Low self-esteem - you weren't born with it!
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Paul Lipman - MBACP. Accred reg. - Individuals, Couples, & Group counselling.
22nd February, 20170 Comments
I’ll start with a quote from a lady suffering from low self-esteem as I think her words explain very well, how hidden, the source of our difficulties can sit within us.
“I came to realise that in order for my mum to love me, she had to always be the one getting the attention and how I grew up unconsciously programmed to feel less about myself, because, at a deep level, I believed I would be loved if I did”
Firstly I want to say this article is not about getting at our parents. I like to think about our parent and parent figures as being responsible but not guilty. I say this as a parent who has made enough of my own mistakes.
We form our personality traits in response to our early life relationships. In particular with our mothers or mother figures and heavily influenced by our father, father figures and later in childhood by our peers, those in authority and by our societal and cultural beliefs. By the time we are about six most of our inner blue print is in place and then topped up during our teens.
You weren’t born with low self-esteem and you didn’t come into this world thinking you were less than anyone else. Somewhere along the way you made this decision. Sounds a little odd to suggest you decided to be this way.
Of course I’m not suggesting you sat down and decided to be as you are. Just that in response to something or someone in your life, you unconsciously decided this was the best way to be at some point in your life.
From birth, children pick up both verbal and non-verbal messages from parent figures. These messages tell the child when they are pleasing or displeasing the parent. The world can seem a very scary place to be in as a child and the simple act of a mother moving physically away can, without rational thinking leave a baby experiencing this as life threatening. To ensure a young child attracts the love and attention they need and to keep themselves “safe”, they “automatically” adjust how they think, feel and behave. The many ways are endless and for some, this means they grow up without recognising all their qualities and their value to others.
So, now as an adult, Imagine you see someone across the room, you like. You then start to tell yourself that you're not good enough: too big, too small, too fat, too thin, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not rich enough… the list is endless. Maybe you don’t apply for that job you really want or keep quiet in groups because you think no one will want to hear what you have to say. Only you will know how you miss out on “your” life because of how you feel about yourself.
Now imagine a world in which you like who you see in the mirror, where you don’t have to agree or fit in with others to feel OK about yourself, where you value your qualities and don’t look at others and wish you were them.
Well the good news is that you can change. Often what feels as much a part of who you are as your arm or leg isn’t in fact you. Deep-seated emotional messages that float around your body looking for a home. But they can’t find one. Why?... Because they are not yours!
What often happens, is that you can be left with a somatic (body feeling) memory of being afraid of being hurt or rejected in some way. Perhaps exactly as when you were a child or as you actually have been in your life.
I want you to know, that far from being alone in this world or thinking you're “different”, the truth is, to one degree or another and in the right circumstances we can all suffer a little. For many though it doesn’t affect their overall quality of life.
How can counselling help?
With help you can uncover the links to early life and current relationships and cut the invisible emotional self-limiting umbilical chord, dispel what isn’t true and develop the qualities you’ve either long forgotten or suppressed.
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