How Can I Come to Terms with My Lousy Lot in Life?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,
I know I have extremely low self-esteem. I don't think I deserve to be happy. Most of the time I just want to crawl inside my own skin. I don't have any close friends and I wouldn't be friends with me, either. I am ugly inside and out and will always be that way. I just wish I could accept my lot in life because I might be happier. I know you are going to tell me something positive and try to make me feel better because that is your job, but I am what I am. All the positive affirmations in the world aren't going to change that. Just tell me how I can be more accepting of myself, please? —So Low
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Dear So Low,

It might surprise you to hear this, but I think you might be on to something in seeking self-acceptance. While I do not think that you should accept that your current circumstances and perspectives are all that you can ever hope for, it is very difficult to change deeply held beliefs about yourself. Leaping right to changing these beliefs might feel impossible and therefore fruitless. So, for now, you might simply accept that these are the beliefs that you currently have about yourself. Your next step could then be to fully explore these beliefs. Try to understand where they came from and how they are impacting your life. Partnering with a therapist to engage in this exploration could be very helpful.

Often, the destructive beliefs we have about ourselves and the negative behaviors we engage in served a purpose for us at one time. For example, a child who is routinely told that he is no good and worthless might learn to believe this over time as a means of minimizing the shock and hurt that he feels when he is criticized. This child might also learn to keep people at a distance so that he does not risk being hurt by them, too. These coping mechanisms might help this child survive and make it into adulthood, but if he continues to hold these beliefs about himself and keep people at a distance, he will likely be quite lonely and unhappy. Working with a therapist might help you to identify the purpose that your beliefs once served and determine whether they are still necessary.

As for an exploration of how these beliefs are impacting your life now, consider some of the following questions: Do these beliefs prevent you from doing things socially? Do they interfere with your ability to succeed professionally? Do they create conflict in the relationships you have? Do they stop you from engaging in hobbies? Now, imagine you could somehow send these beliefs on a vacation for a day—they would just get up, leave you and be gone for the day. How might you feel without these beliefs about yourself? How would you spend this day? Who would you interact with? What would you do? Tapping into even a glimmer of what life could be like in the absence of these beliefs can arm you with the inspiration and hope you need to take some steps toward healing.

All my best,
Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Audra

    May 30th, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I am so sorry to read that you have so little self love, because I think that this is really what some of this is all about.
    How did you get to this point in life? Have you ever sat down and really talked with someone about why you feel this way about yourself and the things that you might could do to improve that self esteem a little?
    I do think that there is way more to life than just accepting what you deem to be your fate when it does not have to be that way.
    There is a lot of goodness inside you, I am sure, and I hope that one day you will be able to see that too.
    Take care

  • monroe

    May 31st, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    You sound so dejected that I wonder how long you have been feeling this way about yourself? Was this used as a defense type of mechanism? I am so sorry that you believe these things or that someone at some point in your life made you believe these terrible things about yourself.

  • Willis

    June 3rd, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    There are times in life when it has to be mind over matter. If you think positive thoughts then they will come your way; when you think negative thoughts, then you can guess how much negativity will then enter your life. It has to be hard to change the way you have always thought, I get that this becomes habitual and there are often few ways to talk yourself out of feeling like this. However for your own peace of mind and to better your self worth I hope that you can find a way to change all of this. I am all for being realistic but I am not so hyped up on feeling like this is something that cannot be changed because it certainly can be.

  • Joanie

    June 6th, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Do you honestly think that you have been dealt a bad hand or do you in any way take any kind of ownership of the things happening in your life and see how your actions could have played a role in this?
    I am not blaming you, but I would like for you to examine closely the things that you could have done/ or maybe didn’t do that could have contributed to you feeling this way.

  • Cy

    June 8th, 2014 at 5:17 AM

    Could you try looking at things from a brighter side just for a moment? You are healthy, you are wise, you probably have more than many many people in the world. Why be so down and depressed? Or of you are then seek out some help. There is simply no excuse for just feeling bad about your “lot in life”. Sometimes things are what you make it, so what are you doing to improve your daily life?

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