Sometimes, clients visit my office with problems related to low self-esteem. It is a conundrum for them that turn their lives miserable. They often feel helpless and caught up in the struggle to distinguish between their own right to feel confident and when they actually exceed the mark of righteousness and become arrogant or intrude on others needs or rights.
Many people of our era suffer a lack of self-worth especially when they have to set limits and assert boundaries with others. We are only able to assert ourselves and feel good about our daily experiences when we value ourselves. A lack of setting boundaries can actually affect our happiness-level. Without the confidence to set limitations we might get involved with people who treat us badly or we find ourselves in abusive relationships that we cannot get away from, thinking that it is our own fault. People with low self-esteem usually blame themselves and suffer extreme guilt about life or carry the responsibility for others bad behavior.
Our self-esteem issues are sometimes linked to the kind of relationships we had as a child that imprinted negative impressions of who we are and should be onto our conscious and subconscious minds. The result is that no matter how hard we work on a rational level to change these impressions, they still persist on a deeper unconscious level, affecting all that we do.
How we value ourselves is intimately linked to how we accept and love ourselves unconditionally. Unconditional love does not mean that we are unwilling to grow and learn. In fact unconditional love makes us more open to learning and healing ourselves.
To start accepting ourselves and grow a sense of healthy esteem, we have to practice stepping into feeling self-worth by using positive statements. For instance, the statement: “I love and accept myself, even though I feel imperfect” re-frames and confirms to our unconscious mind that we are prepared to learn how to be worthy in this life. This practice is a form of Rational Emotive therapy. Our rational mind does not have to believe what we say, but it is accepting the confirmation form our subconscious need deep within ourselves to be accepted and loved. Sometimes acceptance of ourselves takes on a deeper meaning when we become aware of different parts and aspects within our personality that we realize are cognitively unacceptable to us. When we accept that these particular parts within us serve us with specific defensive functions and contributes to our life in certain ways with the intention to protect and help us even though they might also harm us, we can accept their existence. A paradoxical event happens within our psyche when we accept and understand the functions of the initially despised parts in ourselves; the moment we acknowledge these parts of ourselves with unconditional acceptance, it frees us to make choices in our behavior. Now we do not have to act in the ways that we did not accept about ourselves before because we know why we did so and because we love ourselves we have a choice about how to act and be. There is no longer an unconscious need for the unloved part to act out. We need to connect with our internal truth to be able to love ourselves. Self-love is not a rational activity alone but an experience of complete acceptance of all that is good and bad within us. Self-love is a process of discovering who we truly are and how to accept all of that we are in reality.
This process of healing requires us to become conscious of sides that are sometimes painful to recognize. It is easy to like the personality aspects of ourselves that are likable and desirable or socially acceptable. We are conditioned to do that. When we ignore, deny, judge or reject the parts of ourselves that we do not want, we sustain a low self-esteem. In fact the more we try to get rid of these parts within that we do not want, the more they persist. We then start to experience conflict and discomforts that serve as inner urges that force us to investigate the origin of the unrecognized or hidden sides that needs our attention and healing.
We might seem to be confident on the surface, and even seem to be successful, but the confidence and success could be a product of compensatory behavior to hide a deep hidden feeling of worthlessness. It is through working with the subconscious mind that we can reclaim our self-worth.
When the time is right to acknowledge underlying unrecognized parts of ourselves, they will surface as conflicts and symptoms and provoke a need to seek guidance to heal the wounds of worthlessness. Psychotherapy is a helpful way to get guidance in healing yourself.