Originally published by Stephen Guise on his personal website.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” -Maya Angelou
Note: Even if you do like yourself (that’s great!), this can serve as a valuable reinforcing tool or educational piece.
An interesting pseudo-paradox occurs when you don’t like yourself — you become completely obsessed with yourself. Seems rather backwards, doesn’t it? I don’t like myself, so therefore I’m going to focus on myself? It’s true. You might think it more sensible to focus on something else that you value more…and this happens too, at the same time.
I’m sorry if this has the sour taste of contradiction — that a self-loathing person could become self-absorbed and others-focused at the same time. It will make more sense later. The point right now is that not liking yourself has some pretty nasty consequences.
If You Do Not Like Yourself…
1. You Will Not Invest In Yourself
Investing is more than just a financial term — it applies to all of life. Here are a handful of examples of investing in yourself:
- Investing in others
- Actively pursuing your dreams and personal growth
- Thinking about your life critically
- Productively spending your time
- Reading valuable books
- Exercising and eating well
- Managing your finances
- Setting goals
Examples of not investing in yourself — abusing drugs/alcohol, entertaining yourself all day (TV, Video games, etc.), carelessness with your health, wasting time habitually, using others, accepting the life you’re given as is, and being passive overall.
2. You Perceive Yourself As Inferior
If you don’t like yourself, it is because you believe other people are better in some way. There can be many reasons for this way of thinking — physical appearance, performance in school/other, a big mistake, a bad environment growing up, half-hearted living that leads to repeated failure, or any specific quality that you choose to focus on.
3. You Can Only Hope To Have Hope Someday
There is no hope in the mind of those who dislike themselves. Hope is squashed under the heavy weight of pessimism and doubt of ever becoming a person of value. Life has no flavor if you don’t like the character you’re playing as.
4. You Passively Define Your Value As A Person
Those who like themselves know they have value as a human being on a basic level, and more value based on their unique qualities. If you don’t like yourself, your only idea of self-worth is what the world tells you. Problem is, the world usually doesn’t argue with you if you send the message that you’re worthless. 🙁
Self-absorbed — “Excessively self-involved” (thefreedictionary.com)
Self-absorption comes in with that last point. In the beginning, I mentioned that self-loathing people focus on something else they value more than themselves — that something is others’ opinion of them. They will look to others to provide them with the vital sense of self-worth. Self-worth compels us to invest in ourselves; we need to know that we’re worth investing in. You wouldn’t invest $5,000 in a pile of garbage, would you?
If you don’t believe you have value, you’ll seek to get validation somewhere else, and that is where your focus will be. This leads you to focus on what everyone else thinks of you as it is your only source of critical self-worth. As such, you’ll be so desperately self-absorbed in your self-worth crisis that you will instinctively try to manipulate people into giving you validation as a means of self-preservation (fishing for compliments, boasting excessively, etc.). People do not like being manipulated and used, even if you think your sense of self-worth is on the line. This is how you end up focusing on yourself through others. Pseudo-paradox explained.
The “Validate Me” Mindset
The problem with letting others define your value is this — if Jim tells you that you’re ugly, and you don’t like yourself to begin with, Jim has just dealt you a devastating blow. You’ll not only believe Jim, but you’ll take it a step further by attaching your value to your physical appearance. This is because you’re looking for something — anything and anyone — that can tell you how valuable or not you are.
This is flawed thinking.
You become self-absorbed when you’re focused on something (your value in this case) directly and only related to yourself. You look to others to provide this information to you, hoping that it is positive. But even when it is positive, you’re not convinced. You look for more confirmation — as an addict looks for cocaine — fishing for compliments and recognition to keep you afloat. The negative feedback you receive carries a lot more weight than the positive — because you’d already like yourself if you believed the positive feedback. One negative remark overpowers a thousand compliments.
The first step in getting out of a bad situation is understanding it. If you read this and relate to it, then a change would do you a lot of good. If you don’t like yourself, words may not be enough to change you. Understanding that your value is not defined by any one quality or by others is enough to set you free. However, you have to “get it” and believe it. If you can’t, I’d recommend trying to change your mindset by leading with action.
Force yourself to invest in yourself. Make yourself try new things, develop various skills, and meet new people. Find out what it is about other people that you find valuable and then come up with a plan to BE that. Don’t over think it, just go out there and do it. When your confidence begins to build as you get closer to respecting yourself, it will snowball positively.
Taking action first is one of two ways that people can change — it causes a change in perception through experience. The other way is a paradigm shift in one’s perception of reality by enhanced understanding (such as change from reading this post or a good book).
The worst thing you can do is hide behind something — an image, a tough persona, an addiction that helps you forget. Address your problem head on, willing to fail. Talk to friends/family/church about it. Quality people love to help others. Seeking professional help is a great idea — they’ve dealt with this issue before.
When You Like Yourself…
Life is exciting. You have struggles and problems, but you believe you can overcome them instead of accepting them as permanent life roadblocks. You focus on the merits and qualities of others because you already know you (and everyone else in the world) have value. Instead of looking for validation, you’ll look to make a positive difference in others’ lives, and it is satisfying when you do.
The glass is half full, tomorrow is a chance to learn or try something new, and the world is one big open planet with no restrictions. With the internet, all information is available at your fingertips and excuses are no longer valid.
Once you find out that your mindset is your biggest obstacle in life, things get very exciting very fast.
If you believe that you’re worthless, you will become worthless and the cycle begins. On the other hand, if you believe you’re capable of climbing Mount Everest despite being blind, then you’ll probably do it.
I find depth extremely valuable, and I’m trying to live in congruence with that with this website. Unsurprisingly, I have liked myself and invested in myself much more since starting it! By doing this, I’m also pursuing my dreams. No matter how much you like yourself now, find out what it is that holds great value in your mind and strive to live up to that; succeed and you will naturally like and invest in yourself and others more. It may take some soul searching to find it, but when you do…it is AWESOME!