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
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
“Helping Your Life Work”
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