Self Talk: How What You Say Becomes What You Think

Does Porn Affect My Self Esteem?

The middle and high school years are, for many of us, the most fragile years of our lives, especially when it comes to our self-esteem. Not only are our hormones beginning to rage and develop, we’re encountering a number of changes in our lives, in our friends, and in our physical bodies.

I just recently began teaching at a middle school here in my hometown, and I’m seeing this assault on self-esteem every day. Kids deal with mean comments, body quirks, hard homework, and more. Their self-esteem is especially fragile at this time in their lives because they’re beginning to discover who they are.

As a teacher, I feel responsible for being aware of their self-esteem and seeking to build them up. Often I need to set the record straight, but for the most part, I need to work to get their confidence in their studies and their lives high, in the right way and for the right reasons, of course.

For some, high self-esteem is part of their personality. They’re just naturally confident in their skin and in how they appear before other people. Nothing about what they do shakes how they view themselves. But for others, self-esteem is like the spinning top in the movie Inception: you never know when it will fall.

I’ve experienced an up-and-down roller coaster ride with my self-esteem over my 23-plus years, and nothing has shaken it more than my struggle with pornography. Nothing has brought me down lower, dragged me down faster, and shot my confidence more definitively than struggling with pornography.

Nothing has brought me down lower, dragged me down faster, and shot my confidence more definitively than struggling with pornography.

Perhaps it has to do with my religious upbringing and my faith. Being in a Christian household and professing Christ on my own, I knew that looking at pornography was sinful and disobedient to God. Knowing that I had done something bad killed any good feeling I had.

The Mayo Clinic says common thought patterns that “erode self-esteem” include all-or-nothing thinking, mental filtering, mistaking feelings for facts and negative self-talk. Those types of thought patterns were definitely in place in reaction to my struggle with pornography. Let’s take these one-by-one and see how looking at pornography can affect your self-esteem.

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All-or-nothing thinking:

This is the kind of thinking where you see people/things/etc. as only good or bad, with no gray areas. When you struggle with pornography while knowing how bad it is, you might think to yourself, “Because I look at pornography, I am a bad person. Because I do something bad, I am a bad person.”

Mental filtering:

This is the kind of thinking where you ignore the positives about yourself and only look at the negatives. Maybe you’ve had a really good week and you’ve exhibited a great amount of self-control. But you slipped up once. Yes, it’s not good that you’ve done that, but after a week of real victory, you only think about the fact you messed up. You think, “Man, I’m a total failure. I can’t even go a whole week!” You ignore the many victories, which are positives.

Mistaking feelings for facts:

This is the kind of thinking where you confuse feelings or beliefs with facts. Perhaps you feel like God doesn’t love you or you’re not worth anything because of your struggle. That feeling overrules logic and what’s true, and you begin to believe that how you feel is what’s actually true.

Negative self-talk:

This is the kind of thinking where you put yourself down or undervalue yourself when you think about yourself. Sometimes it takes the form of self-deprecating humor. You tell yourself that you’re terrible. You think to yourself, “I don’t deserve anything good because I suck.”

All of these types of thinking in this situation are flawed types of thinking. They are not based in fact, but in fiction. There may be nuggets of truth, but the extremes are wrong and fictional.

‘Just because there are times you messed up doesn’t mean you always fail. You have to think about the successes, too.’

Again, let’s look at these types of thinking, and this time think about positive alternatives you can use when it comes to approaching your battle with pornography.

Balanced thinking:

Struggling with pornography doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you have a struggle you need to fight, as well as harmful behavior you need to work on and take care of. We are not defined by just one of our actions.

Complete mental pictures:

If I were to tell a student only about the bad things he or she had been doing in class and not the good things, I would not be giving them the whole picture of their behavior. If you only saw half of a piece of artwork, you would not be able to see what the artist intended. In this line of thinking, you can’t see the whole truth, so it’s an inherently flawed way of thinking.

I do this all the time. I’m getting married in June, and my fiancée and I are currently in premarital counseling. I recently asked our counselor about my struggle with self-control, which permeates multiple areas of my life. I asked him, “Is the Holy Spirit not living in me if I don’t display self-control?” He asked back, “Are there times when you have displayed self-control?” I nodded yes. “Then the Spirit is living in you,” he said. “Just because there are times you messed up doesn’t mean you always fail. You have to think about the successes, too.”

You are not defined by how you feel

Feelings are just feelings, not facts:

This is the one I struggle with the most. Some of us are just more emotional than others, so our emotions play with us more. We’re more likely to believe feelings than facts. However, just because we feel something, that doesn’t make it true. This is huge to understand when it comes to dealing with pornography. Feelings change all the time, so if we let our feelings guide us and decide how we think about ourselves and the world around us, our foundation will be shaky because it will be constantly changing. A porn addition or porn habit can make you feel terrible. Therefore, you start believing you are terrible. This is not true. You are not defined by how you feel.

Positive self-talk:

Telling yourself you’re a terrible person or that you can never find victory or that you’ll always masturbate is not helpful. It doesn’t make victory easier. Putting yourself down also doesn’t help. It might feel good in the moment because you think, “I’m putting myself in my place, being real about where I’m at.” But there’s a difference between being real and telling yourself lies. You can overcome. You can defeat pornography’s stranglehold on you. I’ve been in this place and I’ve said those things, and I can tell you for a fact that negative self-talk is not helpful. In fact, it’s often more destructive than constructive.

So the answer is yes, porn can affect your self-esteem. But that doesn’t mean it has to control your self-esteem, how you feel about yourself. You can overcome the negative self-talk, the all-or-nothing thinking.

Remember that your struggle does not define you; how you respond to it does.

 

Original article posted with permission on XXXchurch. XXXchurch seeks to overcome “sex and porn addictions through awareness, prevention, and recovery.” Find out more about XXXchurch and their recovery tools here.

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Zachary Horner

Zachary Horner

Zachary, whose real name is William Edwin Horner IV but goes by “Zach,” is a young guy living in Sanford, N.C. He graduated from Elon University in 2014 with a degree in journalism. He’s getting married in June 2016 to his lovely fiancée Sarah, is currently a middle school teacher in Sanford. Zach’s passions are writing honest, truthful pieces where he can be encouraging and helpful to his readers. Particular topics of interest include depression and anxiety, sexuality and the Gospel. His other passions are Arsenal FC, Apple products and gluten-free pizzas.

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