Most substance abuse begins with a desire to escape pain. That pain can be physical; situational (due to an undesirable living situation, an unpleasant life transition, or excessive everyday stress); mental (the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in three people with mental illness also abuse drugs or alcohol); or emotional. With emotional pain, the most common underlying issues are loss; rejection and loneliness; guilt; a sense of failure; and low self-esteem, which co-occurs with most of the above. All of these factors can make it difficult to accept yourself for who you are.
It stands to reason that people who like themselves and have confidence in their own judgment are less likely to become involved in substance abuse: they resist peer pressure more effectively, see healthy alternatives more clearly, and are more inclined to meet life’s challenges rather than run from them. If your own self-esteem is low, today is the best day to start meeting that particular challenge.
Here are a few habits you can cultivate that will make it easier to accept yourself and recognize your self-worth:
Tell yourself straight out that you’re good enough.
“Good enough” definitely does not mean “perfect” (expecting that of yourself will brutalize anybody’s self-esteem); it means that you recognize your inherent value as an individual human being and know what you have to offer the world. It means you realize that you not only have room for improvement but are capable of improving. It means having faith that there are plenty of people who will see you as someone worth listening to and spending time with.
Try this: Every morning, start the day by looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “You’re a terrific guy/gal, you know that!”
Accept responsibility for your mistakes—and don’t believe others who try to blame you for theirs.
People who react to every setback by throwing blame at someone else are murdering their own self-esteem and frequently the self-esteem of those closest to them. It can be surprisingly liberating to admit “I made a mistake”–after all, if you’re responsible for the situation, you’re also responsible for and capable of doing something to make it right. Once you see yourself as more than a victim, you are enabled to climb into the driver’s seat instead of sitting with your head in your hands.
If you’re in a relationship with a chronic criticizer, often the best thing you can do for your self-esteem is to end that relationship, or–if the guilty party is a family member or someone else with whom permanently cutting ties is less than practical–at least put some major distance between you. That may mean taking drastic measures such as quitting a job or moving away. Or it may simply mean learning to turn a deaf ear when those “you’ll send me to my grave” comments surface for the thousandth time. At either extreme or in between, remember that it’s not your responsibility to either change anyone else or protect them from the normal frustrations of life.
Know what you can and can’t control.
You can control when you leave home for that interview; you can’t control what other drivers or the traffic lights do. You can’t control anyone else’s temper or lack of common sense; you can control how you respond to them. A major trigger of low self-esteem (not to mention unhealthy stress) is fuming because things keep going “wrong.” It’s not your responsibility to decide what’s “right” for the world or the way it treats you–just decide what’s the right thing for you to do.
Don’t let television ads, your social circle, or your mother decide what you’re “supposed” to be, do, or earn.
Just because everyone you know has a full-time office job doesn’t mean you’re “wrong” to be drawn to portrait painting, zookeeping, or overseas mission work. If you’re made for a different path, you’ll cheat both yourself and the world if you let others’ opinions bully you into sticking to the “safer” or “higher income” route.
Or, you may be following the way of the majority because, even though you find it boring, you aren’t really sure where else you’d fit. In that case, sit down and make a list of your favorite leisure activities and past experiences, to pinpoint what you’re passionate about. Consider your natural personality and communications style as well. That exercise may be all you need to form a solid vision of your dream life and what you can start doing now to achieve it; or, if you need help pinpointing the next steps, a life coach or career counselor can be a worthwhile investment.
Count your blessings.
If “just my luck” is an everyday phrase for you, now’s the time to ditch it, before you convince yourself that you deserve only the worst. Everyone has more good things than bad in their lives. Every organ and body function that works normally, every day you have enough to eat and a home to go to, every blue sky and every flower growing through the cracks, the mere privilege of being alive–all are blessings. Savor them to their fullest.
Keep on learning.
The world of learning becomes all the better after your formal education is done; now you can stop studying topics you hate for the sake of a good report card, and start exploring things you want to know for the sheer joy of expanding your world. A learning person is always a growing person, and never need be the stagnant soul who turns to substance abuse to escape the boredom of feeling trapped in a rut. Every new thing you learn is evidence that you are a capable and worthwhile person.
Accept yourself for who you are. Love yourself for who you are. Be the very best you you can be.
There never has been, and never will be, another you!
About Kemah Palms Recovery
Located a short drive from Houston, Texas, our Galveston recovery center is dedicated to helping you get sober while also learning how to accept yourself. To learn more about Kemah Palms and our Houston substance abuse treatment programs, call us today at 866.604.1873.