Inadequate Self-Esteem: How This Common, Insidious Problem is Blocking Your Potential and What to Do About it
There is perhaps no other single subject of self-help programs and advice than ‘Self-Esteem.’ If it was so easy to fix, though, there probably wouldn’t have to be so many guides, books, and inspirational speakers! Many of these self-help books offer simple 10-step solutions that promise to magically help you unlearn decades of behavior and knock down all internal barriers to happiness. Unfortunately, as with many things in life, the reality is decidedly less straightforward and shortcuts won’t get you anywhere meaningful.
Self-help books do get one thing right, however: having bad self-esteem can block virtually all other areas of life from moving forward productively. Poor self-esteem can manifest in bad relationships, dead-end career performance, and even physical health problems. Because unrealistic self-image—including low self-esteem—is by definition not based in reality, self-esteem problems can impact anyone from high-performing CEOs to homeless people and everyone in between. The good news (yes, there’s good news!) is that having a crisis of self-confidence often has much more to do with what is going on internally than externally; so regardless of whatever else is going on in your life, there is probably room for improvement in this area.
Another horrible thing about self-esteem problems is that if left unchecked, they tend to get progressively worse. Over time, people with bad self-image can become resistant to compliments and addicted to beating themselves up, both of which contribute to even worse sense of self. It’s a vicious cycle and a self-fulfilling prophecy: you feel bad, so you stop doing things that make you feel better or noticing positive feedback, which makes you feel even worse and less likely to climb out of the hole. People with low self-esteem may find themselves in toxic or abusive romantic relationships, lacking in friends, struggling with addiction, or mistreated at work—all of which reinforce negative feelings. Trying to fix self-confidence problems with surface solutions like unrealistic mantras or a denial of emotions usually leads to a worsening of symptoms, too. So if self-esteem problems are so destructive and difficult to solve, what’s an unconfident person supposed to do in this situation?
Here's what to do.
This is where therapy can come in. Unlike well-meaning friends and family, a good therapist is can actually help you identify what the real problems are—rather than commiserating or just letting you vent— and can help you discover why poor self-esteem seems to be something you’re stuck on. To improve self-esteem, we first need to come to terms with the origins and function of these deeply negative emotions. Where has the poor self-esteem come from? Is beating yourself up secretly serving you some purpose that you may not even be aware of?
At the end of the day, life is too short to go through it with powerful self-defeating pain. Goal-oriented therapy can help learn ways to manage negative thoughts, identify and correct cognitive distortions, and help you come up with ways to carry out positive change. All of this is easier said than done, which is why the guidance of an experienced, compassionate therapist is the most effective way to move forward and through problems of negative self-image. If you’re struggling with low self-esteem or its associated problems, contact my office today to make an appointment so that you can start on a new chapter in your life.