Author: Sam Bowman
The path to self-acceptance doesn’t always look like a straight line. In fact, it’s more likely to be paved with inconsistencies. If it were easy to love yourself unconditionally, fewer people would struggle. In the age of social media, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to everyone else’s highlight reel. Sometimes, it seems like the whole world is doing well while you’re floundering under the pressure of just trying to love yourself a little more.
Living with bipolar disorder certainly doesn’t make this path any easier to navigate. In fact, bipolar tends to impact self-worth in ways specifically linked to the disorder. For this reason, it’s important to learn how bipolar disorder influences your sense of self — and start on a path to self-acceptance sooner rather than later.
How Bipolar Disorder Impacts Self-Worth
A few of the symptoms of bipolar disorder directly involve self-worth. These include:
● Experiencing self-doubt;
● Feeling hopeless;
● Feeling worthless;
● Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity during mania.
Of course, these aren’t the only diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder. However, they contribute greatly to your identity as someone living with bipolar. People with bipolar typically hold extreme expectations for themselves in terms of succeeding or gaining recognition among their peers. Their self-worth is highly dependent on whether or not they attain these lofty goals.
Having big dreams may seem like a positive thing — and, at times, leads to positive outcomes. However, if the goals set are simply unattainable, you may find yourself reaching for the stars and landing among the depressive clouds. Bipolar disorder may make it so that you are severely affected by failure or setbacks. Without these achievements, people with bipolar report an unstable sense of identity.
These vast changes in belief about oneself can be confusing and debilitating. On top of that, those diagnosed with bipolar may even engage in self-stigma. You can take on the negative societal views of bipolar disorder and start to feel shame, embarrassment, and even guilt for being diagnosed. If you’re experiencing self-loathing as someone with bipolar, you may:
● Feel like you are a burden on others;
● Think negative thoughts like “No one likes me” and “I’m not good enough”;
● Engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, like excess substance use or avoidance.
It’s not going to be as easy as telling yourself not to be ashamed of your diagnosis, but it’s a start. Awareness of self-loathing is the first step on your journey to self-love. The good news is that you are human, first and foremost, and don’t have to be defined by any other labels.
Healthy Ways To Improve Your Self-Concept
Rather than coping in unhealthy ways, there are tangible tactics to improve your self-esteem. Consider:
● Focusing on positive parts of yourself;
● Practicing being assertive and/or calm in times of distress;
● Incorporating self-care into your daily routine;
● Cultivating positive relationships;
● Engaging in talk therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy.
Many of these techniques are taught in therapeutic settings, and working with a therapist or mental health professional can keep you on track. They can offer suggestions, track your progress, and help you manage expectations for yourself. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that ticks every self-love box all the time.
Rather, you should just seek to improve your coping mechanisms and the way you treat yourself. Over time, it will come more naturally to you to embrace your authentic self. The benefits of increasing your self-worth include professional and personal success. Without striving to be perfect, you can focus on improving in areas that allow you to advance and grow in every aspect of your life.
Moving Forward on Your Journey to Authenticity
Expecting yourself to boost your self-esteem to perfection right away isn’t realistic and guarantees failure. Instead, strive to love yourself unconditionally, even when you go through rough patches. Be kind to yourself and forgive as though you’d forgive a loved one.
You can hold yourself accountable for your actions, but harping on them and feeling ashamed won’t help you move forward. Choose to view yourself as worthy of love, and your personality traits are part of what makes you loveable. Extend the grace to yourself to make mistakes — knowing you’re better for them in the long run.