How can I gain some self trust, self esteem, courage to be myself?

I am the last botn child in my family, I wasn't in my parents plan at all. I am a girl but I never dress, take care of myself as I should. I feel like I am still a child and waiting for others to appreciate me, I feel like I am not a real woman yet, and I am 25, and I am married and I have a decent job. I need to gain self esteem and to treat myself better, I want to be a confident, strong, fearless, trusted woman who doesn't need others appreciation, love, nice words, hugs or attention.
Asked by Celia
Answered
12/06/2021
Dear Celia,
 
Thank you very much for your courage in sharing.
 
Through your words I could feel how you have been wounded time and time again by those close to you, perhaps both intentionally and unintentionally during your upbringing. I agree with you that when we are constantly being told / reminded what we're wrong about, we become wounded and our self-image is sabotaged. That is not something that you would say to your friend nor you deserve to be treated that way. I acknowledge the pain that you have been enduring and I am grateful for your bravery in addressing them.
 
Your words on how you've believed that you're not good enough has particularly drawn my attention, perhaps it is true that these subtle experiences have shaped and influenced our core beliefs, resulting in a distorted self-image which we hold today focusing overly on the negatives?
 
When it comes to self-image, as you have said it is something that has been shaped by our past and how we have been treated by everyone around us. We can't control or change how we are being treated, meanwhile perhaps throughout all these times we have also forgotten how to be kind to ourselves. We don't feel like we deserve to be kind to because of what others have said about us, which could be the reason why it's difficult to have a positive self-image.
 
As we explore the roots of our insecurities and bring them to our awareness, it's also important to begin practice seeing ourselves differently and interacting with ourselves differently. I'll go into more details as we move along.
 
To change how we see ourselves, we must first begin by learning to be compassionate towards ourselves. 
 
Remember self-compassion? Let's review it a bit and see how this approach can be applied in changing our core beliefs and self-image. Please forgive my language here if I sound like I'm trying to sell you this concept, I wish we can rather have a dialogue over this idea than a one way informative session. I'll do what I can here with the platform offered. Thanks for bearing with me. :)
 
Here I will explain more in details what that means:
 
You already know how to treat others as you would like to be treated. But are you treating yourself that way, too? Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is vital to our mental well-being and life satisfaction. 
 
Self-compassion is actually more important than self-esteem. Self-esteem depends on feelings of superiority or accomplishment, while self-compassion doesn’t. When you compare yourself to others and come out on top, your self-esteem gets a boost. The problem is, when you fail, or when you feel like you’re only average, your self-esteem plummets. Self-compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on feeling special—all it depends on is the ability to treat yourself like a human being who deserves love and care. In other words, all it takes to practice self-compassion is to start acting like your own best friend. 
 
At this point, you can probably recognize the sound of your harsh inner critic—that awful voice that tells you you’re not good enough, not worthy... However we’re mistaken in thinking that this voice is driving you to do better. We’ve been taught that we need to be harsh with ourselves in order to get ourselves going, whereas the truth is just the opposite. When you attack yourself, you actually make it harder to succeed. That’s because self-criticism releases the stress hormone cortisol, sending you into a state of stress that’s similar to feeling physically threatened. A common reaction to constant self-imposed stress is depression, which kills your motivation.
 
That’s where self-compassion comes in. When you feel reassured that failure isn’t the end of the world and that you’re not alone in failing, you’re actually in a position to try harder. People who are more self-compassionate are actually more motivated and more likely to pick themselves up when they do fail.
 
The good news is that being a good friend to yourself is easier than it sounds. These are some of the strategies we can start thinking about, incorporating self-compassion into our everyday life:
 
Let yourself feel bad:
 
Self-compassion means recognizing that negative emotions, as much as they suck, are a normal part of being human. That means letting yourself feel them. You want to make yourself safe enough to have whatever your natural reaction is. If that means making your ugliest cry face and punching your pillow for an hour, go ahead. Self-compassion doesn’t mean wallowing in self-pity, however. It means always keeping your best interest at heart, and it’s in no one’s best interest for you to don your PJ’s and not leave your house for an entire week. 
 
Tell your inner critic to move along:
 
Chances are, you wouldn’t say the same things to a friend that you say to yourself when you’re feeling down. (Examples: “stop being a baby,” “you always screw up,” or “why are you such a failure?”) It’s time to question why you continue to say those things to yourself. The next time a judgmental thought pops into your head, understand that your inner critic is just trying to help you. Unfortunately, it’s not helpful. Take the high road and thank that inner voice for trying to help. Then dismiss it and move on. 
 
Write yourself a love letter:
 
A study at York University showed that writing yourself a comforting letter every day for a week can make you feel happier for up to six months. Pen yourself a pick-me-up, but write it from the perspective of a loving friend or relative. What would you say to yourself in this situation using a very kind, compassionate, and understanding voice? I'd recommend coming back and reading your letter from time to time to reinforce the effect. 
 
Treat yourself:
 
Failure is not the time to punish yourself. Try the opposite approach and give yourself a small treat, like a bubble bath or a cup of frozen yogurt, instead. Giving yourself a boost can actually make failure less frightening, which means you’ll be more likely to take risks in the future. If you know that it’s safe to fail, you will be less afraid of failure. That means you’ll be quicker to dust yourself off and try again. 
 
Invent a self-soothing gesture:
 
As mammals, we’ve actually evolved to respond to a gentle, warm touch with a lowering of cortisol and a release of soothing oxytocin. This happens even when the touch is our own. Use some sort of physical gesture to express care, compassion, and soothing. It could be anything from placing your hand over your heart to patting yourself on the leg. Once you’ve invented your gesture, you can whip it out in the middle of a stressful situation. Once you calm your body down, it’s actually easier for your mind to follow suit. When was the last time you gave yourself a hug, look at the mirror and send a wish of love to ourselves?
 
Be your own cheerleader:
 
Try speaking to yourself out loud the way you would to a close friend. When you verbally comfort yourself in the midst of a painful feeling, it’s simultaneously acknowledging and validating that you are feeling it.
 
Acknowledging your feeling keeps you safe from denial, and validating it reminds you that it’s totally normal to feel this way. If it feels awkward to mumble to yourself out loud, just say the comforting words in your head.
 
Please let me know if these words are helpful, looking forward to talking with you more.
Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)