Self Esteem .....or lack of ?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Michelle Katz : Certified Relate Counsellor & BACP Senior Accredited
28th September, 2009
What is self-esteem?
It would seem almost impossible to give a finite definition of self-esteem since it undoubtedly has different meanings for different people. It is not static but ebbs and flows with a person’s circumstances, experiences and physicality i.e. if one is under pressure and tired, their self-esteem may well be flagging. However, a person who generally has high self-esteem may well be thought of as ‘Having confidence in their own merit as a human being’.
How does your self esteem fair? How often do you?
• Say ‘yes’ to please people, fearing that disappointing or letting them down, will lead to rejection. And if you unwillingly say ‘yes’, (with a smile of course!) do you beat yourself up with a barrage of self deprecating thoughts, or end up feeling resentful.
• Suspect that life is destined to offer you more of what you have already received i.e. humiliation; embarrassment etc
• Think, ‘what if’, and imagine the worst.
• Know what you don’t want, and fear if you do recognise your desires, they won’t be met?
• Blame yourself when things go wrong or people treat you badly?
• Feel you get let down –then blame yourself – you simply weren’t ‘something’ enough.
• Become overly caring for others, to the detriment of yourself.
• Suspect that your self-esteem is wrapped up in what you do, and that if you ‘failed’ it would plummet, and not just for a short period of time.
If these are the thoughts and feelings you live with on a regular basis then it would seem your self esteem might be rather low.
So what causes someone to have low self esteem?
• People who lack self-esteem have generally, had their feelings hurt too often, too deeply, and undoubtedly when they were too young to cope with the pain.
• As children they may have experienced frequent disappointment; loss; physical and / or emotional abuse.
• They become victims to those who are older and stronger, and since children naturally blame themselves for their circumstances, and take inappropriate responsibility for others, they feel a failure.
• These unfortunate children grow up and are often attracted to unsavoury situations or people. Like children, they continue to think ‘it must be my fault’
• A series of negative, traumatic, uncontrollable events during adulthood
How do you recognise people with high self-esteem?
• They are able to take care and value themselves without feeling guilty or selfish – they could be considered as ‘self orientated’ - I am important enough to take care of me’.
• They are able to say ‘No’ if they know that the task is too onerous, and when they do tire, they take time out to recover and recharge their batteries.
• They treat themselves equally to how they treat others.
• They are often high energy people who generally feel positive and optimistic.
• They have a sense of trust in themselves, people and the world around them.
• Rather than engaging in self destructive behaviour, they take time to look after themselves, as well as looking after others
So if my self esteem is low, is there anything I can do? Talking therapies can be helpful in many ways such as:
• A person with low self-esteem is likely to see things negatively. A counsellor / therapist can help the individual see things from a different prospective i.e. the positive things that they have probably discounted.
• By understanding how childhood experiences are affecting their thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the present, the individual can explore the possibility of change. They can recognise that their reaction is ‘as if’ they are still 6 years old, and of course it’s never a good idea to let a 6 year old ‘drive the bus’!
• Counselling can offer an opportunity to learn new skills i.e. to say no in an assertive, rather than aggressive manner.
• Avoiding doing or saying difficult things makes fear increase and esteem diminish. By contrast, confidence comes from achieving, so by learning how to minimise the risk, a positive cycle emerges, as with each small sense of achievement, confidence and self-esteem grows.
If you recognise from this article that your self esteem is low, how will you begin to consider yourself important enough to do something about it?
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