Self-Esteem and the Therapeutic Relationship

Often people recognise that they have low self-esteem and seek counselling to explore how they can rebuild their confidence. Self-esteem is how we value ourselves. We may feel positive and confident in our own abilities and our lives, or negative and critical with low self-belief. Often when people attend therapy for support with their problems, it comes to the surface during the therapeutic relationship that the ‘underlying issue’ is their low self-esteem.

This can be influencing and affecting many aspects of our lives and manifesting itself in so many fundamental ways. Low self-esteem is when we place little value on ourselves. We may have developed a negative view of life, which can make it seem hopeless or pointless.

We may spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others, thinking that we are worthless and under-achieving. This affects our confidence and makes us believe that we are ‘inferior’ to others. With this, we can feel that we are never enough. We then can engage in a pattern of behaviour where we push ourselves to achieve more and more to gain acceptance from others.

Lots of different issues can impact how we view ourselves, such as our life experiences, our childhoods, our family, and our relationships with others. Sometimes we engage with particular people who can make us feel inadequate and ‘not good enough’. We often take on negative beliefs and allow them to be absorbed into our psyche and they affect how we feel about ourselves and our self-worth.

So how do we tackle this? The real answer is to actually ‘understand’ what messages are making you feel this way. Once you have an understanding of what is making you feel negative about yourself you can then take action to make changes happen.

Often the realisation of where these negative messages are coming from can be profound. It’s not always easy to accept that relationships with others, for example, certain friends, family members or even a partner, can create toxic and harmful thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

It can help to talk with people you trust and hear an outside perspective to help you separate the perception you have of yourself, from your true self. Looking after your well-being, practising self-care, taking up some form of exercise and doing things you enjoy can be of real help.

Therapy can be a highly effective way to help you explore the way you feel and change your view of yourself and others. As a Humanistic, Person-Centred therapist, the first thing I always do is to try to understand the person’s life from their perspective, to understand how and why they are feeling this way.

As a counsellor, I would help them to identify the negative thoughts they are experiencing that led them to this poor self-belief. We would look at how this impacts their behaviour and how they function. I’d help them to identify what they can change, help them find attainable ways to put these changes into practice, resulting in positive steps being taken so that they are able to trust in their own sense of self and autonomy.

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