Low Self-esteem – I accept myself because I’m alive and have the capacity to enjoy my existence. I am not my behaviour. I can rate my traits and my behaviour, but it is impossible to rate something as complex as my ‘self.’
Self-esteem refers to how good we feel about ourselves. Most people feel that they do reasonably well most of the time, though self-esteem can fall with a mistake or failure in some particular area. However, some people suffer with low self-esteem, the feeling that they are of lesser worth than others.
They tend to focus on their failures and weaknesses, and if they succeed at something, they find reasons to think that their success is not very important. People with low self-esteem have often had difficult childhoods and sometimes suffered trauma; they are at risk for depression, though low self-esteem can also affect them when they are not depressed.
CBT has developed techniques to help those with low self-esteem hold a more balances view of themselves. The process starts with a Formulation, a model that patient and therapist design together that explains how low self-esteem started and why it persists. Self-critical thoughts are explored using a Thought Record, and Behavioural Experiments carried out to see if acting in a different way can have an effect on self-esteem.
Self-esteem/Self-Worth – What it is, and is not
If you feel (I did not say think) that you are worthless, you may be and probably are a victim of a culture that has told you that your worth depends on your achievements and the judgments of others. The feeling of worthlessness besets and enervates men and women, but in different ways.
For women it can be a devastating experience, especially for those who experience depression after a loss of love or approval. The same society which supports organized brutality in the form of football and boxing, assigned them second-class citizen status-a promotion from the third-class status of only 30 years ago. They are vulnerable, they are moving targets.
And men? David Burns, in his wonderful book, Feeling Good, wrote that men are even more vulnerable than women to feelings of worthlessness. He points out that men have been programmed since childhood to base their worth on their accomplishments. They must deal with unrealistic expectations assigned to them by the society in which they live.
Winners are enshrined: all others are ‘losers,’ and are forgotten. Our culture tells us that what we do is important. What we are is not. That’s wrong, dead wrong.
At the end of therapy a long-term plan is devised to help the sufferer continue to do those things that boost her self-esteem.