The root of all internal conflict pertaining to socialization is low self-esteem. The top focus when improving one's psyche should be on reaching healthy levels of self-esteem. It is the key that opens all doors in life.
I never realized it until early adulthood, but I had low self-esteem during my whole childhood and entering into my early adult life. When your psyche is oriented a certain way for so long, thoughts and behaviour patterns that are silently holding you back hide themselves behind a shroud of normalcy.
For most of my childhood I was the "quiet kid". My parents would tell people "he is shy" and nudge me to be more forthgoing in social exchanges.
My low self-esteem came from various events and circumstances.
I was the son of two strict foreign parents who (to no fault of their own) did not understand the essential role socializing a child early plays in their psychological development.
When I asked to have friends over, I'd often be denied with a series of unhealthy rationalizations. My mother would constantly tell me to stay away from girls and parrot about the hazard they posed to a young man. In passing, my mother would always ask me about what X friend's parents did, tell me to stay away from Y other friend, warn me to avoid Z experience.
Reflecting now, my mother had very low self-esteem and projected toxic rationalizations about people onto me. As an unknowing child, I consciously fought these beliefs, but I subconsciously absorbed them anyway. I started to distance myself from wanting to connect with people. I started becoming cynical and emotionally closed off, unknowingly.
In middle and high school I was of medium-low popularity because I just didn't open myself up to other kids. I wasn't socially mobilized and I didn't know how to fit into the customs other kids were versed in. I just didn't understand the social code, and my parents weren't going to teach me it.
I also naturally gravitated to thinking. Often my thoughts would become more interesting to me than what was going on around me and I’d follow them. It was around 10th grade that I picked up programming and began self-teaching myself how to code. It just clicked for me.
I was also beaten occasionally as a child, whether it be by belt, kicked on the ground, spanked (this is "old school" parenting, again, no blame). I didn't like obeying the rules, I always wanted to break them, but when I pushed back too hard, I was disciplined.
I considered suicide a few times, with no intent to follow-through. It just offered me solace from my depression. When you are feeling very down, you want the emotions to stop.
I got the good grades I was pressured to get, but something was missing. I always felt like I was half of a person. Something deep within my psyche was damaged.
Aside: I didn't want to recount the above (as it is personal), but I feel it necessary to frame our discussion.
A lot of self-esteem ties intimately back into childhood where many of our subconscious beliefs about ourselves and our relation to others is established.
Past events are unchangable, but they give us a set of events to query to find out the truth about ourselves now. If we can look at these events and their interactors unemotionally, with non-judgement, we can open our eyes to our present emotions and subconscious beliefs.
It is no wonder that I had low self-esteem early in life with these traumatic experiences running through my consciousness. You can try to consciously think about yourself differently, but you have to go deeper to shift the tectonic plates of your belief system.
You have to step back and look at the objective truths about yourself.
Self-esteem is confidence in one's own worth or abilities; self-respect. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, "I am loved", "I am worthy") as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.
The world tends to treat you the way you feel about yourself. So it is imperative that we genuinely feel good about ourselves & our life over the longterm (barring daily fluctuations).
We have a 6th sense when it comes to reading others. Within 2 minutes of first meeting a person you get get a general gauge on their confidence, how they view themselves, & how they fit into the world around them.
A lot of life is about the energy you radiate. It is primal.
Self-esteem piques my interest due to its pivotal role in social & life decision-making.
I want to pose a few common life scenarios and how our self-esteem impacts the decisions made and the feelings felt:
Scenario (male): After chatting, you ask for a girl's number, she says she is not interested.
Low: You rationalize that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. You may not be physically attractive enough (which could be true), emotionally compelling enough, etc. Any of these could be the case. You harp on your faults and fear this type of rejection in the future. Future encounters are actively avoided.
High: This is ok. She potentially was not a good match for you. Maybe you could have been more compelling, but ultimately you do not know her reasoning. That is ok as well. You like yourself. You like where you are going in life. Other people should like you. You will maximize your looks within your abilities and let go beyond that. You will work on your charisma and being at ease in interactions. Another attractive girl will come along and like you because you are a likeable person.
Scenario (male): After chatting with a girl, you want to tell her that you are attracted to her and want to take her on a date.
Low: You feel attraction to this girl internally, but you are afraid to make it known. You keep it friendly but don't push it further. You finish the conversation, and move on with your day.
High: You feel your emotions internally and are externally aligned with them. There is no dissonance with the inner and outer. You also sense that she enjoys talking to you. You look her in the eyes and tell her that you want to continue the conversation another time. You ask for her number in a sure tone of voice.
Scenario: You get a compliment on a new jacket you just got.
Low: You wonder if the person is being sincere. Is this really a good jacket on me? Maybe they are trying to make you feel better so they have emotional leverage over you. You can't let that happen. To protect yourself you coyly say "it's decent". Keeping your guard up protected you from being manipulated.
High: You say a genuine "thank you," smile, and continue the conversation. You like the jacket, it is why you bought it. You have a good fashion sense and it makes sense that someone would recognize how good it looks on you. If they are insincere that is their problem.
Scenario: You see someone at a party that you don't know.
Low: Maybe that person might not like you, maybe you just won't mesh. You feel unsure about your own worth and what you can offer them. Your energy is off at the moment too, it may just be best to lay low and just let the interaction happen organically.
High: Your curiosity is piqued. You like people, it feels good genuinely connecting with them. Maybe this person is interesting, you are interested to find out. If they are not interesting or you don't mesh you can always just leave. You go up to the person, say hello, say your name, ask for their name, and begin a conversation.
Aside: I don't want to belabor the examples, so we will just keep it to the few above (this list of scenarios can be very long).
We want to focus on raising self-esteem to healthy levels. The #1 strategy to go about this is to focus on finding out the objective truth about yourself - changing your mind about yourself.
Past psychological conditioning cannot overcome the truth of your life situation and who you are now.
Thoughts programmed into us from past experiences are just that, persistent, parroted beliefs that only live on due to our belief in them. When your belief is withdrawn, the house of cards falls.
So how do we go about bringing on these permanent revelations, these permanent changes? It takes time, but the following are critical steps:
We have many beliefs about ourselves that limit us, yet we deeply believe in them. Just by bringing them to the light, we can allow them to fade. It is a process that will take time, but consciously identifying the biggest limiting things you believe about yourself can be a therapeutic process.
We all have limiting beliefs about ourselves, whether it is in our careers, in dating, in fitness. "I can't date X ethnicity," "I can't be skilled enough to get Y job." These beliefs are not only often false, but they are self-reinforcing. They bring about the lies that they tout as truths.
Yes, some of your thoughts may be true. You may have an objective statistical disadvantage dating X ethnicity, you may not currently be skilled enough for Y job. We are not concerned with lying here, we are concerned with finding the absolute truth about ourselves.
And often, the truth is very dynamic and has gradients. You could believe that X type of girl would never date you, and in 3 months meet someone you are irresistably attracted to, who likes you as well, of X type.
Absolute beliefs just can't hold. They are too prone to contradiction. Just one counter-example breaks the rule. How truthful is a rule that doesn't model real life?
So take time one day to sit down, and just think (or write) what limiting beliefs you have about yourself and your life. The answers may shock you, as they will have always been subconsciously sitting there.
Reference experiences act like a wrecking ball against faulty beliefs. When you can have an experience that contradicts a belief tugging down your self-esteem, you will be freed.
This is a sort of Catch-22: to be the type of person to have certain experiences, you have to not have the limiting belief pulling you back from attaining said experiences.
Sometimes it can just be luck. You somehow get that job that was a reach. You somehow have a girl infatuated with you that was "out of your league". But it acts just the same, it will elevate your mindset.
We just have to put ourselves in the right position to get lucky. Improve ourselves in all ways. Then we are better positioned to win against the reference experience Catch-22.
Earning more money/increasing your wealth will undeniably make you more confident. Getting into incredible shape will undeniably make you much more secure about your (physical) attractiveness. Having friends you like who want to hang out with you will certainly make you feel wanted, connected, & energetic.
Life is hard. It is hard to succeed well in all areas of life. There is only so much time & energy you have in the day.
Health, wealth, love & relationships.
Maximizing your life-situation in all categories will incrementally add to the self-esteem equation. We do not live in a vacuum: our objective performance in life, based on our goals, will have a large impact on how we see ourselves and our self-esteem levels.
So relentlessly pursue your ideal life. Find what that is, and pursue it.
If you have bad skin, fix it (within what is possible). If you don't like how glasses make you feel, get contacts. We all have a laundry list of esoteric peeves that on paper may sound silly, but could have a huge impact on our self-esteem.
Track down what is fixable & fix it.
Accumulate a basal amount of financial resources that will put you at-ease. Pursue your fitness goals and achieve them. Connect with your love of people and find the people who energize you - befriend them. Find things you love to do and do more of it.
Push your comfort zone. Do activities that make you feel (a healthy) uncomfortable. Where the resistance is, the growth is.
Pursue these things relentlessly. Build your ideal life.
The pursuit itself will be self-affirming. You don't need to have a basket of happenings or achievements to respect yourself. It is all a process, it is all a gradient you slowly climb over time.
Despite its inconcrete nature, the above is really one of the true solutions for higher self-esteem.
Maximizing Your Fitness/Aesthetics
Getting into the best shape of your life can be one of the most rewarding things you can do for your self-esteem (the aesthetic upperbound being jacked for males, toned for females).
A lot of our beliefs are tied to a certain way we have looked our whole lives. Transforming our physique can fundamentally change what we think is possible for ourselves.
The thought process is, "if I can fundamentally transform my body, the vessel that carries me through life, what else can I transform in my life?"
Not to mention the tertiary psychological traits the journey will give you: discipline, consistency, longterm thinking, resilience, grit, character (and these, you will discover, are the real reward of good fitness).
It is hard to have low self-worth when you take your shirt off and constantly get stares from the opposite gender when crossing the street. It is hard to have low self-worth when you look in the mirror and see months of effort looking back at you that you know you underwent.
Albeit shallow, shallow things are all strangers have to go off of. The shallow is the depth that most individuals you interact with will wade in. But deep into physical transformation, you will realize that the journey really was all about its psychological effects on you yourself.
The goal is to get to a point where your inner sense of self-worth & self-respect is not tied 1-1 to how your life is outwardly unfolding in front of you.
You cannot control 100% of what happens to you externally, but you can control how you feel about yourself internally.
You have to convince yourself about yourself. You are your strictest judge, you know everything about yourself. If you can convince on this final frontier, your self-esteem will be unshakable.
Though, it is impossible to not be affected eventually by external happenings. The goal is to establish a looser rope between the internal and external.
We want our psyche to be like an underground lake, the water still, and when external events give us input about ourselves, we want that stillness to be impacted with our say in it.
One of the most important feelings we can feel about ourself in life is the feeling of "I am ok, I will be ok." It is rooted in our self-esteem levels & how our life is going.
The goal of all of the above is to reach a healthy level of self-esteem, the effect being, more and more you will notice your reaction to upsetting events being dampened.
Instead of immediately judging yourself and rerating your worth based on experiential inputs, you will already have a self-opinion sitting there for comparison.
This is what we want to develop, the muscle of having a high internal opinion of ourselves (that is rooted in truth), then filtering experiences to update that table.
Eventually you will come to a point where you have this.
Your confidence will be higher from the work you have done on your life. Your past limiting beliefs will slowly heal themselves through your shining a light on them and actively disproving them.
Then the next time the world upsets you, you will sense a delay. A delay between an event or thought that could make you think lower of yourself, and it resonating with something deeper that would keep it alive within you.
You decide it would be a false act to rerate your self-worth. Your self-esteem inoculated you from further self-hurt.
Things are still ok.