at some pointnin my childhood
    my parents are a nightmare had 3 kids me being the eldest and I was my mothers dpong for abuse towards my father bur was always defensive when it came somone else pointing out as to what an asshole he was and is!
    I was never hugged held assured it was like just get on with it and mother always delibratley put me down in front of my sister and had to fend for myself still do and have done being a single parent myself

    married an EUM thought we bothe been through same so will make it work better and ofcourse I would be the exception to the rule only to be divorced after 7 yerars of hell of no talk action or intrest
    had to manage my son and myself and was doing well till I met somone else and was married in 10 months thinking he was Adonis and all I wanted with the red green and blue flags in my face and I just wanted to please and wirk at it when I knew he didn’t want my son didn’t accept me as a person religion age past marriage anything I was given a new identity that was acceptable my son was a piece of furniture when he did live with us and I didn’t deserve any better with the life as I had a child and s ugly past and everyday I kept sinking in that montonony of hate and black hole!
    I thought I was too lucky to have a handsome young man in mynlife but then ofcourse citizenship was on his great plans list so had to do with me till it all worked out and I handed it all on a platter lol
    so my self estemm doesn’t exist as all the people who have claimed to love me my parents partners gave damaged every shred of who I am was and now I’m a lost soul with a life that’s virtually robotic
    I cry almost everyday my son is probably thinking what a loser role model I have as a parent and I have to go to work in a place where my private life has been made a joke as my now husband works there I feel everyone talking about me hates me as my short fuses and patience is going I look good outside try working harder so I get validation but yes I don’t know if this is…

    • Magnolia says:

      Dear Fats (and I hope there is some fun reason, like Fats Domino, that you chose this name and that it is not an expression of how you feel about yourself)

      You have been through a lot and many things have happened in your life to make feeling good about yourself a real challenge. Please do keep coming back to this site, reading, and commenting; you will quickly learn who some of the other women (and men) are around here and learn that you are neither alone in your experiences nor hopeless.

      I can tell you, for example, that I cried every day from about age 10 to age 33, and a whole bunch in my 36th year while dating an AC. I respond particularly to your point about crying because just today as I was brushing my teeth I realized I haven’t cried feeling like a loser in months, when really it used to be such an every day thing I had stopped noticing how often I cried.

      I did notice that lately I was feeling good things about myself that I had never felt before, but only now realize that the tears dried up on their own, without me thinking about it, as I focused on what I like about me and learning to love me. I attribute a lot of that to the new ideas I’ve learned here, from the conversations that are generated by NML’s posts, and from the wisdom and humour of the other women.

      You aren’t sentenced to feeling like a loser and you aren’t one and you deserve love, care, trust and respect. You can find all those. Hugs!

  48. Tulipa says:

    I feel like I have made a little progress in regards to my self esteem, when events happen that make me feel like rubbish I usually look for a source to confirm that I am rubbish (in the form of an EUM).
    Just recently events have happened at work that had me feeling like I was a nobody now this would normally make me go running to an ex to confirm the diagnosis, this time I went home and thought about different ways I could handle the situation one of which proved most effective and my day was much better and the ex EUM remains in no contact because I am worthy and I’m starting to believe it.

  49. annemari says:

    Wow.
    I’m pursuing a guy who is on a break with his ex, told me that he was still in love with her, and Facebooks me instead of calling.
    All in all this is better than my ex, who was a definite ASSCLOWN as you put it.
    Still, in this situation, I am treating myself as if I deserve crumbs. And it’s because I don’t believe that I’m good enough to be really, truly loved and cherished. So I choose the wrong kind of guy… CHOOSE being the keyword here.

    :(

  50. annemari says:

    I’m glad this website exists. :) Thanks, all of you.

  51. Sue C says:

    Wow Natalie–once again it’s like you are inside of our heads. I don’t know how you do it.
    There are so many things that have touched me about this topic–one thing that stands out is the fact that this is such a “shared” issue. Everyone seems to be struggling and it just touches my heart to hear some that some have had some of my experiences and completely understand the day to day struggle. I, like Magnolia know what it is like to be called ugly to your face as a child and for that deep wound to follow you into adulthood. As a woman of color, it is particularly hard to find the beauty in yourself when you are constantly bombarded with images of beauty that in no way resemble you. As a woman of any color, it is hard to find the self love and self esteem that you read about but don’t actually FEEL. This blog is a wonderful place of healing!

  52. Judy says:

    I’ve been dealing with self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember. This website helped make me very conscious of them.

    My parents are affectionate and have always told me they loved me, but they did not do a very good job teaching me to love myself. Probably because they suffer from low self-esteem as well.

    I have a younger brother with medical issues and learning disabilities. So, in my house, there has always been two set standards: a higher set for me (I always had to have summer jobs, perfect grades, be the kid that stayed out of trouble), so my parents could focus on his problems.

    And even when I was being bullied in high school, my parents didn’t do much about it because they didn’t want to make waves. I didn’t stand up for myself. Initially, I had a big tough boyfriend who granted me a measure of protection. After we split (after a year long relationship, he started dating my best friend), I was left to defend myself. It wasn’t something I did very well. Every insult (about my hair, my looks, my ability as a musician) I secretly believed was true.

    My weak sense of self-worth has lead me to always go after the Mr. Unavailables. Even though my relationship with my high school boyfriend wasn’t working, I wanted him back from my best friend. From there on out, I dated long distance guys, guys that kept me a secret from their friends, guys with girlfriends, guys with fiancees. The fiancee guy was the last straw. I realized I couldn’t keep going down that road.

    I’m so conscious of the self worth thing now. I have a job I really like that helps contribute to a better feeling about myself, but still, I struggle. I found myself ending a very brief relationship with someone two weeks ago because he couldn’t get around to planning for a third date. He admitted to commitment issues, but I still found myself saying to him, “well, this wouldn’t be a problem if I was worth it.” I caught myself later, realizing, that the commitment problem was on him, not me.

    The hardest part, though, is even though I really like my work, I have to live at home with my folks because the pay is so low. The same childhood dynamics play out here. And I feel like I constantly battle to maintain my…

  53. Fats says:

    Thanks Magnolia
    just reading the comments and realising that I am not alone and that this website is my salvation on my tearful linley nights were the pangs of deceit and hurt crawl through

    it will take a lot to love myself but if you all can so will I

    Nat thanks for this blog in particular as self esteem issues aren’t discussed much and you have helped us realise so much

    hugs back Magnolia

  54. Happy Girl says:

    I would like to add a little story here. My self-esteem used to be based on what I thought other people throught of me, and whether or not they “liked” me or thought I was a “good person.” 4 years ago I moved to another state and met a guy. He turned out to have a girlfriend out of state. I dumped him, he dumped the out of state girlfriend, then started a relationship with another girl living in our town. She knew that he had dated me, and for some reason, he made up a nasty rumor about me that spread throughout their entire group of friends. Probably to make himself look good and ease whatever insecurities she might have had. It was a completely laughable rumor and not at all based on any truth. It was a really small town, and most of those people in that group ended up being my friends eventually. When one of them finally told me what that rumor was, I laughed my ass off. It occurred to me that had I known what they had really thought of me originally, I probably would have hid in my apartment or turned around and moved back home. Or worse, gotten so pissed that I started defending myself and making apologies for something I hadn’t even done, or wasting my energy “getting even.” (Not my usual style, but a tempting thing to do). It made me realize that I should NEVER let anyone else’s crappy behavior or negative opinion of me matter, even if I am aware of it. I would have missed out on so much otherwise. I acted like I didn’t care (because I didn’t know) and those people ended up liking and respecting me for the person they got to know. It was a great lesson for me. And that guy? Still a douche.

  55. Freeatlast says:

    Wow….I’ve been careering on the unavailable motorway for years and years!

    I have changed, I don’t entertain AC’s anymore, boundaries are in place, plenty of standing up to parents (which took a while for them to adapt to a different response from me, but they have backed off at last). Things are beginning to look up but finding it difficult to find the exit which leads me to the life I want to live. I so want to find a healthy loving relationship but it isn’t happening.

    Hopefully this advice will be the final sign post to the road I want to be on

  56. Sunshine says:

    What’s working for me is learning that it doesn’t really matter if I’m beautiful or not, if I look good or not, if something’s wrong with me or not…it’s all ok. It’s SO much easier than trying to convince myself that I’m beautiful if I don’t feel it, or that nothing is wrong with me…I just say, “maybe I am ugly and maybe that’s ok. maybe it’s even just perfect! maybe something really is wrong with me, and maybe that is just fine and dandy. maybe my hair is a totally jacked-up crow’s nest today and that’s just the way of it, I’m going to pretend that I did it on purpose and tell people I’m practicing for a bag lady role.” Thus taking the scary judgment of out of the equation altogether. Telling myself that maybe I am just totally neurotic and maybe that’s ok instead of trying to NOT be, or trying to convince myself that I’m not, has actually had the effect of calming me and making me a little more relaxed and a little less neurotic :)

  57. Spinster says:

    It’s taken me a while to come back to read this because it’s difficult & painful to acknowledge this. I know I’ve made strides in my life, but sometimes I feel like I’ve taken 1 step forward and 5-10 steps back. And it sucks to know that I still have a long way to go when it comes to self-esteem & abandonment & mother (and to a lesser extent, father) issues. While I know that it’s best for me to be alone and I’m used to being alone (I’ve never been one of those who HAS to have someone around), and I’m actually not even looking for anyone, sometimes it makes me angry/frustrated/disappointed that other people around me are getting married or happily coupled and here I am. Add to that the fact that there are ANOREXIC pickings out there while hearing “there are good men out there!”, and a bunch of other stuff, and it all just makes me wanna cry & pull out my hair. :-/ :-|

    For anyone else who may have a mother like mine, check out the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Karyl McBride. She has a website and Facebook page also. I’ve avoided finishing the book but this entry on self-esteem gave my over-thinking mind even more to think about, so I’m gonna start reading it again today. I need to face the music – while I SAY that I still have a long way to go, it’s hard to BELIEVE it.

    My apologies for rambling. What I mean to say may not be coming out right. It’s hard to verbalize.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Spinster,

      I could relate to the pain you are feeling. This journey to find self-esteem is very daunting. I feel like I am learning to read or do algebra or something equally as foreign. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do and want to go back to obsessing about my appearance all the time and trying to change that so I don’t have to work on the inside. If the outside will validate me, then maybe I can believe I am okay. I know what you mean about the pain of facing what is on the site, the stark truth of it all but I guess the truth can set us free. The mother stuff is hard because it is such a crucial relationship that we could not control at an age where what was happening mattered the most. I went shopping with my mother yesterday (I have lost 95 lbs) and it became an opportunity to talk about how bad I used to look. She is thrilled at how my body looks now but when I told her that some people didn’t see me as fat before she said, well they loved you. What does that say about her?
      It all gets pretty complex and agonizing when we think about what these relationships with men result from and bring up (if we are willing to look at it). I cried all the way home and now I am searching online looking at plastic surgery sites. Makes me so sad.

      Spinster, I hope that both you and I have the courage to keep coming back to this site for courage, truth and support. Thanks for the link to the book you are reading.

      Lisa

      • Spinster says:

        Thank you humbly & kindly Lisa. My aunt is my surrogate mother, yet it’s still hard. That and everything else….. too much to mention here….. and my over-thinking brain goes into overdrive sometimes.

        Please stay away from the plastic surgery sites. To hell with what your mother thinks. Congratulations for losing so much weight. That’s a major accomplishment.

      • NML says:

        Lisa, that comment from your mother is extraordinarily rude and hurtful. I don’t think she really considers what she’s saying and what it means and how it sounds on the other end, which falls in line with someone who is obviously very superficial. She’s also probably of that ilk of people that think they’re doing you a big favour by being what they think is ‘honest’ or having concern and she believes that she’s saying it with ‘love’ while at the same time undermining it. If you want to lose weight, it must only be for yourself and for your own reasons because if it’s in any way linked to getting validation from her, you will discover in time that there is no pleasing the person who is impossible to please and who doesn’t want to be pleased. Using outer references, your mother uses your appearance as some sort of benchmark of who she is so her being pleased with your appearance gives her an opportunity to congratulate herself inwardly. Your mother’s comment is cruel but don’t get things twisted and think that if you go under the knife or lose more weight that you will reach a tipping point with her where she will suddenly spontaneously combust into a mother that treats you with love, care, trust, and respect. Forget the sites, especially as it’s in response to what happened yesterday and focus on living your life for you. People like your mother smell insecurity and validation seeking – the day you are happy with you and your appearance and you don’t give a rats ass what she thinks, is the day she zips it and realises she has no power over you.

    • NML says:

      Despite understanding your sadness and frustration Spinster, you made me laugh with “anorexic pickings”. The thing is you don’t *have* to be alone and what makes you think it’s “best” to be alone? It’s not about it being best to be part of a couple on Noah’s relationship ark either, but it is about making sure that whether you’re single (that’s not the same as being alone) or in a relationship, the decision to do so originates from a positive place.

      We have (ahem) very similar mothers and I think whether you’re male or female a complicated mother relationship is tricky because life starts with them. It’s like some sort of intrinsic rejection that appears to taint you when the relationship is destructive or non-existent. Facing your feelings about her whether they are good, bad, or indifferent is important as well as seeing her as a person with her own frailties. One thing I know that gave me a lot of peace was that it’s not about me. It’s not about you either. Yes parenthood should ideally bring out the best in you, but it doesn’t always and can in fact spark off a whole load of other stuff. Your mother is who she is, in spite of you. I particularly thought it was me because my siblings appeared to have better relationships and while in some respects this is true, the fundamental issues remain the same and I just don’t feel that there is a damn thing I could possibly have done in the womb, on the way out of the vagina, or in the cot that would even begin to warrant anything, so basically I’ve stopped making hers or my parents actions or lack thereof about me.

      You will get there.

      • Spinster says:

        Thank you Natalie. I wish it didn’t take so damn long. :-| But at least I began learning my way through this at a younger age than many people, and learning can occur at any age. (trying to be positive)

        While it’s terrible that so many of us have these issues (I read every single comment), it’s kinda nice to know that it’s not just me. Hell, some of you sound as if you’re related to me, with the way you described childhoods & thoughts & actions & feelings. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but yeah. :-|

  58. Spinster says:

    P.S. The ONLY reason I’m not crying while reading this is because I’m at work. :-| But this needed to be read.

  59. Michelle says:

    Absolutely amazing! Every word of this is completely spot on. I have suffered with low self esteem for many years, but finally feel as though I am starting to feel better about myself, which is all thanks to therapy and your excellent words, Natalie. Thank you so much.

  60. a-lone-r says:

    I really like your “translation book” list. It’s amazing how we can play the same detrimental record in our heads not realizing how untrue it is.

  61. katebelate says:

    Wow! Powerful things I definitelt need to hear at this lowest point of my life. I always had what I would consider good self esteem. My latest relationship with a mr. unavailable has managed to rip every last shred away. Shame on me for letting it happen. Thank you for your empowerment and wisdom. It’s greatly appreciated!!!!!!!

  62. Shae says:

    This made me cry.

  63. annied says:

    I am glad I’ve been checking your site recently – I almost missed this gem. Building self-esteem is a process – it takes time. Undoing my childhood is impossible, accepting it is finally done – the hardest part is changing what it did to me. I saw myself in just about every word in your article. It makes me sad, but at the same time, knowing that you – and others – have overcome low self-esteem, makes me hopeful that I will do it too. :)

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!