How we feel about ourselves is fundamentally linked to our experiences with other people. This means that the key to healing lies in changing our relationships – both with ourselves and with others.
Therapy can help you make sense of this and find your way out of the maze.
How low self-esteem develops
We may have been put down or controlled by others in the past – and this may still be happening now. These negative messages about ourselves may have been explicit, or communicated through more subtle feedback that told us that we’re ‘doing it wrong’.
Being ignored or neglected carries the hidden message – which is neither fair or true – that we don’t deserve care or respect. Abuse tells us – wrongly – that there is something inadequate or bad about us and that we somehow deserve it.
Negative feedback can also be linked to social norms around how we ‘ought’ to be. If our true identity does not fit in with the norm, we can end up feeling like we are the problem.
These kinds of experiences can lead to us developing a punishing ‘inner critic’. Our inner voice starts to tell us the same upsetting and damaging things we have been told by others.
How low self-esteem and confidence can impact us
Feeling self-critical or bad about ourselves can have a negative effect on many areas of life. Low self-esteem may limit our relationships, work opportunities, and what we do in our free time. We may believe we are less likeable or capable than we really are. This can stop us reaching out to others, or trying new things.
Self-image and mental health
It often impacts our mental health negatively too. Lack of confidence can cause anxiety, because we don’t feel safe enough to rely on our own abilities, or gut instincts. Constant negative messages from our inner critic can lead to depression. No matter how hard we try to do ‘better’, to prove it wrong, the critic is always one step ahead.
Coping mechanisms and self-care
If we are low on confidence, we may also find it hard to look after ourselves properly. Perhaps this is because we haven’t recognised our needs, and learned how to support ourselves, or to ask for help when we need it. Our coping mechanisms may have unintended consequences that can add to our difficulties. This could include if we use alcohol, food or sex to help soothe ourselves.
How low self-esteem keeps us safe
It may sound illogical, but low self-esteem and poor confidence often evolves to keep us safe. We discover that if we put ourselves down, we get there before others can do it. This stops us being hurt in relationships, although we are still hurting inside, and often miss out on positive feedback. If we monitor our behaviour, we can ensure that what we do ‘fits in’ with other people’s expectations and needs. This means we can please them and secure their approval, even if we are not necessarily pleasing ourselves.
Change can feel risky because it means change in relationships – however, it can ultimately lead to substituting conditional acceptance from others for genuine self-acceptance, and more authentic relationships.
How therapy can help
Whilst you may be sadly familiar with how you are feeling, it is often much less obvious what to do about it. Therapy can help you unpick what’s behind your low self-esteem and difficulties finding confidence. It can help you head in the right direction, when going over things alone can just lead us further into the maze. Therapy sessions can be somewhere to make sense of your relationship with yourself – and others – when everything seems chaotic. The therapy relationship can also offer a secure base from which to make changes, when changing things by yourself can seem impossible.
Therapy can be challenging at times, but can also bring the incredibly valuable reward of the happier, more confident version of yourself, that you have every right to.
Please contact me to discuss how I can help and book a free introductory call.