(Elizabeth, Diploma in Resilience Coaching Skills)
My self-esteem has been chatting away for years. Healthy self-esteem comes from being grounded, self-aware and intentional in the way we live. However, when we rate our competence and worthiness predominantly against external measurements, we can only go so far and may hold ourselves back. Our sense of competence and worthiness is nourished when we live authentically and give from a place of real honesty about ourselves and this translates into true self-esteem. I think the best way to illustrate how my sense of self-esteem has changed over the years is to hear from it.
I love sums, how many words and rows in my times table I can learn tonight, wow, I can count to ten in French, who’s around, let’s play Miss World, I’ll be Miss USA. I love Dad, he’s my hero, he plays jokes, setting off mechanical mice across the table pretending they’re real. We have great fun. I can do anything. Think my brother and sister (9 and 7 years older) are annoyed. They boss me around. I love music. Don’t like that Dad and brother fight sometimes, don’t understand, hope mum never leaves us. Why is no one talking to me at school, calling me teacher’s pet? It’s not fair, I’m just me. Anyway, don’t care, I’m learning guitar and love the dog.
I’m scared, don’t know anyone in my big new school. Made friends, just want them to like me. Feel something like pressure building up when I’m in school. Gone off my guitar, Chemistry is hard, I’ll do the minimum. Don’t ask for help, what will the others think? I want easy subjects with nice teachers. Can’t stop jiggling my foot, it’s become a family joke! Feel a bit down, all my friends have boyfriends, they are all prettier than me. I don’t know what to say to boys. Anyway, I love David Cassidy. Dad, stop treating me like a child, I’m 16 now! Won’t say anything, don’t want to hurt him. Brother and sister finally see I’m human! Everyone’s busy, much more fun talking about brother’s wedding than studying. I’ll just keep quiet about exams. The envelope arrives! Only passed French. I’m a total failure.
So excited, moving to college. Taking the same course as cousin Izzy, she’s travelling the world, I want to be like her. Love flat sharing but am bored with studies, shorthand is painful but who cares, I’m discoing every weekend. London here I come! So lucky to get the job, in the right place at the right time. Job ok, great friends and I’m a dancing queen. Working in Brussels, at last I’ll use my French, I’m invincible. Job ok, made new friends from all over Europe, but sometimes I think I know nothing compared to them. Fed up hearing a voice telling me I “should” have gone to university and I’m not very clever, need to change, taking a sabbatical. After 4 years hard work, I have my degree! Am so proud – found my passion, never had one before.
Gosh, life is busy, love it. Promotion, feel I can do anything! Think I’m in love, feels fantastic. We’re good friends, wonder how he feels. He’s not interested, sees me only as a friend. I’m sad, mustn’t let it show, I love to boogie. My dream job is advertised! Don’t risk it, you’re fine where you are, love my colleagues. Oh it’s endless, why did you say this, what will they think of you, I’m possessed, just one more glass of wine and I’ll feel better. I’m always positive about everything but right now I feel like crying for ever. Will I ever find a partner, what’s wrong with me, why do I pick the wrong partners all the time? How could I let that happen? Buying a new house and have met a wonderful man, I’m so lucky.
Life got so hectic, lost my focus. Yes, I’ll help, I’m Miss Perfect. Feels good that you like me. But it’s never ending – don’t I have needs? Exhausted, overslept, rush, rush. Feel so empty, can’t think straight, it’s brain fog. Why can’t you tell him what you really feel, he’s your partner, he’ll understand. No, he might not like it and leave me, I can’t risk it. What do I really feel anyway? I hate myself sometimes. Keep happy and positive. “Be your own Life Coach”, a book with all the answers. What do I value, did I ever have wildest dreams, not sure? I’ll start another diary. Change my beliefs? How on earth? It’s all just words on a page, can’t get to grips. Heart’s racing, can’t breathe. RUN. Don’t be stupid, you’re at work. Deep breath, go to the loo. Make an excuse, don’t go to the meeting. Can’t think straight, feel overwhelmed, so anxious, don’t know what to do.
I know instinctively I trust her (my therapist). How do I feel? How do I know, just let me tell you about my problems so I can feel better – quickly. Don’t really know why I’m crying, it’s hard to explain. Mum and dad did their best, life was different then, we didn’t talk about emotions – we laughed a lot though. What are you saying to yourself when you do this? Oh I see the patterns now, that’s interesting. Fog is lifting. When those things happened to me as a child, I believed I wasn’t safe or accepted, so I hid my strong feelings and my sense of feeling worthy and making my own choices was impacted. Wow, I’ve never thought of it like that before.
Oh, I see what just happened: you said something that didn’t respect me and just in that space between your reaction and my response, I felt what was happening inside and chose me over you. That’s a very different feeling! I said no and the world didn’t end. That was a good decision, I don’t need your approval. I’m being me without even thinking! No energy, let’s stop, what do I really need at this moment, yes, my inner child feels scared, I can comfort her. Let’s listen to everything that comes up inside, don’t need to resist any more. Wow, all these ideas, I can’t keep up, feel like laughing. I painted a picture and loved it! Meditation is so calming. I accept me as I am. Let’s plan what I’d like to achieve tomorrow, this week, month, year. Hey, if the sky were my limit, what would I do then? Take that risk! Oh, there’s a thought, haven’t heard anything negative recently, and it’s the best news ever for my self-esteem.
- Kelsey, R., (2013). What’s Stopping You Being More Confident? Capstone Publishing Ltd.
- National Association for Self-Esteem website. How Self-esteem develops.
- Neenan, M., (2018) Developing Resilience. 2nd Edn. Routledge.
- Psychology Today website. How Self-Esteem Changes Between the ages of 4 and 94.
- Verywell Mind website. What Is Self-Esteem?
- Wellness Professionals at Work (2021). Diploma in Resilience Coaching Skills Coursework (Module 8).