No self worth = no motivation?
I've been struggling with low mood, low self-esteem and low self-worth for my entire life. I know I need to take steps to fix it, and I have been in therapy for two years, but I see no improvements. Right now, I seem to be stuck in an endless cycle:
Step 1: Decide I need to take action.
Step 2: Find something that seems both possible and helpful (right now, this is SuperBetter)
Step 3: Get prepared, commit to whatever I found, do it for a few days / a week / not long at all.
Step 4: Lose motivation, because I feel that I am not worth the effort.
Step 5: Stop making effort, see no improvement.
Then go back to step 1 all over again, after a week or a month or a year of doing nothing.
How can I break this cycle when I don't believe I'm worth the effort, and always end up doing things for other people instead? I never make any progress, because I always stop before I've been doing anything long enough to see progress.
Dear Kittywake Gull,
I appreciate your sharing your difficult challenge and being willing to reveal yourself here in the SB Forum. I hear that you have been feeling in a low mood with low self-worth and low self-esteem all your life and are continuing to experience this now. It seems that you want to feel better, so you try things that might help, but you keep stopping yourself by giving up on these plans and/or doing things for other people. On the one hand, you do not believe you are worth the effort of breaking this cycle, yet on the other hand, you want to improve your life, so you take steps, such as therapy and SB and posting here, but then, because you stop yourself, you do not get anywhere. How can you break out of this frustrating cycle?*
Your physical condition and health can greatly impact mood and attitude. If you have not had a thorough medical exam with a result of good health within the last year, my first suggestion is to start with this to eliminate possible medical conditions that could cause these symptoms. If your doctor has not found anything during all your life of having these symptoms, I would suggest a different doctor this time, if feasible. A naturopath is a doctor who has an interest in finding the cause and eliminating it, rather than just treating symptoms, which might appeal to you.
If medical concerns are not involved, it sounds like this is an inner conflict between different parts of yourself. Could you be feeling concerned and frustrated because one something in you IS wanting to make changes while another something in you is NOT wanting to make changes? Then back and forth you go, not getting anywhere.
You say you have been in therapy for two years and have seen no improvement. I believe two years is long enough to know that this particular therapist and/or therapy method is not working for you. You might want to try another therapist or method or an alternative practitioner. How would you feel about doing that?*
once had a coach, and I left my coach to do what I am doing now. My coach was very good, but something was missing for me that I have now found. I am involved now in Inner Relationship Focusing with Focusing practitioner Ann Weiser Cornell. She has had 45 years of experience in learning, teaching, practicing, and training practitioners of Focusing. It is not psychotherapy. It is a process of effective personal growth and healing that was discovered by Psychologist Eugene Gendlin. It offers much more of what I need than my therapy did. I am connecting with my authentic inner experience in a whole body way. I am learning self-acceptance, which paradoxically leads to inner change. I am so glad I found this practitioner! I believe this process Is what I need to unfold in the best way for me. Much free information is available on the web site.
I am also learning the method of Non-Violent or Compassionate Communication (NVC) developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. The goal of NVC is to make life more compassionate and wonderful by reconnecting us to the aliveness of our own feelings and needs and those of others. NVC involves a new use of language to eliminate communicating with judgment and blame. Blame leads to anger, guilt, shame, and depression, separates us from the aliveness of our feelings and needs, and disconnects us from others. Marshall resolved individual, couple, and group conflict around the world using NVC. It is a powerful and unique method. Certified NVC trainer Thom Bond studied with the late Marshall Rosenberg. Thom Bond offers an NYCNVC weekly on-line training class, called The Compassion Course, starting in June, 2017, in which I am enrolled. NVC books and videos are available, some for free on line.
I used to be in a group called CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous). It has extremely useful information about the patterns and characteristics of co-dependent behavior, which includes the people pleasing you mention (meeting the needs of others while not meeting our own needs). It is a 12-step program, and it offers extensive meetings for personal growth. Whether or not 12-step programs are for you, information on the site is well worth looking over.
A good way to work on your own to improve your self-esteem is through the books of Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D, who is an art psychotherapist. I love her book "Recovery of Your Inner Child" that uses creative media to discover the child within. This covers *how to hear its voice, protect and cherish and nurture it, and benefit from its creative, imaginative, magical, playful, and spiritual wisdom. She has many other creative healing books on her site, too.*
You also might want to check out Alex Vermeer on motivation and his guide for defeating procrastination. These ideas can all be found in a web search, such as on Google, Amazon, YouTube, and on their own web sites. These sites often have scads of interesting free information.*
I am wondering whether you have Allies yet in your SB game. This can give you friendly support, can bring in new ideas for how to work with your challenges, and can help you with motivation. If you are seeking Allies, I recently posted in I Need Allies that I am Seeking Future Allies. You might like to check it out.*
Best wishes to you for self-development on your SB journey!*
I started where you are. I also had the unenviable luck to have PTSD and not know it. However, this is what I did.
I had set myself up to fail. My goals were to achieve things, rather than make progress. I had to do things perfectly, completely, and quickly, or I was "no good," "stupid," and a "waste of time."
So, I decided a couple of things. No one else was going to do it for me. No one else could. The big goals I'd set weren't possible. I needed something smaller. So, I started by picking the pie in the sky goal: be happy (my overall goal, for decades!)
Then I decided what I could do to *move in that direction*. Not that I had to get there, today. My visualization for this is looking down at my feet when I'm paralyzed by my emotional crap, and I move one foot. That's it. And that's success! Why? Because it's movement. Movement in the wrong direction is STILL movement. It only matters that you keep going.
After decades of doing this sort of thing, I am leagues away from who I was: I am happy. I still have a boatload of things to deal with. One of my manifestations of my pain was being a hoarder. I'm culling, cleaning and getting rid of stuff. It isn't fast, but it IS mostly consistent. The bathroom is clean most of the time now. The kitchen too. The laundry is what I'm working on now. I want to get through the backlog.
Does it drive me nutty how slow this is? Absolutely! However, I am somewhere I never, ever, ever thought I'd be. I like myself these days. I understand where/how I got here; the parts that are my fault and the parts that absolutely are not.
And I realized, consciously that I had used the technique I talk about above to slowly, but surely become healthier. And, as I did, I lost the rage, the terror I was a homocidial maniac, and most of the belief that I was damned. I was trapped in behaviors I didn't see as traps. I set myself up in impossible situations. I expected other people to do impossible things because I *needed* them to. (I expected that "if they loved me" they'd say/do the right things to me all the time, because I needed it. Problem was, no one but me knew the script. So, I set myself up for failure.) I had a lot of those:
I set my goals so high and so specific that there was no way I could achieve them in the time I gave myself. Many of them were what I wanted the world or myself to be, but humans change slowly, and I didn't give myself the time to do the growing to get there.
I set other people up, as above.
I had my "emotional function badguy." Part of my abuse as a kid was the idea that God didn't love me; He couldn't. I was in pain. He didn't do anything about it, so obviously God couldn't love me. Every time I got hurt it became more "proof" I was damned and unlovable. There was no way out.
But you know? Life comes with pain. Everyone gets hurt. And it isn't damnation every single time. It isn't proof of anything except that we're human. I can see that now and i understand how I set myself up to fail this way, over and over. Because everything hurt for a long, long time.
So, I have four ideas for you. One, find the pie in the sky, but possible goal. A broad one, like "be happy." The goal cannot include things which condemn you: no goals like "become someone else," "look different," etc. Also, you can't run away: no drugs or alcohol, they will, in the long run only add more problems, not help solve them.
Two, make a "self list." This is a list of the things which are yours, without judgement and without influence from other people. My first list was mostly taste things: side seam pockets, pastel artwork, long skirts, my hair long, and books.
I've talked elsewhere here I think about the self list. It helped me figure out who I was without all the judgements which had been laid on me and those I'd taken on as my own. This list has no negatives. It's just who you are without others' input. Between the abuse I'd been through and trying to become who I thought others wanted (because I wasn't acceptable as I was) I had no idea who I was separate from all of that. I needed to find out.
Three, figure out what the moving of one foot would be? Some days for me that was not succumbing to my depression and staying in bed and reading all day. I would get myself dressed and go to a coffee shop for a cheap breakfast. Because I usually like most people, getting out of my house and in/among other people may not make my life better, but it changes it, and if nothing else, gives me a breather emotionally. And that's enough. That's the foot moving thing, see?
Lastly, try and see if you're setting yourself up to fail? I had no idea I had created a self-fulfilling prophecy, actually several of them, to keep myself where I was. Where I was wasn't happy, but I knew what to do with miserable.
Fought a few battles
Mighty Mouse and Judi - wow, very informative and inspiring.
Kittiwake - I first played Superbetter almost 3 years ago, lasted maybe 6 months (no active allies) and then came back to it in the past 3 months, and I have cultivated active allies. I'm hoping this go-around sticks longer, but I know I can only do things when I'm ready and that no amount of guilt or shame will speed that up. Good luck to you and I give you credit for trying, even if it doesn't feel like enough to you.