Q. .. i care too much: This year in school has been extremely rough for me. In the beginning of the year, I was taken advantage of by a few different guys and didn’t get myself the best reputation. Now all the guys at school think I’m “easy” and my problem is I can’t say no. I’m TERRIBLE at turning anything down.. which is how I’ve gotten myself into trouble this year. I drink too much, and I’m way underage. I’ve smoked a lot, but just out of peer pressure. I let other people affect me and my decisions too much, and I get jealous SO easily. I have such low confidence that there are days when I won’t eat at all. Once I get home from school, I just cry all night. The guy I was in love with cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend, and seeing them together kills me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I can’t deal with coming home and crying myself to sleep ever night. I’ve lost all focus and my grades are dropping significantly. I feel so worthless and can’t find anything to help me. My parents aren’t helping me out too much either… Am I depressed? What is my PROBLEM!

A. I think self esteem is your problem. On the positive side of all of this, you realize you are being taken advantage of and that it is wrong and unhealthy. You have made mistakes in the past but you can correct your future behavior so that you do not continue to be a doormat.

What is self esteem all about? Self esteem is about believing in yourself, having confidence in yourself, believing that you are important, believing that your feelings matter, believing that You matter. Self esteem develops overtime and is usually built up through life accomplishments. It is not a concept that develops overnight. As you continue in life, the more you accomplish, the more your self esteem should grow. For the time being, you must take on the opinion of yourself that you are important. You must protect yourself from being hurt, taken advantage of and ultimately ending up doing things you do not want to do. Become your own advocate, protecting yourself from doing things that are not healthy. If you don’t do protect and advocate for yourself, who else will?

When you let people walk all over you, You are letting this occur. The good news is that You have the power to change this. Recognizing this is very empowering. When you can’t say no you are giving up control. The result of giving up this control is that you let other people run your life. You will find that people will pick up on your inability to say no and continue to take advantage of this fact. It is almost like some people have a sixth sense about this. Soon enough, because of your inability to say no, you will find yourself surrounded by people who are taking advantage of you. Recognize that you are the common denominator. People will pick up on the fact that you are easy, submissive in a way, and start to “boss you around.” Again and again, you will find yourself in all sorts of situations you really do not want to be in.

Consider this scenario. A friend says she wants to go to a party and wants you to go with her. You do not want to go because you know the party could be trouble and also, you have no desire to go. Not wanting to disappoint her and risk her not liking you and not able to say no, you find yourself at this party. You meet some guys there who you know are only hanging around you because they heard you might be easy. You end up sleeping with one of the guys at the party, not because you wanted to but just because you could not say no. He did not force you but you felt bad turning him down. You hated the party and wish you had not gone. You would have rather stayed home and watched your favorite movie as you had originally planned but instead, because you could not say no, you are stuck doing what your friend wanted you to do, hanging out at a lousy party and sleeping with a guy who you know only paid attention to you because he heard you are easy. He got what he wanted, spreads rumors about you and never talks to you again. Who loses here? You absolutely lose in this situation. You have wasted a night doing what your friend wanted and not what you wanted. You let a guy take advantage of you when you really did not want to be with him. This hurts you and it is extremely unhealthy. Unfortunately, it is an extremely common scenario.

It is not selfish to do what you want to do. It is healthy to do what you want, especially when in this scenario, you did not want to go to the party nor did you really want to be with this guy. Only you can protect you from you. Say no when you do not want to do something and don’t care what other people think. Other people do not have to live your life. In this scenario, you can’t blame your friend for dragging you out to the party you did not want to go to nor can you blame the guy who you ended up sleeping with. You willingly agreed to all that happened. It did not have to be this way. You could have and should have said no to the party, especially if you had other plans.

You care what people think of you therefore your behavior is affected and in essence, your behavior is dictated by these people. When your behavior is based on what other people think of you, you are not being yourself. When you are not yourself, you are not being authentic, and you are not being who you truly are. You are being what other people want you to be. Continuing this practice will only lead you to loss site of who you really are, what your feelings and thoughts are and further away from living a happy life. Bending to the wants and needs of others is not a fulfilling life. What is fulfilling is knowing You are important and that You matter, and acting accordingly.

I would encourage you to read books about self esteem. Since you said your parents are not that helpful, maybe you can talk to your school counselor. Maybe you can suggest to the school counselor that he or she give a seminar about self esteem to you and other students. Having self esteem can save you from countless future life mistakes. Good luck and I hoped this helped at least a little.