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Author Topic: Is BPD behavior driven by low self-esteem?  (Read 23268 times)
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Gender: Female
Posts: 467

Health - even mental health - is a choice.

« on: December 19, 2007, 11:36:19 AM »

Reading some threads here and over at Resouces for Individuals with BPD]BPDR[/url] (the forum for folks with BPD who are focused on getting better), it occurred to me how so much BPD behavior is based on low self-esteem. I'm not talking the transitory doubts we all have at times - Am I attractive? Do people like me? Do I do well at my job? Am I a good person? Do I smell nice and fresh? grin - but a fundamental, pervasive, and brutal self-hate.

"Good", a non might be thinking about saying to their BP, "cus you're a sht!"

Ok, true. Lots of times.

There are some people who, when they are miserable, seek to relieve their suffering by dumping it on other folks.

There are some people who, when they are miserable, delight in seeing others suffer. There's even a German word for it: schaedenfruede: "dark joy" in the suffering of others. How sadistic is that? It's almost inconceivable for normal, loving people: how could you want someone else to be hurting, especially someone you supposedly love?

But - and this is just my opinion and I sure ain't no expert, but I am a smart cookie - even those horrible witchy/turdly BPs fit into the first category, but not the second. Those in the second category are the ones with NPD/ASD.

Someone here recently posted it was hard for them to understand that BPs are in as such constant emotional torment as they supposedly are. In the BPD literature, I've heard it described as "emotional haemophilia" and like having emotional 3rd degree burns over your whole body. It's like being without skin: every nerve is exposed and so much as a whispered breath on your vulnerable skin causes agony. That's another idea that is hard to grasp, especially given their (our) external behavior. How can someone so mean and nasty actually be hurting that badly? Are they really hurting that badly? Gimmie a break, they can't be hurting that badly!

Say you were in a war - no disrespect meant to the veterans here on BPDFamily.com for the following analogy - and during combat you received shrapnel. Forget the logistics of it and say that a sliver of metal got lodged deep inside your body. After you recovered from the major wounds, you went on with your duties and your life. But slicing at the tender tissue at the very core of you was this piece of sharp hardness.

At first, as you're healing you think the pain is from the visible wounds inflicted by the explosion. But as you go on, you notice it's not going away but is actually getting worse. You don't know what's wrong - you're not aware of the presence of the sliver, the xrays didn't pick it up somehow, it's as if it's become so much a part of you that it's akin to your own bones or muscles - something you're made from.

It hurts all the time, in a fundamental, deep-down place. You can't get comfortable, every position makes it hurt more. You can't sleep because it's always present. You can't ignore it and live your life. You don't know why you hurt but no one else seems to be bothered by pain like yours. It doesn't seem fair: how they live their lives and seem happy and have no idea what you're going through. Half of them don't believe you when you tell them how bad it is. Many seem not to care. And those who do care can do nothing to ease your pain.

You are wounded and you want it to stop but you don't know how to make it stop and you lash out like a scared child or a wounded animal because you don't know what else to do. You only know you want it to stop.

I realise this may not make much sense to people. I don't feel this way. But I once did. It wasn't just the sliver inside, which for me was from childhood events (and other people had more than just slivers - they had chunks of metal inside from what they had to go through). It was that everything reminded me of what I didn't have: a sense of being acceptable and a good person and worth loving. Every action made it hurt worse inside.

I'm very introspective today, I'm not quite sure why. It's a really lovely day outside actually. Probably many of you don't want to hear this right now, about how many people with BPD are suffering. That's ok. I'm not asking for forgiveness - well, not for anyone but myself, maybe. Right now I'm struggling to remove as delicately as I can that sliver. It calls for me forgiving others whom I'm reluctant to forgive. But not forgiving is like pushing the sliver back in, isn't it? And that's madness. And poison to my system. So, I'm taking it out. Because I want to be healthy. Because I love who I am. Finally. I've almost got the darn piece of metal out, too.

In the end, I think that's what it'll take - somehow coming to love ourselves (nons & BPs alike - hell, the whole darn world, too) and realising that the explosions we set off to maim ourselves and to wound others, are injuring vulnerable, feeling, and real human beings.

Act as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference. ~a wise buddhist


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Posts: 27

« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2007, 02:03:02 PM »


As the mother of a daughter who is too young to be diagnosed but suffering nonetheless, I appreciate your ability to put into words what a person with BPD thinks and feels. The more I understand, the better chance I'll have of finding a way to help her.

Thank you for your openness and willingness to talk about your own experiences.

And yes, it is a beautiful day today.
Retired Staff
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Posts: 5316

« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2007, 02:09:27 PM »

Oceanheart --

Thank you for posting this.  The idea of BPD is still very, very difficult for me to wrap my brain around and as usual, your insights give me a tiny vision of what it must be like for the BPD sufferer.

I'm glad that you are doing so well in your recovery.  I sure wish that the BPD in my life would've given recovery a try, but he did/would not.  He chose to stay disordered over me (or anything remotely postive.)  I think that's the hardest part about all of this for me is that he is miserable, he knows he's miserable, he's grown comfortable being miserable, he hates himself and makes no bones about that, his life is a shambles, yet he will do NOTHING to help himself. I used to grieve about that, but as time has gone on, I've moved on with my life.  By refusing ANY help at all, he left me no other choice.

You are a gem, Oceanheart.  I think it's marvelous how you can come here and read all the things we say and still offer such insight.  

I'm soo glad you're here.



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Posts: 216

« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2007, 02:13:15 AM »

one of the things she used to say to me is , i have low self esteem , if i told her how i felt about her , she said why, i think after reading here i learned that she does not like her'self so how on earth could i tell her she was beautiful , still makes me sad, and sadly i still have anger , although as i learn and stay no contact my anger get's better , i am trying hard to learn about myself as well , meeting her has been a real wake up call for my life as well , never did i think i would be on a site like this posting reading and learning , all because i loved someone who never even liked her'self , life is full of twists and turns , cheers... w
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Posts: 734

« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2007, 02:59:01 AM »

I always knew his pain, Oceanheart, I always did.  And I held His terror inside me;  I couldn't handle it.  He was once such a beautiful little boy.  It wrung my heart.  I mean, I always saw that child in there.  I don't know how he managed to go on with so much fear inside him.

Well, anyway, he nearly destroyed me.  And he would do nothing to help himself.  I had to leave him... and he tore me to pieces.

I guess I'm just saying I always understood his pain, but that didn't deter him from lashing out at me.  And my understanding half drove me mad.  I couldn't afford to understand.  I couldn't afford to empathize with this person who was intent on hurting me.  You have to turn it off in self-defense.

I am so glad you were able to find the worthiness inside you that motivated you to seek help.  And I'm so glad you are here to show everyone that recovery really can happen.
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Posts: 197

« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2007, 04:22:26 AM »

oceanheart, yes i would like to think that you're in great company here. this isn't a group of people here ranting simply because they hate the current or former BPD-sufferer in their life, but because we all seek understanding. personally, i'm filled with utter grief and compassionate feelings for what unspeakables my former partner endured to acquire BPD, but even those here who profess a hatred towards their formers are just hurt..perhaps lacking understanding they just lash out. you have over 200 posts..you're not ignorant to these facts..i just want you to count me as another who doesn't know you from adam, but is pulling for you in your own recovery. certainly we "non's" are far from perfect..most are co-dependent or have some issue or another - no one gets out of this life unscathed. anyway, i digress..just wished to say keep up the good work. prayers and blessings to you..   
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Posts: 218

« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2007, 07:49:47 AM »

Oceanheart...My exuBPDgf talked openly about her low self esteem and seemed to use it as a tool for gaining reassurance...my only wish is that she would have talked openly and honestly about the rest of her past /issues...at the end of our 4 year relationship she came very,very close even talking about BPD...the trouble was that (in my then ignorance of BPD) her past was catching up with her and she was confronted about a number of infidelities/misdeeds from several directions(mine included)...I think it became too much to face and even with my avowed support she turned and ran to the next guy then shortly the next again!...in my brief encounters with her after this her shame was palpable..youcould really feel it!

I,ve got to the point now where I,m moving on...it hurts to know any more of her "dark" side...and in a way my hurt is no different to her shame ...neither of us wants to face it...she,s human like me and I would.nt want to experience 1%of her constant shame/ pain...I think she tried unbelievably hard to make a new life with me...but she did,nt follow the path of truth from the beggining and it eventually caught up with her...dragging her fragile self esteem back to the bottom of the chasm

I hope one day she see,s a way forward and if so and I,m priveleged enough to see that I will point her to your example...for youare a very special person...you seen and lived both sides of the mirror and in this world of billions you are one of a handfull

Have a great christmas

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Posts: 137

« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2007, 04:08:14 PM »


My exBPDbf had the classic BPD childhood.  He had been told for so many years that he was awful, ugly, lazy, that his birth was the cause of everything bad that happened to his BPD mother, that he was just broken.  He had so much shame.  In the last few days before I left him I remember holding him while he cried and saying, "no shame, no shame".  He was ashamed of things he had no reason to be ashamed of.  I have very low self-esteem and he continuously slashed at it.  It was projection from him, but I believed I was as bad as he said I was, except when he attacked an area where I have confidence in myself. That's when I could see that something weird was going on.  The way that I believed his criticism must have been what it was like for him when his mom projected her pain onto him.

I convinced him to see a psychiatrist and a therapist trained to help people with BPD, but he works hard to keep people from seeing what is wrong with him, he is very smart and convincing, and although he did admit to me that he was in pain, and has told bits of his experience with his mom to his T and Dr., he blames his anger, drinking, etc. on me.  He won't admit that he is BPD, he is afraid to show anyone the sliver of metal that is torturing him.

It has broken my heart because I can see what he could be if he recovered from the trauma.  I suffered so much when I was with him, and in the 4 months since I left. I've posted many times here about the things he said and did to me.  But I hope some day he will get better, as you are.

best wishes,

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« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2007, 09:20:58 PM »

Oh yes, their self-esteem is lower than most people can even imagine. It's not a self-esteem like, "My hair is ugly," "I need to lose weight;" It's a low self-esteem that runs to their absolute inner core, where they want to punish themselves for being "so awful," which they think they are. Their misery then floats over to us. My ex literally did not love himself at all, but I think sometimes he tried to. But I think that he felt like he had no choices, and he didn't seem to know what to do. All I know is that he always seemed really sad, and always seem to hate himself- in a way that was much worse than just someone with low self-esteem. This was a hatred to the inner core, where he could never let anyone else love him, and never let anything good happen to him, because of fear. His brother said to me after we broke up that he left me because he couldn;t love me the right way, and the reason why was because he did not love himself.

It breaks my heart because I saw the good in my X, and I always thought that he would be an amazing person. Sadly, he did not see what I saw. All he saw was ALL of the horrible things that he thought about himself. Because I saw so much good in him, he labeled me as crazy, and a whole bunch of other things. He didn't believe me.

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Posts: 216

« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2007, 01:16:47 AM »

god, the more i read the more i remember,she said , i can sit in front of the mirror for hours and think im ugly, i dont see what other people see, she always thought i was mocking her when i told her she was beautiful , very very sad...w
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