Working as a senior psychotherapist for the last 18 years in mental health NHS alongside Koan, we have acquired a lot of experience exploring and helping humanity unpack their baggage and start a journey of self-esteem and belonging in an ever changing Europe and world.
And working with and through all different cultures and sexes, I have reached an obvious and disturbing conclusion: A large number of us human beings have low self-esteem. It is the most if not after guilt, number 1 blockage amongst my clients that keeps them from living their best lives.
It is important to recognize the behaviour and not misname it as something it is not, as awareness is the first step to changing low self-esteem. I get questions from clients who are unhappy in relationships with another person who can be unreliable, cheat rampantly through the media, or just does not respect the other as a human being. This can happen at work, home or an educational institute. Yet the client is stuck in a never ending road of feelings of despair, sadness, “crazy” or “stupid,” The internal self-talk and label can include not believing that I deserve or, I can do better. Sometimes it can be because we have internalised as a belief system an emotionally abusive script in our heads and guts. More often when we have low self-esteem or do not know who we are, we can easily loose our footing in relationship with the world.
The context of relationships is most often where low self-esteem will show up, and yet this is not the only place this issue reveals itself or can be detrimental. I have heard and listened to countless human beings with dreams who are afraid to pursue them. There can be a list of reasons past or present that can even appear to make sense, yet at the core, there is a belief that you are just not good enough to accomplish what you set your mind to do.
I have also seen the currency of low self-esteem in clients who are people pleasers. The often cited rationale is they want to make others happy — yet paradoxically the desire to gain approval and take care of everyone else keeps them from saying “no,” and trumps their personal time, self-care, or development.
The great news is if you are living this way, you do not have to continue. It may sound a little earthy-crunchy to some ears, yet I invite my clients to accept that they are all that they need because, well, it is true and we do not require reasons to be worthy. An empowering position might be, what am I here to do to fulfil my life?
Very few clients believe that the first time they hear it, and so we work together to get them there. One of my favourite exercises is asking clients to make a list of all of the qualities they bring to the table of their life including thoughts that they are not proud of and all of their accomplishments? If we stay with this process, the activity can take more time and use more pages than the allotted mental put downs. I find when clients focus initially with support on all the greatness they are, they stop allowing others to take it for granted (i.e., what humans with high self-esteem do).
It is not an overnight process — there are no shortcuts and it requires a lot of hard work and commitment. It’s all worthwhile, for when a client’s self-esteem changes for the better, the rest of their life does too.