How do you feel about taking up space?
Can you make your voice heard? Do you feel confident and assertive?
Are you filled with self-doubt, wonder whether you have anything valuable to say, or worry about how to say it?
Healthy self-esteem is about having a sense of self that feels
comfortable with vulnerability AND making mistakes
entitled to an opinion
Interestingly, you might notice that how you appear to others may not match how you feel about yourself.
So you could look like the most confident person, yet feel like a total fraud inside, or you could look rather invisible, yet feel quietly confident in your own company. Of course, the world tends to respond more positively to people who appear self-confident, but the real gold lies in having a solid sense of self that really feels self-confident. When this happens, the self-confidence is genuine and we feel congruent within ourselves - because who we are matches what other people see.
If you generally have good self-esteem and self-confidence, but find yourself going through a life experience that has thrown you off balance, then therapy can help you make sense of what has happened and get you back on track.
If you have always struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence (regardless of whether you appear confident to others), then therapy can help you work towards developing a stronger, more resilient, realistic and confident sense of self.
"A person is a fluid process, not a fixed and static entity; a flowing river of change, not a block of solid material; a continually changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits."
Frequently asked questions
1. Why do I have such low self-esteem?
Low self-esteem can be linked to particular life experiences, relationships and/or trauma throughout the lifespan.
Your life experiences and relationships are important, as they will likely influence the beliefs that you have about your own abilities, and the amount of effort required to develop secure professional and personal relationships.
Often, people who struggle with self-esteem find themselves working really hard to impress others, and feel extra vulnerable to criticism. This way of relating to others begins to make sense when individuals are given the space to truly attend to who they are and how they have been shaped by their life experiences. However, it can be a heavy burden to carry and increases stress substantially. It also makes it difficult to create space for creativity and opportunities to learn from experience.
In therapy, I help clients explore the origin of their difficulties, so that they can understand where these difficulties come from and how they continue to impact on their life now, even though the circumstances may be different. I also believe it is important to help clients develop an authentic, more robust and resilient sense of self that is based on genuine self-confidence and an ability to make mistakes. In so doing, I provide practical skills that clients can use to manage their self-doubt and anxieties, so that they can function more effectively at work and in their relationships.
2. What is impostor syndrome?
'Impostor syndrome' is not a diagnosed mental illness, but it is a term that is used in everyday language to refer to someone who feels like a 'fraud' or 'intellectual fake'. This feeling occurs when low self-esteem leads you to doubt your skills and abilities, and you fear being exposed as a fraud, i.e. you fear that others will discover that you really aren't capable or worthy of the success that you have achieved. It might also include a strong need to perform, a fear of failure, difficulty accepting praise, and/or even guilt about your achievements.
Individuals with impostor syndrome often find themselves working harder then others to 'compensate' for their perceived inadequacy. Working through impostor syndrome in therapy can help develop a realistic sense of your abilities, an authentic sense of self, genuine confidence, as well as resilience and an ability to make mistakes.
3. Does low self-esteem always look like a lack of confidence?
No. Low self-esteem can sometimes also look like arrogance, i.e. over-confidence.
4. What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?
There is a very big difference between confidence and arrogance.
Confidence generally means being comfortable within oneself and able to trust in one's abilities (including the ability to find ways to repair when things go wrong).
Arrogance is generally an exaggeration of one's importance or abilities.
Interestingly, someone who is truly confident and comfortable within themselves will often be able to speak openly about both their strengths and flaws. This is because a confident person knows that he or she is good enough, in spite of flaws, and trusts in his or her ability to work on areas requiring improvement. In contrast, someone who is arrogant may struggle to acknowledge their flaws, as this can feel very threatening to their sense of self. They have to maintain a particular image of themselves in order to feel good enough, which can be exhausting for themselves and those around them.
5. When is arrogance a problem and how can therapy help?
Arrogance can create difficulties in relationships, at home, with friends, or in the workplace. If you find that others see you as arrogant and that it is affecting your ability to have authentic and close relationships with others, it might be worthwhile exploring the option of therapy. It can feel particularly scary to seek therapy for problems with arrogance, because even though arrogance may be causing problems in your relationships, the truth is that arrogance is protective, as it likely helps you to maintain a particular image of yourself. In therapy, we will keep this in mind and work together to help you discover a robust and authentic sense of self which, with time, will no longer need to rely on arrogance as a means of coping in the world.