Self-improve Logically
Self-improve Logically

Self-Esteem and Porn addiction: An in-depth article.

We need to talk about self-esteem and porn addiction. I am surprised why nobody is talking about it. I searched for articles, books, videos on this topic but found none. Why no one is talking about the one major cause for our unhappiness, our failures, and low self-esteem? Why is everyone silent despite knowing how it is affecting our lives? 

I will cover this topic in this article and break down every point on how porn addiction is one of the biggest reasons behind our low self-esteem.

Self-Esteem and Porn addiction

But, What is self-esteem?

Before diving into porn addiction and its consequences, let’s begin with what self-esteem is.

Whenever you hear this term ‘self-esteem’, you have a subtle understanding about it but if you want to put it into words, it becomes tricky.  

There are a lot of definitions of self-esteem. 

According to the oxford dictionary, Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s worth or abilities; self-respect. 

According to Smith and Mackie, the author of Social Psychology, “Self-esteem is what we think about the self, the positive or the negative evaluation of the self, as in how we feel about it.”

According to Nathanial Brenden, “Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.”

In simple, self-esteem is the confidence in our mind and the ability that we can overcome the basic challenges of life and we are worthy of happiness and it is our birthright.

Therefore, two key components of self-esteem are: Self-Efficacy and Self-respect.

Self-Efficacy

According to positivepsychology,Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our own abilities, specifically our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us and complete a task successfully”

Self-efficacy is the confidence in our ability that we can overcome the challenges of life. You have noticed that you gained 20 pounds of extra weight and you have to reduce it. You are going to make a diet plan, maybe join a gym if you have time, and start working on reducing the extra weight. 

You have the confidence and belief in your mind that you are going to reduce the extra weight. There is no doubt about it.

One key thing to keep in mind is that self-efficacy doesn’t mean over-confidence in oneself. Self-efficacy means having the ability to modulate your behavior to reach your goals, instead of dreaming that someday you will achieve your goals. 

This is why Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as”the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.

Self-Respect

Self-respect is basic to your happiness. If you don’t respect yourself, you will accept discourtesy, abuse and your self-concept will be that you are not worthy of happiness. Happiness is for someone who deserves, but you don’t deserve happiness, because there is low or no respect for yourself.

Why is your self-respect low?

There may be multiple reasons:

  1. You don’t have integrity. You can’t keep your promises.
  2. You can’t fulfill your commitment.
  3. Wrong parenting.
  4. Low awareness of your own self. 
  5. Don’t have self-acceptance.
  6. No life purpose.
  7. Negative self-talk.

Your self-respect reflects on your behavior and work. You are sending vibes to others about your self-respect and in response, you receive the same from them, which will further strengthen your self-concept that you have self-respect.

It is because of low self-respect you can see people who already have achieved their goals and are still unhappy. They reach their dreams with their hard work and skills, but cannot sustain in that position for long and come back to their older self because they believe, at least not consciously, that they are not worthy of this success. 

There are thousands, if not lakhs, examples out there where people reach extraordinary success but, they cannot maintain it for long and go back to their older self, the comfortable self. 

What self-efficacy and self-respect have to do with porn addiction?

To understand the relation between self-esteem and porn addiction, we have to understand a topic called ‘Dopamine Exhaustion’.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Our nervous system uses it to transfer messages between nerve cells. Dopamine is also known as the pleasure chemical and this chemical is also responsible for your desire and motivation.

For example, you are not good at dating but you want to be. One day you are on your couch and watching t.v and suddenly you have come across a movie or commercial where a guy with a good physique seems very happy and good with women. This motivates you to have a good physique.

This future desire of getting a good physique motivates you and makes you happy just by thinking about how good it will be when you have abs and biceps.

This desire and happy feeling is nothing but the secretion of dopamine. 

It gives you a burst of energy and puts you into action to achieve your desire. Because of this, you put your name in the gym that day, you buy shoes, take a one-year membership. 

You wake up early at 5, watch workout videos on youtube, buy supplements, and post pictures on social media about your progress.

When Dopamine is released?

In my last article, ‘Constant motivation: A unique guide to get your work done I have talked about the process of dopamine release. 

Let’s understand this with the concept of peripersonal and extrapersonal regions.

Peripersonal Region: 

Peripersonal region means whatever is in your arms reach, that you can control right now by moving your hands.  

You are sitting on your study table and reading this article on your phone. Now, your phone, the study table is in your peripersonal region. 

Extrapersonal Region:

The extrapersonal region is the opposite. Whatever is not in your arms reach, the things that take time and cannot control right now is the extrapersonal region. 

Perhaps you are thirsty and the water bottle is in the fridge which is in the kitchen. You have to get out of your chair, walk to the fridge and then you can drink it.

There is space involved and it takes time to reach your goal. 

 Dopamine works in the Extrapersonal region. Dopamine makes you desire things that you don’t have yet and create drives to achieve it. It makes you feel good and at the same time, it makes you suffer.

But, one thing to remember is that Dopamine doesn’t release when the outcome is certain and known.  Driving your car for the first time is exciting, after learning how to drive there is no excitement. You now know everything about driving, there is no new information involved. There is no novelty.

You found out about the new restaurant in your area, and you are excited about this. You have no idea how the food is going to taste but the billboard and stunning-looking restaurant promises good food.

You loved the food on the very first day and have decided to come here every day to try everything out because this is your new favorite restaurant.

Over time, your excitement goes down, and don’t find it that tasty as you felt in the beginning, and you say something has changed about this restaurant. Perhaps, the restaurant has dropped the quality of the food.

The restaurant didn’t drop the quality of the food, it is that you are familiar with the same taste. 

Dopamine releases on the unexpected- the possibility and anticipation. 

When there is new information and you are not sure about the outcome, you start predicting the reward. The scientist named this phenomenon, the reward prediction error.

We always make predictions about what is going to happen or what comes next; how much profit you are going to earn this month, how your date will go this afternoon, how iphone12 will be like, what will happen when we have a good physique, is your boyfriend going to propose you, if your son going to win the championship, etc. 

It is the possibility of the reward that releases dopamine in your brain. The reward can be a piece of cake or maybe to play video games with your friends, the reward can monetary success or marrying your girlfriend. 

The reward can be dopamine itself, the good feeling, or other chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin. The reward is your happy feeling.

The dark side of dopamine

The dark side of dopamine is that once things start to get familiar, the dopamine secretion shuts down.  

The primary work of our brain is our survival. It keeps looking for new sources or new information for survival. Once we come across a new source, our brain gets alert, starts predicting the reward from it and dopamine starts to release. It says, ‘hey look, this is important for you’ and we feel excited and happy.

You are in a bar and you saw a girl for the first time. She is beautiful and your dopamine starts rushing in your brain. It is saying, “she is important. Just imagine how it will be to talk to her, to be with her, etc.” Your hearts start to pound, your legs start to shake but after all this, you gather your courage and reach her to introduce yourself.

You both have a lot in common and you found out that she is also interested in you too. Within a few weeks you get more close to her and one day you proposed to her. She accepted it, and now she is your partner. Great!

But, wait… if she is all you wanted, why don’t you feel that excitement anymore that you felt that night in the bar? You found yourself in the dilemma of loving her or not loving her.

You are questioning yourself, what just happened? Why are you losing interest in her? She is perfect for you, then why don’t you love her anymore?

Of Course, there are relationships where couples live  together for a lifetime, but it depends on other chemicals, not dopamine and that topic is for another article. 

So, what all these have to do with porn addiction and self-esteem?

If you are a porn addict, the mere thinking of watching porn makes you excited. People have reported that porn makes them happy and there are even some who prefer the digital world of porn than having any real sex. 

Why?

You are in your college dorm and your roommate has introduced you to porn for the very first time. You feel a huge rush of pleasure when you watch it, the next day you want to watch it again. Why?

Your brain marked the activity as important because there was a huge rush of chemicals which means you were happy and it was important for your survival. 

Of course, it was not important for survival. Your rational brain knows that.

The next day you watch it again, predicting the same level of reward. But, you cannot get the same level of reward with the same porn video, so, you watch more and surf more. The next day more. 

You used to watch a minute or two in the beginning, but now after all these years, you have to watch for hours to find that perfect video that can satisfy you.

There are billions of videos, and most of them are free and easy to access. 

You watch one after another, predicting to get a better hit of dopamine, but once the new video doesn’t meet your prediction you go on to the next video, reward prediction error.

Porn watchers spend hours of videos before they finally settle into one. 

The basic nature of dopamine is more. It never settles, it keeps wanting more and more.

You keep expecting the same level of happiness that you felt last time while watching porn, but once things get familiar you don’t enjoy it much, remember. 

You go onto the hard stuff. Where once a normal porn video makes you satisfied, now you go hour after hour to get the perfect video for your orgasm. 

Once you find it, the next time you go for something better, even brutal.

There is this constant rush of dopamine, and to meet the standard of dopamine level that you released the last time, you spend more time and surf more videos to have that level of satisfaction. It never does.

When this huge rush of constant dopamine releases in your body, you lose interest in other aspects of your life. Once the things that made you excited, you no longer feel excited for them anymore. 

This is called Dopamine Exhaustion. 

You lose interest in your work, in your daily activity, you don’t enjoy meeting people, you don’t enjoy working for your dream, your passion and this is the starting point of having low self-esteem.

Dopamine Exhaustion:

Dopamine exhaustion happens not only with porn addiction but with any kind of addiction. Drug addiction, video games addiction, and these affect other aspects of your life.

If your brain is expecting a high hit of dopamine, for example, if we put it in numbers for understanding, let’s say 80, which means to feel the pleasure you need 80 points of dopamine but your normal work releases only 2-10 points, then you don’t enjoy your work anymore. 

Drug addicts don’t feel that high anymore that they felt in the beginning but they still do it, because they don’t want to experience the low

Your brain is habituated to that hit of dopamine, it keeps predicting every day of that reward, but once you stop, once you go into nofap, you experience the low, the sadness, the craving.

Once you don’t enjoy your work anymore, how can you have self-efficacy? You get frustrated that you cannot do your work despite knowing how important it is for you. You know you have a dream to pursue, you have a goal in life but this is not motivating you anymore. 

There is no zeal, no drive, or in other words, there is no desire. 

You start hating yourself that you are useless, you cannot do anything in life, and go to bed crying every night. There is no self-respect because you cannot control yourself. 

When there is no self-efficacy and self-respect, then there is no self-esteem. When there is no self-esteem, there is no happiness.

What happens when you stop watching porn?

When you stop watching porn, the first few months are the hardest. I have already written a detailed article on the one-year timeline of nofap. If you are interested, you can read it here:

Nofap timeline-The complete nofap stages from Day 1 to Day 365

There are multiple benefits of nofap, but as this article is related to self-esteem I will talk about that.

After you stop watching porn, the first few months will have mixed emotions, few weeks you will feel motivated and few weeks you will feel low. There will be high and low and it happens because your brain is rewiring.

The neural pathways that you have created by watching porn day after day, are going to shrink and dormant and it takes time. 

Usually, people do a 90 days challenge of nofap. It depends on your level of addiction and how long you are watching porn.

It may take upto a year, but once you overcome this addiction, your love for life starts to return. Your productivity increases because you enjoy your work. 

Your self-image starts to improve and you start respecting yourself because you are doing something that is very difficult. 

In short, your self-esteem grows. 

Conclusion

Self-esteem is important for your happiness. The pleasure you receive from watching porn is fake. 

True happiness comes from your personal values. What do you value the most? 

I value my work, I value honesty, I value perseverance, I value passion and when I do these things, I feel happy. 

This happiness lasts forever, this happiness improves the quality of your life. I can’t make you realize this happiness until you experience it. Why don’t you experience it once?

You already know the cost of your true happiness. 

Are you ready to pay?

Best

Ahbab