There’s a perception that with age comes self-acceptance and confidence. While that can be true, self-esteem is a fickle thing. Even those with strong self-esteem go through low points. For some, aging intensifies feelings of self-doubt and dislike, poisoning all aspects of life.
Which begs the question, is it possible to overcome those feelings and learn to like yourself more?
Disliking yourself can have deep roots. Childhood experiences, feeling physically inadequate, and dysfunctional relationships can all shape a person’s feelings about themselves. Undoing the damage takes time and effort.
Sometimes, however, there’s no clear cause for these feelings. We’re just hard on ourselves and blind to our own value. Aging can amplify these feelings as empty nesting and retirement become factors. This can be especially true for women.
Regardless of the reasons, disliking oneself is unhealthy. And it makes living a happy life incredibly difficult.
The good news is that change is possible.
The following 4 steps can help you create the changes you want and find the perspective you need to appreciate the most important person in your life – you.
Many say learning to like yourself begins with identifying and changing the things you don’t like. While that’s an important step, it’s crucial to first look at your positives.
Seeing your positives first can make what feels like an overwhelming endeavor (dealing with what you don’t like) feel less intimidating.
Start with the following questions:
If you need additional help, ask someone you trust what they see as your positives.
Next, identify the things you don’t like.
Common causes of self-doubt and dislike are:
Often people will identify all four areas as needing improvement.
“I’m unattractive, dumb, and no one wants me around.”
This statement is not only too broad, but it’s almost certainly untrue.
So, narrow things down and be specific about the areas you dislike, particularly areas you can influence.
Steps one and two provide a jumping-off point for making personal changes. But the first real step in making those changes is step three.
Real change requires balance in your perspective.
We’ve all been guilty of basing our opinion of ourselves on what we see in others. Women are especially guilty of this. Starting in youth women are shown an unrealistic picture of what it means to measure up. Beauty ideals, career achievement, parenting, home, and charitable involvement all have perceived benchmarks for women to meet. Falling short in any of those can lead to persistent feelings of failure and inadequacy that may intensify with age.
Comparing yourself to those around you can help you level-set to a certain degree, but it’s also a false measuring stick. Your opinion of yourself shouldn’t be based on the qualities or attributes of others. Nor should it be based on what someone else tells you is ideal.
Does that mean there’s nothing you need to change? Maybe.
Does that mean you need to examine why you dislike certain things about yourself? Absolutely.
What you like or dislike about yourself should come from how those things make you feel.
If changing will make you happier, then change is warranted, but not because changing makes you more like someone else or because someone told you to.
External validation is short-lived and doesn’t create self-appreciation. In fact, it may actually make you feel like a fraud and disappointed that happiness didn’t result from your actions.
So, instead of measuring yourself against others, determine what changes will please you and create a feeling of self-appreciation.
Just like a weed will come back if you don’t pull out the root, negative feelings can reappear if the source isn’t addressed.
We all have a negative inner voice that speaks up occasionally. However, when it’s the only voice you hear, it could be due to an event or person that silenced the positive, leaving your negative voice the loudest.
Identifying and addressing the causes of negative feelings will pave the road to more consistent self-appreciation. This can take time and may require help, but the result will be well worth the effort. It will also help prevent future events from triggering a downward spiral into negativity and self-dislike.
Nobody likes themselves all the time. So, if you occasionally feel down about yourself, you’re not alone and likely are experiencing normal feelings.
But keep in mind that what you see in yourself and what others see in you can be very different. It’s easy to develop a blind spot to our own positives.
Time with people who love you can help shine a light on the positives that you’re not seeing.
Self-doubt and dislike can develop at any age. Ideally, these feelings are a wake-up call to make positive changes that lead to growth. But if these feelings are constant or extend beyond one or two aspects of yourself, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Remember, no matter your age, your opinion of yourself is more important than anyone else’s, because if you don’t like who you are it’s nearly impossible to be truly happy. So, take the time to see the best in yourself and make changes that will have a positive impact on your opinion of you.
Do you ever feel like you don’t like yourself? Have those feelings prevented you from engaging with others, participating in activities, or reaching a goal? Have you successfully used any strategies in the past to overcome those feelings? Please share your experiences with others and join the conversation.