Low self-esteem can be a major obstacle for those in early recovery as it could prevent them from taking the necessary steps needed to ensure a better life. It may even be that the person does not even feel like he or she deserves for things to improve, which can lead to the individual sabotaging his or her own efforts. It is common for people who fall into addiction to have low self-esteem, while the process of being addicted will also reduce it.
What is Self-Esteem?
Some people equate self-esteem with confidence, but this is not always such an accurate comparison. Many people put on an act of being confident, maybe even arrogant, but this can actually be a mask for low self-esteem. It would be more accurate to say that self-esteem is similar as self-worth. If a person does not value him or herself very highly then it means that they have low self-esteem. This individual may try to hide the fact that they have this lack of self-worth, but it is going to affect his or her behaviour.
The Danger of Low Self-Esteem in Early Recovery
If people have low self-esteem then it means they are going to be willing to accept a lot less in life than what they can actually achieve. It can mean these individuals are willing to settle for the bare minimum in recovery, not believing there is any point in trying to improve upon this. The person in this position may even decide that he or she deserves a bit of pain in their life as a type of punishment for past wrongdoings.
Some of the dangers of low self-esteem to people in early recovery would include:
- meaning the person will not fight hard to stay sober
- believing that relapse is inevitable
- leading to a type of learned helplessness because the person feels unable to sort out his or her own problems
- leading to negative thinking (dry drunk syndrome)
- meaning people become cynical about recovery
- being at high risk of falling into abusive relationships
- being more likely to turn to new maladaptive behaviours
- being resistant to trying new things, meaning becoming bored in recovery.
How to Increase Self-Esteem in Recovery
The key to increasing self-esteem in recovery is to develop self-compassion and start experiencing some success in life. Sometimes it can be a great help to do this work with a therapist, as there may be deep underlying issues that are leading to these feelings of low self-worth. In some cases, the low self-esteem may be related to a mental health problem, which will need to be dealt with.
Developing self-compassion is a powerful tool for overcoming low self-esteem. These individuals tend to have an inner dialogue that is often negative and overly critical – it is as if there is a bully living inside of their head. Developing self-compassion is all about changing this inner voice to one that is supportive and positive. It means that the individual gives him or herself the same level of compassion as they would want to give to a good friend. Practices like loving-kindness meditation can also be good for helping to develop compassion.
The other key to increasing self-esteem is to begin accomplishing things in recovery. It is good to use a type of snowball approach. The individual begins by accomplishing relatively small goals, and this success can then increase their self-esteem enough to tackle bigger goals. Once the individual begins to appreciate his or her potential, it automatically leads to an increase in self-esteem.