You are who you think and believe you are

I've been a therapist since 2009 and one of the areas that I specialise in is low confidence, self-criticism, and low self-esteem. If I was given a penny for everyone who described themselves in a negative way, based on what they think and believe, rather than what anyone else has said to them, then I would most certainly be a millionaire.


How you feel about yourself originates from what you think about yourself. What you think about yourself has its origins in several factors including

  • Your experiences and interactions with others, the feedback received from them, and whether you believe and value that feedback.
  • Social media and your comparisons with others on it
  • Your childhood experiences and the blueprint that was set by your parents, as well as your family values, your role within the family, whether you felt heard and understood, visible or invisible, and that you could be yourself at all times.

Once a blueprint has been created, it can almost feel as though you cannot escape from it. For example, if you are told as a child "You would be prettier if you had thinner lips" or "You are so talkative, sometimes, it's best to be quiet", or if in your family dynamics, you were constantly reminded that you are the big sister or big brother and need to 'set a good example for your younger siblings', all of those types of statements set a precedence for how a person might think and feel about themselves throughout their childhood, teenage years, and as an adult.

In relationships with others, you might suddenly start questioning whether you are pretty enough. If this type of thinking continues, it could lead to body dysmorphia, overthinking, and avoiding being around people. in work settings, you might start engaging in conversations but then stop and question whether you are speaking too much. This could eventually lead you to not speak up in meetings at all.

The biggest place where self-criticism and low self-worth shows itself is in romantic relationships. This is because, within those relationships, you are at your most vulnerable and cannot hide who you really are. There have been so many counselling and coaching sessions over the years where individuals have shared their insecurities in relationships, mostly related to fear of not being good enough, fears and worries that their partner will cheat on them with someone who is prettier, has a different body shape or is the complete opposite to that individual.

Counselling can help individuals learn to appreciate, embrace and value themselves through several different approaches including:

  • Self-esteem exercises - mirror work, affirmations, positive journaling, wearing outfits that make you feel good and replacing your negative inner critic with positive self-talk.
  • Helping clients to understand the roots of their low self-esteem and self-criticism and so that they can become more self-aware, change some of their self-defeating habits and patterns of thinking and behaviour.
  • Creating new ways of thinking through reframing clients' beliefs and ideologies about themselves so that they can really feel and think differently about who they are.

As human beings, we are more powerful than we believe that we are and one of the ways that we can utilise this is by retraining or rewiring our brain to think and operate in a way that serves and helps us, rather than a way that hurts or hinders us. A good way to think about this is to imagine a humble house plant.

For a plant to grow and flourish with healthy leaves and branches, it needs to be watered and to have enough sunlight for that to happen. if it is left in a room with no light and no water, it will perish. You have to think about your brain in the same way. Whatever you feed it, your brain will accept and multiply.

Therefore, if you constantly tell yourself that you are not good enough, pretty enough, or clever enough, and that nobody could ever love you, or that you didn't get the job because you are useless etc., then your brain will absorb that information, agree with it, and provide you with many opportunities and plenty of evidence for you to continue to feel that way.

However, if you decide only to water your garden/feed your brain with positive thoughts about yourself, those thoughts will multiply and help you to internalise and plant more helpful beliefs about yourself. This will slowly replace the negative thoughts you hold about yourself. If you continue to do this daily or as often as possible, you will become what you think about.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B1
Written by Marian Hanson, Counsellor & Coach
Birmingham, West Midlands, B1

I am a counsellor with experience of providing counselling to individuals and couples since 2009. I specialise in working with low self-esteem, relationships and depression. I also have experience of providing counselling to children and women who have experienced domestic violence and I am a Confidence Coach.

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