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How I'm Building My Self-Esteem With Borderline Personality Disorder

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Some people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have very low self-esteem. This is because we often grow up in toxic environments where we are told we are stupid or ugly or fat or hopeless all our lives. It can be a huge stumbling block for most of us, because we were not taught how to value ourselves and celebrate the things we are good at.

If you have a parent (or two) who did not encourage you or tell you that you are good at things or even applaud your achievements, you can grow up to not have any appreciation for the things you are good at. It can be very difficult to develop good self-esteem in an environment like this. So, we may grow up thinking we suck at everything we do. These kinds of thoughts can translate to our feelings.

Our level of self-esteem can impact every decision we make in our lives: from the people we choose as friends when we are in grade school through high school and beyond, to whether or not we pursue post-secondary education, to whether or not we choose to self-medicate with substances like alcohol or drugs. So, if you don’t have good self-esteem as child, it is doubly important that you learn how to develop it as an adult. Studies have shown that having low self-esteem can predispose a person to a mental illness later in life.

When you have low self-esteem you might view the world as a terribly hostile place to live in, and you might also see yourself as a victim. Learning assertiveness is one very good way to boost self-esteem and can help you get out of the mire of depression.

I grew up with almost zero self-esteem. It’s not that my parents didn’t love me, they did. But neither of them had any self-esteem. It’s difficult for parents to teach skills to their children that they themselves have not learned. If you don’t know how to make pasta, you can’t possibly teach it to your child.

Here’s how I learned to have better self-esteem:

I knew that I was a good writer, so I concentrated on my writing skills and started writing poetry. Was I any good at it? At the beginning, no. Was I able to persist with it? Yes, because I was doing it for myself and my own enjoyment. I didn’t share it with anyone for a long, long time. When I started sending it out to try to get it published I received rejection slip after rejection slip. Think J.K. Rowling here, guys. But I kept writing.

Gradually my writing got better and my appreciation for my craft got better. Later, I decided that I really wanted to try to change my eating habits. I had gained quite a bit of weight over the 28 years of my marriage. So I adopted a little dog and we started walking. First, just around the block because that was literally all I could do. But after he stopped doing his business, I added another block and then another block until eventually we were walking between seven or eight miles per day. Over a two year period I lost weight. Talk about a shot in the arm for my self-esteem.

Here’s how you can build your self-esteem:

Sit down and write a list of the things you like to do. It can be gardening, writing, biking, hiking, putting jigsaw puzzles together, cooking — anything. Then figure out a way to learn how to do something new related to that interest, and start learning and putting it into practice. This will be a slow process but if you stay with it, you can master it and build your self-esteem along the way.

The next list you should make is one that sets out your strengths and the things you have achieved over your lifetime. Include everything you can think of.  Print both of these lists off and put them someplace where you can see them each morning as you get ready for your day.

Some other tips include: Spend time attending to your personal hygiene by making sure you shower, brush your teeth and brush your hair each morning. Making sure you have clean clothes can also give your self-esteem a boost. Maybe try to wear clothes that are  “presentable.” Make an effort to keep your living space as clean, tidy and as visually attractive as possible. Your surroundings can have a big effect on your mental state. If you are living in a place that is cluttered and dirty, your attitude can reflect it. Set a challenge for yourself — something you will be able to attain without too much difficulty. When you have achieved it, celebrate it with your cheerleading squad. Do something you have been procrastinating about, like going outside to weed in your garden or taking a long walk with a friend, spending some time learning a new game or making a new recipe. All these little things can help to boost your self-esteem.

It’s sort of like practicing gratitude — the ball is in your court.

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Getty image via PonMoji

Originally published: March 2, 2018
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