Like me, if you got bullied as a child, were ignored, put down, or excluded, you might feel low self-worth and have tendencies to be a people pleaser on occasions.
Neglecting your own needs and boundaries to please others will cause resentment and can compromise your confidence.
While many self-help gurus proclaim the famous “love yourself before others can love you,” this is both not very helpful and also neurologically incorrect.
Our brain is a social organ, and we learn about ourselves based on the sensory input we get from the outside world.
Someone that feels confident and self-love do so because they got this from their caregivers and peers as children.
After repeated exposure to validation, they developed an internal reference point to give it to themselves.
I know I spend years making bad choices with partners that were not good for me because I did not want to be alone.
Feeling wanted was my main drive, even if it meant compromising my needs and boundaries not to be alone.
Here are the strategies I used to overcome pleaser syndrome and gain confidence, self-worth, and self-love.
Tip 1 – Journal
Journaling is a fantastic therapeutic tool.
Our brain is a storytelling organ, and all sensory inputs are interpreted through this story neural network before we become consciously aware of the content.
This is how we make meaning of what is happening.
However, these stories are not factually correct, and we have a negative bias meaning past negative experiences will likely paint our interpretation.
If we are missing information as we always are, we tend to fill out the gaps with negative presumptions.
By writing down our stories and reflect on them, we engage cognition (thinking), and through the story, we create meaning and emotion.
By physically writing it down on paper, we involve the somatic element.
This includes all three brain layers. Dan Siegel calls this integration.
It’s an essential element of healing.
It’s highly therapeutical and allows us to rewrite our stories and challenge our negative bias with new facts.
Erin Gruwell, a now-famous teacher in the US, used this to get low achieving gang members to rewrite their story and achieve their greatness.
A movie was made about her extraordinary story called “Freedom Writers.”
Journaling is healing.
I journal daily and have made it part of my morning routine, together with meditation and dance.
How we start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.
I gain three significant benefits from journaling.
1. 1. Rewrite my story
Our stories form our beliefs about ourselves, impacting how we act and, therefore, the outcome of our lives.
Often these stories reinforce themselves as stories that make you feel worthless will make you act in a way that validates that story.
If you feel self-love, people will respond to you more positively.
This is a chance to journal your stories and challenge them to see if your negative stories are correct and if so, try to rewrite them.
2. 2. Self-awareness
Change starts with self-awareness about our behaviors. What motivates those behaviors and what we need to change?
You can explore your thoughts, feeling, and sensations and figure out where they come from.
3. 3. Process emotions
You can process emotions by merely writing it down. This is healing in and of itself.
I mentioned the negative bias, and that’s why our brain naturally, if left to its device, will notice negative things more often.
That’s why I use journaling to train my brain to notice the beauty and what I value by writing a daily appreciation.
It takes a dedicated effort to focus on what is good in life.
I also write down a self-validation.
It’s great to get external validation, but we can’t always get it when we need it, and by being able to give it to ourselves, we become less dependent on it from the outside.
We can break the co-dependency tendencies.
It’s natural to enjoy external validation and even healthy, so this is not about becoming independent.
Life is about balance, so the goal is interdependence, where you can depend on yourself and, from that place, relate to others.
Tip 2 – Body image & self-talk
We get bombarded by shameful messages about our bodies.
Compared to photoshopped models in magazines.
It makes sense because if we feel imperfect, not good enough, or feel bad about ourselves, we spend more money on getting that perfect look.
A satisfied, self-loving population would not spend money on cosmetics, plastic surgery, and more.
Our body and mind communicate with each other so how we feel about our body is an integrated part of self-love.
How you feel about your body impacts both your sexual response and your confidence.
You are gorgeous. You are. They lied to you, and I am telling you the truth.
The miracle that is your body is a wonder of nature so complex and magical it’s incomprehensible, and we are yet to understand it’s incredible capacity fully.
Look in the mirror daily and start giving yourself empowering messages about your body.
Instead of “look at that lump of fat, no one is going to find that sexy,” try saying, “My shapes have such a unique charm, and it gives him something to grab on to”
Give that body some love. It deserves it. It keeps you alive, lets you move and experience the world, and sometimes it even gives you pleasure.
Give it some gratitude.
We tend to be much more supportive and kinder to others.
If our best friend messes up, we tell them they did the best they could, and there will be another chance.
If we mess up, we often beat ourselves up.
Notice how you speak to yourself and give yourself the compassion you show others.
Tip 3 – Regulation
As babies, we feel safe and loved through touch before we even develop language, so it’s part of our nervous system wiring (unless you had physical trauma) that touch is calming and makes us feel connected & loved.
Movement and exercise are another way to regulate yourself, and it releases hormones that make you feel good about yourself.
Knowing we are appreciated and valued by others helps us feel confident and loved.
To figure out your love language, you can do the love language quiz.
Having flow experiences allow you to be in the present moment and not be sucked into anxious thoughts and feelings of the future or past.
Flow is when you are doing an activity that requires all your attention.
The challenge is in balance, so while you need all your focus to manage, it’s not so hard; you get frustrated.
These experiences are most often found in sport, but you can find it in anything you enjoy.
Figure out what flow activities you enjoy.
Tip 4 – Acceptance
We all want to be seen and accepted.
It’s an inherent need as it’s how we feel valuable, safe, and loved.
This is why you should wisely choose who you surround yourself with as they impact how you feel about yourself.
Remember, we are a social creature, so our brain is highly impacted by external input.
Surround yourself with people that support and appreciate you.
This is an excellent chance for you to practice your boundaries when people don’t treat you kindly and express your needs if you don’t feel appreciated.
Practice makes better, so practice.