Self-esteem is what we think about ourselves. Most people, when they get sober, have low self-esteem. In this episode, Chip and Veronica discuss how to rebuild self-esteem and what it feels like to like yourself.
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I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t come into recovery with low self-esteem. What may have initially developed due to dysfunctional parenting, is often exacerbated by our behavior when we’re drinking. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of low self-worth leading to regretful behavior, which continues to erode any self-esteem that we might have.
“If you don’t value yourself and if you don’t think yourself important enough, you’re not going to put the effort into trying to do something about your problems.” – Chip Somers
The decision to become sober can only be made from a place where you believe you’re worth a better life. For Chip, there were countless false starts in his recovery as he took the first steps many times with great intentions but let it all fall away, back into addiction, telling himself “Why bother? I’m not worth it.”
In early recovery, a lot of us suddenly find ourselves in the awkward position of no longer having the social group we did while drinking, but feeling unable to fully engage with new people and have a social life, just because we have no value for ourselves. But without getting into a new normal that’s enjoyable, it’s too easy to fall back into our old habits.
“To ask for help or start the process, there’s a little green shoot there, of self-esteem.” – Veronica Valli
Rebuilding your self-esteem is a slow process and it’s something that happens over time in little tiny ways. It’s hard to be patient with yourself but forcing the process quite often has the opposite effect and leaves us leaning into people-pleasing, in an effort to fit in.
“The difference between arrogance and having self-esteem is that it doesn’t need an audience. I’m feeling comfortable in myself, I like myself.” – Veronica Valli
Over the years we’ve developed a number of exercises that you can use to work on your self-esteem daily and they have been truly fundamental pieces in our own recovery. I hope you’ll try them out and give yourself the grace to make mistakes but pick yourself up and do it again tomorrow.
Nobody’s thinking about you
Self-esteem is what we think about ourselves, but pride is what we think other people think about us. Many of us with a drinking problem find ourselves in the category which Chip refers to as “megalomaniac slugs,” where we think so little of ourselves while simultaneously being obsessed with what people think of us. Recognizing that everyone is more concerned with themselves than with you is a massive perspective shift in the right direction.
Rebuilding self-esteem is a journey
It’s a slow process and it’s something that happens just in little tiny ways. There are lots of things you can incorporate little by little into your life to build yourself up. Don’t beat yourself up for where you are. Focus on what you can do each day to build your self-esteem and over time you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Take the small steps daily
My favorite exercise is simply changing the way you respond to compliments. When we have low self-esteem, we have a tendency to brush off compliments and dismiss them. This is not only unhelpful for you but actually insulting to the person admiring you. Instead, try to pay attention to your reaction, say thank you, and receive it.
Here’s Chip’s favorite exercise for working on your self-esteem. Write a list of good things you’ve done today, even if they seem like tiny little actions. After a while, you’ll find yourself recognizing that they all add up and it starts to gradually boost your self-esteem.
It’s not arrogant to love yourself
When we grow up being told that being humble means being self-deprecating and anything more is showing off, those messages become our inner voice. We chastise ourselves for thoughts that maybe, just maybe, we’re not so bad, and end up stuck in the trenches of low self-esteem, drinking and using.
Remember that this is not the voice of truth, but your childhood messaging showing up. I never thought I’d be able to get to a place where I could speak positively about myself without cringing but in doing the work on myself in my sobriety, I was able to get to a place where my esteem of myself and how I present myself to the world are in alignment.
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