Emily walked in, her head held low.
I had not met her before, but during our chat on the phone, she told me her self-esteem was “in the gutter.”
I smiled with what I hoped was a warm grin and she took a seat.
After some small talk, I decided to shake things up, so I turned to her, looked her straight in the eyes and stated calmly …
“Your problem is not a lack of self-esteem.”
Her eyes widened a little, I could see I had her attention.
I also wondered if I saw a little fire of resistance, because when you’ve held a belief so dearly and so close for so long, you’re not going to give it up without a fight.
“What is my problem - then?” she asked with a mix of curiosity and defensiveness.
“You’ve got self-esteem,” I said with conviction.
“I have?” she replied, with more curiosity this time.
I could see her defenses were softening.
Sometimes you’ve got to shake people up a bit in order to get them to think something new and better.
”Your problem is not self-esteem,” I restated, before pausing for effect, “it’s self-rejection.”
She tilted her head a little and I could imagine the wheels in her head turning round and round ...
What followed was a conversation about how we imagine we don’t have something, so we look for the answer outside ourselves.
We look for self-worth in other peoples approval, a new relationship, or buying things we can’t afford.
We have self-esteem but we deny it, give it away and reject it.
And we do that for good reasons.
We do it because of what we have experienced in life.
Some people have lost their natural acceptance of themselves in the experiences of their early life.
We went on to discuss how much easier it is to reclaim our self-esteem when we realize we already have it, because then all we need to do is just accept it.
And accepting ourselves flaws and all, is natural.
It takes effort to reject ourselves. It takes effort to try and be something we are not.
Emily agreed that at heart she was a lion, but felt like she had to act like a mouse.
She went on to say how hard it was to try and be a mouse when you’re actually a lion.
Yep, it’s much easier to just be a lion.
Emily also said, that some people “made her doubt herself.”
I asked her to rephrase that to “I doubt myself around some people.”
Because if other people have the power to make you doubt yourself, you can’t do much about that.
But if you have the power - and it’s you doubting yourself - that’s something you can do something about.
This is the same with many things:
No one can put you down, unless you put yourself down first.
No one can reject you unless you reject yourself first.
If you don’t have doubt within you, no one else can make you doubt yourself.
Emily added that she felt it was negative to hear that she was the one doubting herself.
And if other people were putting her down, that somehow sounded better than if she was putting herself down, 'cos then she would feel pretty dumb.
For her homework I asked her to practice accepting herself flaws and all, no matter how she felt and report back next week.
The following week Emily walked in a changed woman.
She said that during the week she realized that she had the power to bring herself up, and put herself down.
She said she still put herself down sometimes and knew it would take some time for her to break the habit, but she felt so much better knowing she had the power and the control.
She also shared that when she chose to own and take responsibility for her feelings she felt so much better.
She also shared how the power of acceptance helped her feel better even when she didn’t feel great.
“It’s no good beating myself up about beating myself up,” she noted, “it’s much easier to accept myself.”
She was beaming at the end of our session, “Look out world!” she smiled as she confidently strode out into the afternoon sun.