Lack of confidence and low self-esteem often result from troubled early relationships where we have not been valued and understood. It affects how we view ourselves and other people, how we live our lives and the decisions we make.
When suffering from low self-esteem we are usually highly self-critical and feel worthless, unloved, unlovable and often fearful. We may also be critical of others. (This can be a ghastly double-bind as we self-criticise how nasty we are when criticising someone else!)
Therapy talks of us having an “inner critic” or “inner judge” or “superego”.
When working with self-esteem I/the therapist may focus on the negative thoughts and beliefs the client has about herself. We explore how these came into existence; who told her this, when, how? It is also useful to look at how credible these thoughts are – what is the evidence? – or if they have just become a habit of thought.
It may be a revelation for the client to realise that there is so much more to herself than the negative opinion of the inner critic. It can be so helpful for her to consider how she is viewed by others whose opinion she values, eg “is it really true that I am fat and ugly, stupid and selfish? My best friend does not think this. What is going on if I continue to insist that I am negative in this way when actually the truth is that no-one else sees me in this way?”
When addressing the client’s nitty-gritty beliefs about her low self-esteem, I/the therapist may encourage her to tune into herself physically, not just mentally; to learn to sense a deeper inner truth often referred to as “gut feeling” or “heartfelt”. (It is so good to stop listening to the critical inner chatter and discover this deeper alternative truth!)
Therapy/counselling with a well-qualified and skilled practitioner is helpful in understanding, managing and reducing low self-esteem – and even replacing it with high, or anyway more realistic, self-esteem! Research shows that it is the safe, attuned, empathic relationship with the therapist that contributes to the exploration and recovery from this distress.
Further information: there is useful material on “the inner critic” in Voice Dialogue theory/therapy brought together by Hal and Sidra Stone. Also Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge within by Byron Brown is a great book.