The Big “I”
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Paul Mallott MBPS BSc - Children/Adolescents/Adults and Clinical Supervision
19th June, 2010
Disturbing feelings, such as depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, envy and jealousy, are often rooted in low self opinion. If you are prone to experiencing these feelings, then you will have a problem with your self esteem.
You may only assume that you are only as worthwhile as your achievements, love life, social status, attractiveness, or financial prowess/achievement or worth. If you link your worth to these temporary conditions and for some reason they diminish, then your self esteem can plummet too.
Implicit in the concept of low self esteem is the notion of estimating, or rating and measuring, your worth. If you have high self esteem, then your measure or your value or worth is high. Conversely, if you have low self esteem, your estimate of worth is low.
Condemning yourself is a form of over generalising known as labelling or self-downing. This thinking error creates low self esteem. Labelling yourself makes you feel worse.
Examples: I’m unlovable, I’m worthless, I’m stupid, I’m inadequate, I don’t matter, I’m not a nice person, I’m not important, I’m not nice
Take a look at the Big “I” above comprised of dozens of little “i”s. So what is the point of the figure above?
When you evaluate yourself totally on the basis of one characteristic, thought, action or intention, you are making the thinking error that a single part (The little i ) is equal to the whole (Big I).
Along a similar line, consider a finely woven tapestry comprised of countless variations of textures, colours and patterns. Within the tapestry you find a small flaw, where the colour fails to meet, or the pattern is slightly out of sync. This flaw in the tiny detail does not cancel out the beauty or the value of the overall tapestry.
What about the Venus de Milo? Over the years she’s lost a limb or two, but the officials at the Louvre Gallery don’t say, “Uuum she’s flawed; put her in the bin”.
Letting go of labelling
Self acceptance means deciding to resist labelling yourself at all times, and to entertain the idea that ratings are inappropriate to the human condition. For example:
You lied to a friend once. Does that make you a liar forever and for all time?
You failed at one or more tasks that were important to you. Can you legitimately conclude that you are an utter failure?
Start acting in accordance with the belief that your parts do not define your wholeness. If you truly believe this idea, what do you do when you fail at doing something, behave badly or notice that you have a physical imperfection or character flaw? How do you think you will feel if you endorse this belief?
As a human being, your nature is to be an ever changing person. Even if you measure all your personal characteristics today and come up with a global rating for yourself, it will be wrong tomorrow. Why? Because each day, you change a little, age very slightly, and gather a few new experiences. Consider yourself as a work in progress and try holding a flexible attitude towards yourself, every skill you acquire or interest you develop effectively produces a change within you. Every hardship you weather, every joyous event that visits you, and every mundane occurrence you endure causes you to develop, adapt and grow as a person.
About the author
Paul Mallott, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Open University, Diplomas in Health and Social Care level 5, Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Grief and Bereavement from a diversity of Educational Organisations.Member of The British Psychological Society (BPsS)
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