Have you ever get this feeling that you are not good enough or probably never will be good enough for anything or anyone. When you are depressed, you feel that most of the time.
I always envy people who don’t give a sh%@ about what people think and say about them. Although sometimes they overdo it because it can mean they don’t give a sh%@ about how they treat other people either. Anyway – this insecure feeling doesn’t just come overnight – it is most likely months or years in the making. It’s important to acknowledge what or who is/are causing this, to take action to address the root cause(s).
The Family Connection
Top of the list – the person with the most significant impact on your self-esteem is your partner. Makes sense – you live with him/her, right – he or she is a key ‘constant’ in your life. So how you communicate or interact will have a big influence on your emotional state.
If you are living with someone who is always criticising everything and anything – you get this feeling that you’re always walking on glass. Nothing you do is right. You become extra cautious with everything. And when you make mistakes, you know there will be a repercussion. After a while, you will start to believe that perhaps it’s all true – that you have all these gaps, and you are just not worthy – as a spouse, partner, parent etc. Well – you definitely have ‘gaps’, because no one is perfect. But if you come to a point feeling that nothing about you is good, there is something fundamentally wrong there.
For all couples – it is true that before you start living together, you know each other to some extent and everything can even be all ‘dreamy’ and ‘perfect’. Only when you live together though you really get to know the other person. That’s when you start to notice all sorts of imperfections of the person you tie the knot with (and vice versa).
One day, one of you or both of you could decide he or she can’t live with those imperfections, and so it starts… Everything that the other person does is not up to standard, not good enough. Suddenly the other person is just ‘insufficient’. Usually (and by right) people should discover that in the first few years of marriage and of course that’s when the big ‘D’ aka divorce then comes in. The sad thing is when this realisation comes after years of marriage plus a few kids. Around here, there is a saying – a man’s true challenge comes when he has everything. When all his material needs are more than enough, thats when temptation starts to kick in. For women – it’s the opposite – when times are tough, and a man hits rock bottom, his partner’s challenge is to stay by his side to weather it all. Always thought these were just ‘old wives tales or sayings’ but as I got older – I do notice the pattern…(someone should do a study on this).
Anyway – just to be clear, positive criticism is not bad, everyone has room for improvement. But in a relationship, there must be plus-es and minuses. If you only get criticised, and your partner starts to withhold his affection – there are no longer hugs and kisses and compliments now, and then, it can really hit you to the core. After a while – you will just feel very down about yourself and everything. It is worst when you don’t have any other support system – like friends and families to help you keep it together.
Your Parents & Society's Expectations
Parents have a big impact on their kids’ self-esteem. I have seen parents who put pressure on their kids to get good grades in school. Especially true in Asian culture. The grades are everything – if you don’t make the grades – you will be scolded, disciplined physically at times. What I can’t stand most are people who like to talk and compare everybody’s kids grades, where they go to school, how they carry themselves etc. Pressure on parents and so, pressure on the kids too.
According to some of these parents, we need to be tough on the kids (that’s how their parents were with them). And they turned out great, right?Well – I agree and disagree. Tough is one thing, you can’t let them get away with murder, but these folks fail to see that everyone’s capacity, strengths and weaknesses are different. Not everyone is great in academics; there are those who do better in sports or arts. And what about the soft quality – kindness, empathy – that in Asian culture sometimes make the lowest point on the list.
And it doesn’t stop there, parents, and the society in general, has expectations on the roles of women vs men. No matter how smart a young lady (it doesn’t get any better when you’re older), is for example – she is expected to behave, and dress a certain way. She will be expected to know how to clean and cook – otherwise you’re not a ‘wife’ material and so on. It is fine if you are naturally great at these things. But if you’re not – it can leave you feeling that you’re always a bit ‘handicapped’ compared to everyone else.
Of course – if you’re lucky, you get parents who love you just the way you are, no matter if you end up to be a doctor or a cleaner. My parents are/were great (Dad passed away) and I have always been thankful that I was born into this family. Although as I grew older – I realised that my flaws were linked by others to the way I was brought up. Gosh – society just doesn’t stop!
It is true what they say – when you marry a person, you marry into his/her whole family. And you then need to adapt to a whole set of rules. If they expect you to be the nanny, cook, cleaner, plus hold a full time job, yes – you should do it, and do it well. It can be very hurtful that whatever you lack of kept being highlighted in every family gathering, usually behind your back but sometimes straight to your face. And your spouse usually have to be in the middle of it all – not great for him or her too. Unfortunately, sometimes consistent negative comments thrown your way every time, may also over time influence yout spouse’s perception of you – at some level.
It also doesn’t help when from the very beginning, your in-laws have no respect for you, your family, your background – basically that you don’t fit the wife/husband criteria they want for their beloved child.
Don’t get me wrong – not all in-laws are bad. Some are really kind, but the not-so-nice and demanding ones do make a decent percentage of the Asian population. Why I say this – so many people around me have issues with their in-laws. Kind of strange and usually there is a common pattern – for the women, its always to do with housekeeping, and cooking, and the way you dress etc. Although if the spouses acknowledges the ‘problem’ with their maternal parents – things are tolerable for their other half. But not all spouses are supportive – sometimes they leave the partners to just ‘deal with it’.
At The Workplace
People say that your company, your manager, colleagues can also contribute to your feeling like you’re not good enough. I agree to some extent.
If you are constantly bullied at work by inconsiderate managers with ridiculous deadlines and expectations, and you are continuously denied the promotion that you have earned or deserved, it can get to you that something is wrong with you. Especially true for people who are ‘married to’ their work.
You spend many hours in the office trying to meet your performance targets, and then when it comes to the year end assessment, you get ‘managed’. Your manager then lists down all the things to justify why you are ‘just not there’ yet – rightfully or wrongfully.
Office pressures and corporate performance management is a whole topic on its own. So will not cover here. If you have a good support system at home, though, it is manageable. At the end of the day, it’s JUST a job. But if at home – life is already so stressful, the added pressure from work – keeping up with demands from your line, competition amongst peers, can really get to you.
You also need to maintain the discipline of ensuring what happens outside the house, stays outside the home. But let’s face it – not everyone can be that disciplined.
You Are Your Own Worst Critic!
In theory, you can choose to run away from your problems or face them. But sometimes running away is not an option – quitting a job with all your financial commitment may not be wise. Opting to split up will create new problems – financially, and if you have kids, you also have to think about them.
There is no right or wrong answer. Everyone’s situation is unique. I think the most important first step is, no matter what situation you are in, at whatever phase of life you are in, is to start loving and appreciate yourself.
You are not perfect, but you are not a lost cause. Sometimes what happens is that being surrounded by so much criticism, we become our worst critic over time. We forget the good in ourselves. Excessive self-criticism is damaging. You need to accept ‘YOU’ – the good and the ‘not so good’ that makes you whole. And it’s not something that you can just do overnight. It is something that you need to continuously remind yourself to do. I struggle with this myself – I have my ups and downs – sometimes I feel I can take on the world. Sometimes I feel I want to disappear. And you know what? That is ok too. There is nothing wrong to feel crap at times. Just don’t let that feeling take over you completely.
So before you start thinking about moving forward with any decision in your relationships and career etc – examine your feelings and address your inner issues so that you can think clearly before you do something you regret. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself. Life is too short – don’t let others make you yourself believe that you are not good enough.