Opening up to loved ones when my self-esteem is low

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By: Chloe Babauta

For the past few months (tbh many years) I’ve been feeling really shitty about myself, and as a result, I’ve been pulling away from the people I love most. Lately it’s been really hard for me to open up about how terrible I’ve been feeling inside.

I’ve been taking a lot of hits to my self-esteem, like starting a small business (and making a lot of mistakes because I have no idea what I’m doing), trying to grow the business long distance with Franceska, running through most of my savings from the past years, and not having a steady income. I was also shopping a lot more to distract myself from my depression. I left my home, job, life, family, and friends to live in an unfamiliar place. I’m in my late mid-20s and feel my body changing in ways I’m not used to (and now I actually feel kind of bad when people call me old jokingly). And I’m still suffering from the physical, mental, and emotional effects of work stress from previous jobs.

Better Self-Esteem Chloe would have turned to her partner, her best friends, her parents, her cousin for advice — but Low Self-Esteem Chloe curls up into herself and spends all her time worrying in her own head.

When I spend time with friends or family, I enjoy hearing what they’re going through and want to make them feel heard. But I’m also worried about coming across as “okay” and “doing well” that I don’t always listen fully to what they’re saying, because I’m worried about how I’ll respond.

I also am usually open about my personal issues with people I’m closest to, but lately I haven’t been sharing about what’s been going on with me inside because I don’t want to have to lie and pretend I’m okay. I am going through so much turbulence in my life that I burst into tears if I have to talk about it. I don’t want people to have to worry about me. I also don’t want to keep taking out all my emotional issues on my loved ones because I regret how much I’ve done it in the past.

What’s more heartbreaking to realize is that I also don’t tell friends and family how I’m really doing because I don’t think it’s worth their time. As I talk about what’s going on with me, I half-explain things — partially because I’m kind of lazy, but also because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems.

I used to think of myself as ~Chloe Babauta~ an intelligent, confident woman with a kind heart. After getting knocked down so many times by everything going on, I think of myself as lazy, a leech on everyone around me who’s supporting me even though I am not worth it, an irresponsible millennial who wasted her degree to sell t-shirts, a bad friend who left Guam and just doesn’t respond to her friends anymore, a fake Chamoru who moved to the states, a fraud, a failure, a loser. I had been working so hard to build my self-esteem for years, by taking on new challenges, getting out of my comfort zone, improving my relationship with my body and food, going to therapy, seeking mental health care, and working on my relationships with people I care about. Now here I was again beating the shit out of myself in my head and heart.

If you use Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably heard the phrase “healing isn’t linear.” These words are helpful to me in being compassionate towards myself, when I’ve slipped back into a worse place after working hard to feel better. I feel frustrated for still falling into the pattern of self-hatred after I had made my self-talk much kinder. I feel exhausted thinking I’m going to have to work at this forever. But I also feel determined because despite all the setbacks and heavy inner work I’m doing, I am growing. And when I grow, I have more to offer to others too.

My therapist told me during our last session that while I’m going through a lot of life changes, I should focus on doing things that make me feel like my truest self. Since I work from home, I made time to spend longer visits with my parents and siblings (who live away from me). They see me as the person I want to be. I started journaling again and creating more art, because I loved it growing up. I took more walks outside, especially on sunny days. I went to the beach with Nate and his family (because I’m an island grel and I need to be near the ocean to feel whole). I got out my yoga mat and started practicing from home when I feel my body needs it. I’ve been working on taking deeper breaths when I feel my anxiety manifesting in my body. I opened my heart up again to my friends and family, and let myself cry. A lot.

It’s hard for me to talk about all this. Every single time I write a personal piece to share online, I think about how each person will read this and what they might think of me (“something is wrong with her,” “her problems show privilege and other people have it worse, she should shut up”). But really, the only person saying these things to me is me.

The way you talk to yourself matters. Your problems matter. You matter. Do all the face masks you want, but real self-care is hard fucking work. It’s treating someone with compassion who is treating you like shit (in this case, me to myself). It’s learning how to breathe, listen to your inner voice, and honor what is best for her. Self-love to me is asking for help, and knowing I deserve it, even when I feel like I don’t.

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