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The Link Between Bad Choices and Low Self-Esteem and the Tools We Need to Thrive

There once was…

…a little girl whose mother was so preoccupied with her own health problems, her failing marriage to her alcoholic husband and her new baby, that she was happiest when that little girl kept herself busy. There once was a little girl whose mother did not bond with her. She was conceived when her mother already knew she had made a mistake and should get out of the marriage. There once was a little girl who was labeled as taking after her father’s side of the family, which gave her mother, any time she lost her temper, free reign to call her “…a child of the devil, just like your father, someone who will never have any friends.”

Is it any surprise that I was desperately shy and did not know how to make friends? Is it any surprise that I stayed in a lonely marriage where I received no love for twelve years? Is it any surprise that I accepted being married to an alcoholic?

It really is simple. How do you make better choices for yourself if you do not believe that you are worth those better choices?

So, let’s start here:

How often do you make choices that leave you feeling sad, disappointed, lonely or frustrated?

How often do you settle for less?

How often do you make a choice based on fear—or believe that you won’t be good enough or that you’ll be rejected?

How often do you not make a choice at all, and it leads you to the same frustrating dis-empowered feeling?

If ‘often’ or ‘very often’ is your answer, read on. The solution is more straightforward than we think.

We sometimes simply can’t see that we’re settling for less, not reaching our potential, or that we are in a situation that’s not acceptable, and definitely not good for us. We end up in situations where we wait for someone to change, and we’re even willing to keep trying to chisel away at them so that they’re more likely to fulfill our needs. We are vaguely aware of feeling like a round peg in a square hole but don’t know why—or how to solve it.

Mostly we live our lives being directed by our subconscious. And our subconscious is only seven years old! When we look at our pre-seven-year-old brains as sponges that soak up experiences around us, and we add in the little and big traumas of our upbringing, then we understand that it was done with the interpretation-ability of a very young person.

Our subconscious is formed to protect us. It determines our self-esteem based on how we feel about ourselves at seven years old. It will teach us to be what that little person feared and to seek approval the way that little person did, no matter what our abilities are now. That means our triggers, our outlooks, our fears, and our habits are all directed by a scarily young thing with zero adult life experience. A truly eye-opening observation, I would say.

So if you have a seven-year-old inside you who has self-belief, who knows that they are valued for who they are and have been affirmed for their individuality, you are more likely to have a solid base for good decision making as an adult. But what if that seven-year-old has had a tough life, or is the middle child who fell between the cracks of life, or had some near-invisible traumas happening in a ‘happy childhood’? Those kids grow up believing they are to blame, that they were not good enough and are not acceptable human beings. That kid could be you, even if everything is hidden deep inside and plastered over with achievements, people-pleasing, distractions, and squishing-down of feelings.

That means we have to become more aware of the situations in our lives that we are not noticing as sub-standard. In other words, not optimal or 'toxic'.

I am always astounded by how many of my clients blame themselves as being needy for having normal human needs. The same is true for the sheer quantity of excuses we can manage to come up with for why we don’t need to have our desires fulfilled, or why a situation is not so bad.

That is the unfortunate first reason why we make bad choices and choose to stay in bad-choice situations.

We don’t notice it!

“I do not get asked for my opinion. The girls and Johnnie just decide where we are going on holiday. But it is OK because I want them to be happy.”

How is it OK?

“Every night of the week there is some sort of gathering in the pub after work, and he comes home drunk every time. He says the job is stressful and they are just letting off steam.”

How is it OK?

“I just put up with it because I don’t want to be the nagging party pooper wife.”

How is it OK?

“We have these sessions where we don’t speak to each other because I did not agree with him.”

How is it OK?

“He has long text messages with this woman friend of his. I don’t want to look like a jealous wife so I say nothing, even though she gets more attention than I do. She is married too, he says, therefore it is OK.”

How is it OK?

“He never ever has time to do any of the things I ask him to do around our home, but every weekend he is somewhere helping one of his friends.”

How is it OK?

“He spends thousands on himself. I have not bought myself anything new in ages because there is no money for that.”

How is it OK?

“When we were dating you kissed that fellow so I will never trust you again.”

How is that OK?

- (Excerpt from Hamster Wheel Relationships for Women, Louise VN Liebenberg)

To get out of Bad Choices, we need a few indispensable tools.

Awareness is the key that unlocks it all. Without seeing our blocks, our self-defeating behaviors, and our distorted outlooks, we have no starting point. We also need awareness that we are, in fact, in a bad-choices situation. We need that answer we gain when we ask ourselves, “What in my life is toxic for me?”

Boundaries, the real kind, are something we only set once we understand our right to a better life. Good boundary-setting is a skill, not mere words. And it is a skill that helps you achieve and preserve what is good in your life.

Better communication skills are needed if we want to be heard and be with self-respecting people. It is a law of nature that we will surround ourselves with a better tribe once we understand our own in-born worthiness as a human being. And to maintain those relationships, we need to communicate from a place of self-respect and mutual respect.

We need a willingness to ask for help, to try different approaches, and to do things differently.

Self-Esteem is what all these issues and solutions come down to. You aren’t going to ask for a better treatment if you don’t believe you’re valuable. You’re not going to walk away from what’s negative in your life if you don’t believe in your ability to overcome. You aren’t going to say, “no,” and become more discerning unless you understand your own value.

Without Self-esteem, we are in a mess.

Without self-esteem, you will endure or over-react. Without a belief in your rights and the ability to use your voice skillfully, you will go into victim-mode and withdraw, blame, judge, defend or guilt people into complying. You will work harder and harder to prove yourself. You’ll people-please, you won’t ask for help and you’ll end up burned out.

Without self-esteem, we expect less from the people around us. And human beings have a way of going to the point most comfortable for them. They don’t mind-read and they settle there, at comfortable. No matter if they are not exactly happy. So, we end up with a big gaping hole where we need connection, support, and joy.

Without self-esteem it is extremely hard to spot a situation that is toxic for us, and even harder to speak up and change it.

Without self-esteem, we settle for less. We dare less.

There is good news, though!

Self-esteem is made out of many small parts. None is impossible to fix. It starts with us applying self-love, self-acceptance, and self-care.

It happens when we wake up and see through our logical, adult eyes that we need not be less than anyone else, that we can take back our power and be the empowered adults we were born to be — adults who know that our birthright is to have a voice and a choice. Sometimes we need a bit of help from outside ourselves. Sometimes we need one more knock on the head before we’re willing to tackle what needs tackling. Sometimes, we just need to hear it one more time.

I hope this is your 'one more time'.

If you are ready, I have a great Self-Esteem Workout for you.

Decide today that you will act as if you love, value, trust, and respect yourself. What would that mean? Write down a list of:

  • How would you act differently if you loved yourself?

  • How would you act differently if you valued yourself?

  • How would you act differently if you trusted yourself?

  • How would you act differently if you respected yourself?

Today I am no longer that lonely little girl who was so scared of people.

I’ve learned to lovingly re-parent myself. I have unshakeable self-belief, I have a strong core of calm and grace that I can go back to, and very importantly, I have tools and I use them.

You can do this too. (And to help you, I have the entire self-esteem chapter from my book for you as a free download on my website.)

About Louise:

Louise is an international bestselling author and transformational coach who is also a professional stained glass and ceramic artist.

She is an artist and entrepreneur who happened to discover her passion for coaching and counseling through the hard knocks of life. She has a Diploma in Counselling and is a Life Skills Coach. She has been leading groups in transformation for the last 9 years. This includes groups at Akeso Psychiatric Clinic, Adult Child Anonymous Groups, and Self Esteem Development Groups.

She loves taking long road trips with her husband, exploring new places on her motorbike. At home, she likes nothing better than writing her next book with three cats curled up on her legs.

As your “Fearless Magnificence Coachelor” she believes in your ability to shine, overcome, and transform your life and relationships.

Her book No More: Hamster Wheel Relationships For Women: A Step by Step Process to Transform Unfulfilling Relationship Patterns is an international bestseller with over 65 five-star reviews on Amazon. It comes with a Free Downloadable 70-page Workbook, and the option to join weekly free online coaching sessions as we read through the book.

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