I saw a psychologist off and on for nearly five years. I am a huge advocate of therapy for any and all aspects of life. In fact, I get a bit frustrated when people are so reluctant to seek additional assistance. When I say all aspects of life, I mean it. Before the age of three, our sweet little girl had already attended Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy for her various issues resulting from premature birth. The progress she made under the care of professionals was astounding. I feel equally blessed for the knowledge I received during my countless therapy sessions to address my distorted thinking.
While I had attempted to find psychological help a few times prior in my life, it was not until I met with a particular doctor in 2007 that I began to make progress. I still recall my first session with her. I had brought in a list of my concerns and why I was there to meet with her. As I read off the long list I had prepared, she listened intently. At the end of the session, she had pretty much summed up my personal laundry list of issues into one: I had low self-esteem.
I was reminded of how crucial a healthy self-esteem is in one’s life when I came across this excellent description in a parenting magazine, Parent & Child. The article “Rehab a Praise Junkie” reads: “Self-esteem depends on your internal ability to generate positive feelings about your accomplishments – it’s not something other people can give you.” I learned this in therapy, but I so wish I hadn’t had to wait that long. For years, I based my worth on the praise of others. I still fall victim to it in ways I’d rather not admit.
This blog is a perfect example. Sometimes when I write a post that I’m excited about, I become deflated when I don’t receive any positive feedback to validate my feelings. I suppose it’s the nature of the beast. But at least now I have the tools to separate my distorted thinking and reality. Previously, my train of thought would run something like this – I tried really hard on something, received no accolades for it, therefore I am a failure. That’s where it ended. How sad, right? That’s why I prevented myself from attempting so many tasks in life. I had already deemed myself a failure. Now my thought process goes something like this – I tried really hard on something, received no praise for it, feel down about it, realize that other’s praise is not an indication of my success, and take joy in the process of the task and what I learned from it. My previous pattern begat nothing but feeling worthless. This healthier pattern is what keeps me moving and posting.
There are so many ways in which a low self-esteem can hinder our daily activities. Thankfully, there are tools to help eradicate feelings of low self-worth. Again, I will suggest the The Self-Esteem Workbook, which was recommended to me during that first therapy session. It provides a variety of ways to gain a self-esteem. One of the easiest methods for me to prevent myself from going down the poor self-esteem spiral is to debunk my negative instincts. You’ll notice my new pattern in the previous paragraph has additional steps in my thinking. You’ll also see that my healthier method does not omit the sadness of no praise. I still feel bummed. Maybe one day I won’t care at all, but that’s not right now. Now, the key to healthier living is analyzing those feelings and figuring out if what I feel is reality or something I’ve imagined. While it might not seem the case, in a world where grandiose is king, reality can sometimes be better than what you’ve imagine.
For me, my reality is much better than what I had deemed myself worthy. According to my instinctual thought process, I was not deserving of anything good. And yet here I type, as the wife to an incredible husband, the mother to three beautiful children (and one on the way), a friend to the most amazing people, and a woman of faith. My reality is better than anything I could have imagined. It’s not perfect, as nobody’s is, but it’s filled with hope and a belief in myself that I did not have previously.