The way in which we come to view ourselves is often organised by the very subtle yet pervading core beliefs we developed about ourselves in our early lives. These core beliefs, coupled with messages we have internalised from those in authority, society and mainstream culture, have a significant impact on negatively shaping our sense of self and how we experience ourselves in the world.
Our self-esteem is characterised by the way in which we view ourselves. When we have a low opinion of ourselves, this can significantly impact how we move through the world; i.e. how we express ourselves, the decisions we make, the quality of our relationship with ourselves and others, and our general quality of life. We may find ourselves feeling stuck, empty, feeling lost or feeling vulnerable, along with persistent feelings of loneliness, experiencing a lack of meaning in life or a distinct lack of direction and purpose.
We can also find ourselves sabotaging situations and settling for less than satisfying situations. We may find ourselves in relationships with people who mistreat us, believing – sometimes unconsciously - that that's exactly how we deserve to be treated. People with low self-esteem often find that they have an incredibly loud internal dialogue that criticises, reprimands and judges any feelings, thoughts, actions and ideas that may lead a person to feel good about themselves.
This voice can keep us stuck in a kind of paralysed state of disconnection, dissatisfaction and self-attack, which only serves to exacerbate our self-doubt, increasing feelings of helplessness, sadness, anxiety, shame and leaving us feeling low in mood and energy. This critical voice is not always so explicit. Sometimes you may notice implicit embodied reactions instead. For example: if something good happens you may spontaneously begin to feel some experience of joy or pleasure rising up within you, though very quickly, some mechanism - way out of your conscious awareness - gets activated that shuts those feelings back down again.
Different circumstances also have a significant impact on our self-esteem, and we may suddenly find ourselves feeling insecure or less than confident in relation to significant life events and transitions; such as growing a new business or getting a promotion, entering into new relationships or ending existing ones, during pregnancy and after childbirth, entering profound new life stages such as peri-menopause or elderhood. I see all of these life stages as opportunities to attend to ourselves in deeper, more compassionate ways and to find out about those parts of us that may still hold us to old beliefs and stories that are no longer congruent with how we wish to live our lives as adults.
Therapy can help us unpack these psychologically embodied processes that keep us stuck in old ways of being and can support us to see what it is we need now in order to feel present and engaged in life and to move into our future feeling empowered, with good self-esteem and a sense of confidence, and ease.