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It’s almost funny, isn’t it? All the trite, superficial advice about self-love and self-esteem people dump on you when you don’t care about yourself.
And it’s even worse when people you barely know, or even people you do know, spoon on the superficial compliments.
“I’m sure you’re really a good person!” No. I’m not.
“You have worth. You have value.” Eh, maybe a few bucks on the black market for a kidney? I hear those sell pretty well.
“You just have to love yourself!” Ohhhh. Well, I never thought about that. How could I ever possibly have missed that tiny, detailed nuance about existence!? Just love myself. Phenomenal. Spectacular. Truly a groundbreaking epiphany. What? No, I’m not being sarcastic. I would never do that!
Listen, the reason all of that advice sounds so trite, superficial, and absolutely stupid is because that is stuff you do at the END of the journey. It’d be like if a friend says to you, “Hey, let’s go see the Taj Mahal this afternoon.” And you’re like, “Uh, we live in New York. What are you talking about?”
There are many more things to do between New York and seeing the Taj Mahal. You have to schedule some time for it, get the money for airplane tickets, drive to the airport, check-in, go through security, board your flight, fly to India, have a place to sleep lined up, find out where the Taj Mahal actually is, get a ride there, and voila; now you can actually care about and love yourself.
So, what we’re going to do is look at some things you can do on your journey to get from “I’m nothing” to “I’m worthy of loving and respecting myself.”
I want to preface this article by informing you that there are many paths that lead to the Taj Mahal, and everyone’s path is going to be slightly different. No article or information should be viewed as the answer to end all answers… because there isn’t one. Not caring about yourself is a problem you will undoubtedly need to take up with a therapist. It’s going to be a long, difficult journey to get from “I don’t care” to the Taj Mahal. It’s going to be easy to get lost. It’s going to be easy to get distracted or stumble.
Do yourself a tremendous favor and get professional help when you’re able to. If you do not have insurance or can’t afford it, call around to different places and ask if they provide services to uninsured or no-income folks. The government and charities give out a lot of grant money to assist people in those situations. Still, you have to go looking for it, you have to ask for it, you have to apply for it.
That being said, what can you do when you don’t care about yourself?
1. Identify where that opinion came from.
Generally speaking, people aren’t born with a low opinion of themselves. That’s something that happens because of other people, life, and trauma. So before you do anything else, really give it some thought and consider where that opinion came from? Why don’t you care about yourself? Why do you feel less than?
Is it mental illness? A byproduct of depression that prevents you from caring about anything? Just the effect of trying to conduct a normal life with the constant curve balls that mental illness can throw at you?
Is it trauma? Did you have someone treat you unkindly who convinced you that you aren’t worth caring about? Was it a parent who wasn’t loving or kind? Was it an abusive partner who made you believe that you had no value, manipulating you into staying in a bad situation?
Is it because you’ve suffered many defeats in life? Nothing ever seems to go right? Nothing ever seems to hold together? It doesn’t matter what you do? There’s always something that goes wrong?
Was it something darker that robbed you of those feelings?
Identifying the reason is powerful because it helps to clarify the problem and figure out whether or not it’s actually your opinion or an opinion that was forced on you from an outside source. And then, you have to consider the validity of the source.
For example, let’s say that as a person is growing up, their parent regularly told them that they are a worthless piece of shit, that they should have had an abortion, that they’re a waste of space. That will definitely affect the way a person sees and cares about themselves as they grow up. That can easily become that child’s reality and inner monologue.
But at some point, they have to stop and ask, “Hey, what the hell’s wrong with a parent that would do that to their kid? Only an asshole would do that.” And they’d be right. Only an asshole would do that. So why let the opinion of an asshole, even if they are a supposed “loved one,” dictate how they feel about themselves?
They shouldn’t! “Well, they’re my parent.” Yeah, and they’re also an asshole. Both things can be true.
2. Remove emotion from your life processes.
People generally do the things that they do because of the feelings that they have. And when a person doesn’t care about themselves, there are many things that they are just not going to do. There are also many things they may passively accept because they do not believe that they deserve to be treated any better.
Self-care can be impossible when you don’t care about yourself. Why bother showering or brushing my teeth? I’m not here to impress anyone. Why should I bother eating? I don’t deserve to eat. Who cares if I cut my hair or groom myself? I’m a worthless person, and I just want to be left alone.
I will stay in this abusive relationship where I’m not treated with love and respect because I don’t deserve love and respect.
I’m going to stay in this toxic job because I’m too incompetent to get hired somewhere else. I don’t have the skills to look for a better job.
The major problem with that mentality is that life keeps moving, even if you don’t. Now, if you’re a person who doesn’t care about themselves, you’re probably already well aware of that. You’ve probably seen opportunities float right on past you, accepted less than respectful behavior, or maybe even punished yourself for not being good enough.
But, if we want to be on a path of healing, we have to live our lives and improve our environment. You can accomplish that by removing emotions from your decision-making processes. We use unemotional pros and cons coupled with SMART goal setting.
The SMART system is a popular goal-setting and planning method because it works. SMART is an acronym for:
Specific: The goal must be specific. “I want to lose 50 pounds.” isn’t specific enough. Instead, you would set a goal of, “I’m going to only eat 1400 calories per day.” which will carry you to the larger goal of losing 50 pounds.
Measurable: The goal must have a state of failure or success. You either limit yourself to 1400 calories per day, or you do not. There’s no gray area.
Actionable: Actionable means that the goal is something you can reasonably do. You wouldn’t set a goal like, “I’m just not going to eat anything for three days to burn calories.” That’s not actionable because it’s not reasonable, and it’s a super unhealthy way to try to lose weight.
Relevant: The goal you’re setting should be relevant to your primary aim. Calorie restriction is a good, relevant way to lose weight.
Time-bound: Define when that goal should be accomplished. In this case, it’s no more than 1400 calories every day.
Now, if you really examine that information on SMART goals, you’ll see how emotions don’t factor into it at all. You don’t have to be worthy to set a goal and work toward it. “Well, I don’t deserve to lose weight.” The emotions are irrelevant. This is an investment in a healthier future.
The other tool you can use is a good, ol’-fashioned pros and cons list. Sit down with a piece of paper and sort out all of the factual pros and cons about the thing. When you’re done, double-check through your list to ensure that all of your points are not coming from an emotional place. “Well, I just don’t think I should.” or “I don’t deserve better.” are not fact-based pros or cons. They’re beliefs influenced by unhealthy emotions.
3. Separate your value from external circumstances.
Many people derive their personal value and self-worth from external sources. This is bad because you don’t have control over those external circumstances.
“I’m a valuable person because I make a lot of money.” What if you get fired? What if your employer goes out of business?
“I’m worthy because I’m loved by this amazing person!” What if they stop loving you? What if they die? What if you stop loving them?
“I rock because I won these awards!” Will you continue to win those awards? What about when you can no longer compete?
The truth of the matter is that all of these externals like accomplishment, wealth, relationships, being popular, being great at something are all things that can easily be taken away from you. Maybe you get injured. Maybe you get divorced. Maybe someone better comes along. And then what? Well, then you’re left standing there with a hole in your heart for your own self-worth that’s no longer being filled.
External things do not make us worthy. The problem with that line of thinking is the implication that a lack of achievement, wealth, or whatever makes a person unworthy. Socially, that’s just kind of the way the world works. It works that way because when you have something, other people want it. If you have wealth, other people are after it. If you have a great job, someone is gunning for it. If you have a loving relationship, some people will do their best to sabotage it because they want what you have.
A person is not unworthy because they do not have much or aren’t useful to other people. They’re worthy because they’re a human being and deserve to be treated humanely and respectfully. YOU are worthy because you are a human being who deserves to be treated humanely and respectfully.
4. Give yourself permission to be human.
Have you given yourself permission to be human? To accept your flaws and mistakes with grace and love? Probably not, or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
A byproduct of tying one’s self-worth to external circumstances is that a person may feel they deserve to be beaten down for not succeeding. Didn’t get that job? Well, it’s because I’m trash. Relationship blew up? It’s because I’m a dumpster fire. Lost everything because I made a bad decision? I’m the worst person in the world. Let someone I love down? I don’t deserve love or compassion.
All bullshit. That’s not a healthy or sustainable way to interact with the world. Guess what? Everyone loses jobs. Everyone loses relationships. Everyone makes bad decisions that cost them big time. Everyone disappoints someone they love. It does not mean you are a bad or unworthy person. It does not mean that you are not valuable.
These things are just mistakes, valuable life lessons that will give you wisdom from living and experiencing life. They don’t have to be tools you use to harm yourself.
“Well, I deserve to suffer.”
No. You don’t. You deserve to be treated humanely and respectfully, just like everyone else. That includes the way you treat yourself.
And I got a hot take for you. If you’re telling yourself you’re a terrible person, and you feel bad about some things you did or something not going well: you’re not a terrible person.
Terrible people don’t give a fuck how their actions affect other people.
Terrible people don’t feel empathy or remorse for the people they use, abuse, or take advantage of. Terrible people don’t care how their bad decisions hurt anyone else or affect anyone else. They only care about one thing: themselves. Their only concern is how their bad actions negatively affect their own life.
“Well, I feel bad that I did the bad thing!” Yeah, that’s your brain telling you that you made a mistake and that you shouldn’t do that again. It’s not an invitation to tear yourself to pieces.
You are allowed to be human. You are allowed to make mistakes. If you feel bad because you took the wrong action, apologize and try to fix it. Don’t just keep sticking your fingers into the wound to make yourself suffer. Learn, change, grow.
Everyone chooses wrong actions from time to time. It’s how you address them that matters most. That’s just a natural part of life.
Look, it’s probably going to be a long time before you can look at yourself in the mirror and see love and respect. It will be a journey to get to that point, as cliche as it sounds. So don’t let the stuff that sounds shallow or superficial put you off of taking your first steps.
It’s not bullshit. It will matter later once you get your immediate foundation built. And get therapy. You will need it.
Still not sure what to do when you don’t care about yourself? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process of getting out of this mindset. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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