So, tearing myself away once more from the danger of this website becoming a dating blog for a frustrated 30-something male, I head back to summarising my discoveries from the self-help book Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.
One of the most difficult sections for me to write about was to list my qualities. I spent most of my life rarely being given praise; I came second in the maths test? Great! come top next time. I rarely received congratulations and I set about proving to myself that I was not as useless as I believed I was. Of course, this meant that I pushed myself through mental and physical limits to achieve those goals and if I failed, I felt I was letting everyone down.
When I started to receive praise later in life, I was so used to not getting any that praise would always be shrugged off (I have covered this before) and consequently, bottom line feelings were reinforced: I am not good enough. So as you can understand, forcing me to confront my virtues, my qualities and identifying the failings I do not possess was the most emotionally exhausting part of this journey.
Luckily though I have a good memory and so I can think back to most of the praise I have received in recent years. Here is the list that I came up with:
What I believe my positive qualities to be:
Willing to learn new things
Good sense of humour
Willing to try most things once
Strong sense of right and wrong
Ability to explain things without patronising
Others tell me I am:
Chilled out (on the outside perhaps) – closest male friend
Approachable – colleagues and clients
Helpful – colleagues and clients
Knowledgeable – My supervisor
Considerate – ex wife
smart guy, ambitious, level headed, funny and sweet – Miss X
Qualities in others I share:
Caring – Ex-Wife
Sense of humour – Miss X
Determination – father
Loyalty – mother
Bad things I’m not:
Furthermore it went on to ask the reader to list their talents, achievements for which they ought to be proud or unusual skills. Finally, the section asked for a list of reasons for holding the negative self-perceptions, the challenges in life.
Challenges in life:
Lack of support from parents
Father always putting me down
(Perhaps) mild depression from a young age – never diagnosed. Always told “pull yourself together” when I felt low
Lack of academic success at school
Always felt the odd one out – quiet and thoughtful unlike family and peers
Girls were an ‘alien species’ until into my 20s
Few friends to turn to
Wife cheating made me feel inadequate – she blamed me
It took me a while but I got there. Most people, even those who have a healthy level of self-doubt should have no problem listing their virtues and qualities; I struggled yet when I finally completed this list, it was the most critical and intense challenge to my negative self-perceptions so far. I no longer had a leg to stand on – I was not worthless. I was not useless. I was not stupid. I was not a failure. And this is where most of my problems began to turn around; it was an epiphany if you like.
There was still one issue that it would not help with; I would even say that my attempts to challenge the negative self-perception about my dateability dragged up some of the most horrendous memories of my younger years. It wasn’t so much a tough nut to crack, as an impossible one. The situation with Miss X made it worse… but that is a story for another post as it is something I am still working on.