Your Relationship with Yourself: The most Important One

This is for those of you who don’t feel like you fit in or don’t feel good about yourself. My hope is that you will see where this way of thinking about yourself comes from and what you can do about it.

Origins

When you were born, were you welcomed into a family who had planned for your arrival and had the means to take care of you? Did your caregivers demonstrate love for each other and for you while you were growing up? Did you always feel wanted by your caregivers?

Even if you had a family who was emotionally close and financially stable, the seeds for a poor self-image can still be easily sown. To explain, when you were little, your parents were your gods. They clothed, housed, and fed you, and so they literally lorded over your very existence. As a result, you developed what psychology pioneer Alfred Adler (who practiced during Freud’s time) called “natural feelings of inferiority.” You looked to your caregivers not only for physical but emotional needs. Fully functional caregivers (there are none) would know how to help you to overcome these natural inferiority feelings and therefore feel confident in the major areas of your adult life – career, love relationships, and friendships.

Reinforcement of Inferiority

Even the most well-intended parents can fuel inferiority feelings. For example, saying “that’s a wonderful picture” to a 5-year old is meaningless. Young children need concrete feedback to obtain a sense of mastery. As another example, saying “you’re a good girl” can just create confusion. The girl (or boy) says to herself: “If I’m so good, why did you yell at me yesterday?” Or, “I just hit my little brother. If you knew, you’d know I’m not good.” Likewise, if your caregivers’ attempts to protect you developed into being overprotective or domineering, you can begin to think that you can’t do things on your own (translating to feeling incapable as an adult).

However, most parents fuel inferiority feelings in more direct ways. They might have said, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” “How could you have done that?” “You’re so _____ insert any negative word here).” Furthermore, caregivers can be competitive, jealous, short-tempered, and even cruel.

To add insult to injury, how did your family deal with sex and sexuality? Did you have frank discussions about sex, and did they tell you it’d be OK if you turned out to be a sexual minority? And at the crucial time when you were coming to terms with your sexuality, how did your peers (the people you are supposed to turn to as you grow out of needing your caregivers) treat you?

The Road to Isolation and Feeling Different

How you view yourself is partly dependent on the way that the influential people in your life, saw you especially during the vulnerable time when you were growing up. If others failed you, you naturally found ways to defend against feeling inferior. Perhaps you turned to a solo activity – reading, playing an instrument, fantasies – as a way to defend against them. Or, maybe you try to please others or adapt to every social situation with a different persona – what I call the ‘chameleon effect.’

Some of us defend against these feelings by developing a sense of superiority. As adults, it’s revealed by denigrating others – a person or a different subculture, ethnicity, or religion.

Notice that with each of these defenses, the result is similar: Feeling alone, different, or unable to fit in.

Your Self and the Original Error

The culmination of your past experiences, along with your perceptions, is what, created your self-image. If you see yourself as inferior, you have adopted what I call the original error.

The original error is a strong force that causes you to feel like damaged goods. It can self-sabotage your best intentions of being in a relationship or in a job you enjoy. It may even prevent you from trying in the first place. Unconsciously, you might place yourself with people and in situations that validate the original error. You can point to it and say, “See? I AM no good.”

Challenging the Original Error

To successfully challenge the original error, you must go beyond mere intellectual knowledge of what this means to come to a place of emotional understanding. Your beliefs exist on an emotional level, so you would need to take on a major undertaking – abetted by self-help books, therapy (or other ways of expanding your self-awareness, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga), and discussions with trusted friends and family members – to uncover your original error, as well as to develop strategies to change them.

Allow me to tell you something that changed my life once I ‘got it.’ There is no one who is better than you. Period. Others might have certain talents and they might be very public in their endeavors (politicians and entertainers). But their lives are no more valuable than yours. Every life is no less valuable either. By starting with that premise and holding on to it, you may begin to improve the relationship with yourself.