Low Self Esteem - I think I have it but what can I do?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Stefan Kelly BA(Hons) Counselling, MBACP accredited
27th May, 2008
Low or poor self esteem is a term given to the state of being which can actually be pretty hard to describe, let alone understand. As in the case of ‘depression’ the phrase ‘low self esteem’ is used to describe the underlying cause of a range of observable behaviours. Behaviours such as shyness, anxiety, aggression, eating disorders, low expectations, pleasing others and neglect of one’s own needs.
However, these perhaps only describe what others may observe. What is much more difficult to understand are your feelings and emotional experiences hidden behind those behaviours that others can see. It may be that you are aware of some sense of low self esteem and any or all of these feelings are familiar. It could also be that any, some or all of these emotions are so buried, that the behaviours above are so much a part of you, are a part of your everyday life that you have an underlying constant sense that things aren’t right but don’t know why.
A sense of low self esteem can connect with so many parts of daily life. Some parts may be relatively easy to talk about such as: ‘I’m just shy’, ‘I like to make sure that everyone else is OK’ or ‘I find it easier not to argue’.
There may be other more deeply held personal and private self beliefs which, although you are aware of, you feel will be much more difficult to explore and make sense of: ‘Everyone criticises me, even when I try really hard. Perhaps I deserve it’.
These beliefs possibly make up who you are right now but not necessarily who you want to be in the future: ‘I’ve worked really hard and I’ve got everything I want but still I’m not happy’.
Relationships with your partner can also be affected in an unseen way by low self esteem: ‘ All I want is some attention and intimacy but I won’t get it so I won’t bother trying. I’ll only get let down again’.
Possibly life in the workplace is difficult because it is difficult to assert yourself and get on with bosses, staff and colleagues: ‘There’s no point giving my opinion because no one will listen’.
Life within the family can sometimes difficult when you are experiencing constant demands for your time and energy, sometimes without any feeling for what you might want: ‘I just can’t say no and end up doing things I don’t want to and then feel guilty wanting to do something for myself’.
If you are feeling now that this is not the way you want to live, then finding an empathic counsellor may be helpful to make some changes in your life. There are two crucial first steps in the therapy process:
• Acknowledging to yourself that things are not quite right in your life- only you can know this.
• Your desire to bring about changes to achieve a sense of your own well being and set about ways to achieve this- only you can do this.
The thought of going into counselling can, for some, be a pretty daunting prospect. You may even not be sure what it is you want to achieve let alone explain the confusing and possibly deeply personal stuff that is going on for you. But that’s OK.
Having made that first step to counselling, the next part of the process is for the counsellor to work with you so that you both begin to get an understanding of you, your internal world and eventually, where you want to go.
As your level of trust in your counsellor grows you will have the opportunity to explore who you are and how you came to feel as you do now. Through this process you will be able to:
• grow your sense of esteem
• shrink those painful issues and anxieties that are so much of your present life
• create a more positive and hopeful vision of your life in the future
And remember- This Is All About You.
About the author
Stefan is co-founder and Clinical Director of The Eaves Counselling and Psychological Services based in Surrey.
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