..The Intuitive Times
Healing the Heart



by Sandra Church, M.E.(Psychology)

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We all know someone who thinks they are always right, always good looking, always wonderful! And we also all know someone who says things like, "I'm not very smart. I'm ugly, stupid, dull, nobody would want to know me." You'd think that the first person would have good self esteem and the second person low self esteem. It's possible that both of these people have low self esteem but each hides it in a different way.

Both the people I have described would be very self centred. By that I mean, they focus on the world as if they were the centre of it. EVERYTHING that happens to them, good or bad, happens because THEY deserve it. One would take the credit for everything while the other would say that things happen to them. Neither of these types of people would be very happy with themselves.

What is self esteem? Simply stated, it's how we view our worth, not how others view us. We learn our self esteem first within our family settings, at a very early age. How children are received and treated begins the process of determining self esteem. A wanted, loved, nurtured child begins early to like themselves and feel like a worthwhile person. Many things can affect that early nurturing process - a mother may be unable to nurture a child (e.g. illness, absence, alcoholism, drug addiction) which in turn affects the self esteem of the child. As the family circle widens, new people add to (or subtract from) the growth process and self esteem. Grandparents, siblings, then school teachers, fellow students - everyone contributes to the building of high or low self esteem. Negative put downs or shaming affects our faith in ourselves. Seniors often tell stories of how hard a teacher was during their school years, often shaming a child before a whole school. We ALL have difficulty getting over that sort of shaming behaviour as we grow up, and it stays with us a long time.

Many adults have come to me for counselling saying "I don't have good self esteem. I feel like a loser. My husband (wife, parents, teachers) all put me down, and tell me I'm too fat, ugly, stupid too do anything." This may well be true, but the results don't have to be permanent. Even though it is in our youth that we begin to form our self image, it is a process that continues and therefore can be open to positive changes as an adult. If there is no one in your life to be positive and tell you "You're a good person!" then YOU have to tell YOURSELF "I AM a good person!"

Rule number one is "Stay away from people who affect you negatively!" If you can't avoid them, then speak to them about it, saying that you do not want to be put down or spoken to in that manner. This is not easy, but very necessary.

Rule number two is "Don't be the one who puts YOU down!" We are all guilty of negative self talk saying things like, "I'll never be able to...... I can't.........etc." It's bad enough that others do it but why do we choose to do it to ourselves too? Unfortunately, we have been trained to do this and often just accept what others have told us. Some of what we heard was just plain wrong, or negative. As an adult, we are in charge of our own mental health, and part of that is to stop generating put downs from within. We have to change negative thinking to positive thinking. Part of that is to catch ourselves saying negatives, and change them into positives. Help yourself by not accepting and giving power to negative thoughts about yourself and build your own positive self esteem. You will find that when YOU do this, others will have to follow.

Sandra Church is a certified counsellor in private practice in Amherst, NS

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