Everyone longs for compliments and affirmation. Even people who pretend to not care worry sometimes about what others think. The most confident and charismatic men and women still enjoy positive remarks. This is simply part of being human, neither good nor bad.
I am certainly no exception. One kind word brightens my mood while criticism drains any of my joy quickly. Although people lecture to not care about others’ opinions, I still fret about pleasing everyone. Unsurprisingly, my past few years in treatment introduced me to many people who felt similarly. Beautiful woman, talented girls, and wise men all begged silently for the approval of the world.
Many eating disorders, including my own, have been fueled by this desire for positive regard. When I first started restricting, these thoughts were especially strong. If only I lose a few pounds, he might finally fall in love with me. Maybe my mother and father will be proud of me if I can be the right weight. Classmates would befriend me if I changed. If only others approved of me, life would be good.
Depression, eating disorders, and anxiety as well as other mental and emotional disorders often come with low self-esteem. Thus, one looks to others for affirmation. Yet that external care will never be enough. Eventually, one must learn to love themselves and speak positive self-talk instead of negative.
Right now, I am working on being my own cheerleader instead of worst critic. However, my mind constantly wars against itself. Do I want to be a confident person or should I remain trapped in self-hate? Would choosing to care for myself be selfish, wasteful, and unnecessary? Others cry, “No, of course not!” However, I am not fully convinced either way.
Yet I am realizing that even compliments change my mood only temporarily. People say something to me and my first thought is, “Thank you…but if you really knew me….” For some reason, I cannot believe that anyone would think a positive thing about me. Looking back over the years, I realize that this has happened since I was young. Instead of listening to affirmations, I berated myself for deceiving others. If they said I was sweet, pretty, smart, or kind, they must have been fooled by a lie I told. Thus I should be punished.
Sounds logically, right? Well, this thought pattern has been bothering me frequently at school. Fellow students point out my fashion style and I fear that they are teasing me. Professors state my intelligence and I assume that they confused my scores with someone else. Worst of all, I just about break out in tears when someone believes me to be a good friend. How could I have any of the attributes needed for friendship when I mess up so often?
These thoughts are tricky to live with each day. Yet, I am managing to do so and slowly but surely making progress forward. I still feel like my whole life is a deception. Yet I try to live authentically despite my self-criticism. Perhaps these doubts will haunt me forever. However, I will continue to grow in confidence. After all, the beauty in everyone and everything else stands out around me. Somewhere there must be a sparkle of goodness in me that I can believe in and help others with. Finding my strengths will be a laborious but important task.