Self-esteem is our values

‘Self-esteem’ can be understood as an evaluation of oneself on the basis of the capabilities and personal value. It acts as a buffer to protect oneself from any harmful experiences. It has also been investigated as an outcome and a self-motive, noting that people behave in a certain way that boosts their self-esteem. Self-esteem, in simpler terms, can be understood as the emotional, physical, and spiritual values we place upon ourselves.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family

Growing up in dysfunctional environment can be a major cause of a hampered self-esteem which can be a social cause of addiction. Dysfunctions in the family can include addiction, mental illnesses, divorce, separation, and inconsistent guardianship in the children that result in a non-nurturing environment. Children from dysfunctional families can grow certain self-defeating attitudes. Generally, people who get into addiction are the seekers of ways to “feel good” about themselves - physically, mentally, and socially. They do so to get away from the fault-finding and criticisms at home than praise and encouragement inspite of putting a good amount of effort, and hence, such children grow up feeling unwanted.These feelings may lead to lack of healthy relationships or lowered performance in school/college or workplace. Feeling fairly comfortable with yourself and accepting yourself as you are can spill the inner confidence into all areas of life.

“Realizing that we've surrendered our self-esteem to others and choosing to be accountable for our own self-worth would mean absorbing the terrifying fact that we're always vulnerable to pain and loss.” - Martha Beck

Low self-esteem leads to addictive attitude

The feeling of unworthiness can lead to developing a feeling of not being of any value or importance. This may lead to carrying the attitude of “care-a-damn” that may make one invest lesser efforts in maintaining healthy relations - personal and/or professional. This may lead to avoid seeing any valuable personal qualities. This is a very common attitude and feeling carried by addicts and alcoholics and therefore, as a part of recovery, it is important to focus on the area of self-worth so as to help them identify the various things that they are good at and set achievable goals accordingly. The other side to low self-worth is a feeling of others being more important. This again is a very common thinking and attitude among addicts and alcoholics who make other people take advantage of them. This may make them victimize themselves in careers or personal relationship for not being able to stand for oneself. Once the focus is shifted on their personal growth, it may be easier to recognize their needs and desires.

Emotional numbness

Growing up in dysfunctional homes can also lead addicts and alcoholics to find it difficult to identify their feelings. Negative feelings like anger and sadness may be the only emotions exhibited, which are usually projected in place of other negative feelings. Growing up in the difficulty in identifying emotions can lead to listen how they really feel, finding it difficult to express what they actually feel thereby shred various areas of life.

“Change your thoughts, and you change your world”- the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale

5 steps to improved self-esteem

It is important to bring about a change in oneself so as to improve the self-esteem. The first step towards building self-esteem is ‘Goal Setting.’ This is important because one needs to feel motivated, challenged, and excited to feel good about oneself. This is very important in the development of addicts and alcoholics so as to make them realize about the capabilities, needs, desires and wants, thereby making them aware of other important areas of life apart from drugs and alcohol. The goals that are to be set should be specific, measureable, attainable, reliable and time-framed.

The next step towards improving self-esteem is ‘Risk Taking.’ It is important for addicts and alcoholics to find another “high” in their lives apart from the substance that they use. To get a “high” from productive things in life will help one feel proud about themselves for the efforts that they have put in to reach their goals, whether won or lost. Risk taking is a hard yet exciting way for discovering the abilities a person has thereby working through limitations and fear.

The third step towards nurturing self-esteem is ‘Opening Up.’ This is another major problem in chemically dependent people. They find it difficult to open up about their feelings and thoughts among and for the people around them. This leads them to be dishonest and in the process they live their lives in denial. It is very important to open up because it gives clarity about what they are and what they want especially to people who trust and encourage you.

The fourth step is ‘Wise Choice Making.’ This comes from sharing our thoughts and feelings, and getting a feedback about behaviors from people around us. Addicts and alcoholics have always compromised on making a wise choice because of their low self-esteem. Therefore, it is important for them to share and talk about their decisions to someone before taking any action. This needs a lot of patience which brings us to the fifth step ‘Time-Sharing.’ Growing or building up of self-esteem doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of patience and efforts, which in turn requires time. It is important for addicts and alcoholics and their families to understand that if you don’t allow yourself room to grow, you may find yourself doing more stagnating than renewing. It is a good idea to maintain journals or records to assess your growth after a period of time.

This brings us to the final step of ‘Healing.’ This includes the physical health and well-being, involving interaction between mind, body and spirit. It is important to heal emotionally to feel positive so as to get rid of self-defeating characteristics, thereby nurturing self-esteem. It is important to pay attention to minute details like grooming and general etiquettes. Meditation is also another way of mental healing to quiet the stress and anxiety within. It is thus important to feel love for yourself and nurture yourself so as to grow your self-esteem.

“Self-esteem is as important to our well-being as legs are to a table. It is essential for physical and mental health and for happiness.”- Louise Hart