A story of a woman who decided to raise her self-esteem. Had she not waited until the burn-out took over she could saved herself a lot of trouble. But here she was and ready to do something that made change possible.
Claire, a school administrator who loved her job, thought of herself as a strong woman with high self confidence and strong willpower. For some time, however, she found herself struggling to keep up the energy needed to confront her day’s challenges.
She had come to secretly believe that she was a failure; that at any moment , everyone would find out. The pressure she felt was becoming unbearable.
She tried to “rescue” herself by practicing yoga, running, and changing her diet. For several months she worked toward true lifestyle changes, but nothing she did was enough to really make her feel better.
She kept up an outward image of efficiency and of being in control. Inwardly she felt more and more desperate, hardly wanting to admit it to herself. Her doctor had prescribed drugs. They offered some relief from pain, but did nothing to bring back her former self-confidence and joy of life.
She finally decided to ask for psychological help. When she came first into the office the therapist/coach met a cheerful, assertive and well dressed woman. Within short, however, she burst into tears, tears she had repressed for so long. She was close to a total burn-out. ” I do not know what happened” she said, ” all my energy and strength seem to be gone”. She felt weak and powerless. She had thought of herself as being strong and in control of her life and now she wasn’t.
However, this was also a moment of relief, relief from the burden of pretending something that was not there any more.
When she realized that nothing drastic had happened, beyond crying, that she had not lost respect in the therapist/coach’s eyes, that she felt acknowledged and seen, she slowly began to relax and open up more.
Her courage to finally accept feeling vulnerable and exhausted, liberated her from fighting herself. Running away from her vulnerable, precious parts of her self, that she had called “weak”, had led to alienation and finally exhausted her. Her self-esteem had deteriorated along with it.
You cannot be strong when you run away from yourself.
Her coach helped her to get in touch with her emotions, accept them as a valuable part of herself, namely her emotional intelligence. For the first time this precious part of herself did not get pushed away but met with acceptance.
The relief that followed from merely acceptance, provided her with enough new energy to embark on a growth process that would take her to new precious knowledge about herself and new possibilities. She came to understand that acceptance does not mean it is now there forever. On the contrary. Without acceptance change is not possible. She began to address her self-image and replace those beliefs about herself that had led to alienation from herself.
She learned that the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to do so was to use the tools that lead to higher self-esteem: She became familiar with the crucial elements of healthy self-esteem. She learned to be more aware, more self-accepting and self-responsible. She worked with a method called “sentence completion”, sentence stems that have their origin in the psychodynamics of a human being.
One of the sentence stems she worked with was “If I dealt with myself more compassionately…” putting different endings to it for a few days and the many ways in which she had led herself down became obvious.
The endings she provided to the sentence stems the coach offered her, also had captured the knowledge of where she needed to turn, what she needed to change. She became aware of how little appreciative she was towards herself, especially when she needed it most. She began to change her self-depreciating attitude towards herself. She started to accept all parts of herself, including those parts of herself that she disliked or called “weak”. She became aware, that the more she could accept all parts of herself the stronger she got, and realized that what she once had called “weakness” turned out to be a strong part, viz. her emotional intelligence. She came to understand that “self-alienation’ leads to a loss of inner strength, a loss of self-esteem and loss of control over one’s life. The burn-out that followed was no longer a surprise. She decided to embark on the journey of self-discovery further through sentence completion work. Her self-confidence became stronger again. Her self-esteem reached a healthy level. No longer did she need to fight herself. She adopted a compassionate attitude towards herself. As a result she became more compassionate with those around her and her relationships improved as a result.
No longer did she feel she was ‘not enough’, felt small and acted defensive. From the bottom of her heart she now could say ” I am enough”, a very relaxing and powerful thought. One sentence stem she especially liked and used a lot is: ‘As I learn to accept myself fully and completely –
- I feel relief
- I can be on my side
- I feel stronger
- I like myself better
- people respect me
- I feel less fear
Self-Esteem is dynamic and falls or rises according to the decisions you make and the actions you take