Helping Your Life Work
October 1, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 10

Love Thyself

Self-esteem is the opinion that we form and the value that we place on ourselves from an early age. We learn to see ourselves as we believe others see us and live our lives according to those beliefs. Growing up with high self-esteem helps us to overcome hurdles as they arise. We may experience momentary lapses of self-doubt and insecurity, but are generally able to bounce back once the problem is solved or the issue is passed. Growing up with low self-esteem, however, leaves us full of self-doubt and self-criticism.

Many of us may have suffered some form of low self-esteem at some point in our lives, influenced by societal and cultural norms, the media and responses of family, peers, teachers and bosses. At home, we may have thought of ourselves as not good enough. In the classroom, we may have viewed ourselves as stupid or unpopular; in the gym, as uncoordinated; in the dating world, as unattractive, in relationships as unlovable and at work as incompetent. These images can remain with us throughout our lives, unless we learn to challenge them and identify more realistic views of ourselves.

One of the more successful ways for individuals to overcome low self-esteem and realize their self-worth is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT techniques demonstrate the interconnectedness of mind, body, mood, behaviours and environment. For example, when something in the environment changes, i.e. a sudden weight gain, a person may begin to think “I am fat and ugly” (mind), causing the individual to withdraw from socializing (behaviour), leaving him/her feeling lonely (mood), leading to overeating (behaviour), causing stomach aches (body) and more weight gain, thus perpetuating the cycle. The concept behind CBT techniques is that if we can change our thoughts about ourselves, we can, in turn, change our behaviours, our physical reactions and our moods and thus break the cycle.

One of the new shows on television this season is called “Ugly Betty.” It centers on a supposedly unattractive but good-hearted young woman who works in the high-powered and image-conscious fashion magazine industry. On her first day of work, her fellow employees are less than kind when they view this lovely, bright, hard-working individual as being nothing more than overweight, unfashionable and unattractive. After suffering their barbs, Betty reminds herself with a self-affirming mantra that she is “an attractive, intelligent, confident businesswoman.” She determines not to be defeated by the thoughts and actions of others. And while she comes close to losing her self-respect in an effort to please her boss, her positive sense of self eventually triumphs and she is able to win over those who would hurt her.

If you have been struggling to defeat some of the thoughts that interfere with your self- acceptance, but have been having trouble doing so on your own, you may benefit from participating in a small group with others with like you. Beginning in January 2007, I will be offering a twelve-week psycho-educational support group, using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy ideas and techniques. If you are interested in participating or would like more information about the group, please call or write.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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