Low self-esteem causes a host of issues including depression, anxiety, abandonment fears and relationship issues. Ideally, children develop a solid self-esteem when they are in grade school. Unfortunately, parents are often unequipped to know how to make that happen. Many clients we see always have had a low self-esteem, and it forms a major hurdle for recovery.
Common factors among many people with low self-esteem:
- Focus on their weaknesses (and other's strengths)
- A dominant, relentless internal critic
- Global, negative attributions (I am stupid!)
- Conditions of worth, believing they only deserve love under certain conditions (Such as being wealthy, thin, physically attractive, or powerful in some way)
Helping people with low self esteem involves:
- Helping them see how everyone has weaknesses and their strengths are also someone's weaknesses (Yin/Yang)
- Providing tools to silence the internal critic and remind themselves that they can succeed and do not have to be perfect to be lovable.
- Changing attributions to focus on specific weaknesses or mistakes. (I am not good at math vs. I am stupid)
- Encouraging them to explore their relationships with others to determine if they think everyone is lovable only if they have certain characteristics, or if they apply those conditions of worth only to themselves.
I recently asked someone to tell me 5 positives about himself. He couldn't. I then asked for 5 positives about his teenage son. He had those right away. Finally, I asked him whether those same 5 characteristics were true of him (from our interactions, I knew they were). Then we explored why it was so difficult to see positives in himself, but so easy to see positives in others.
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