I was working with a lady in therapy recently. She came in wanting to work on building her self-esteem. She complained that she was never taken serious at work and her kids walked all over her. When asked when her low self-esteem began she couldn’t pinpoint an exact time. She said it is something that she always struggled with. As she began sharing more of her story it was clear that she had some self-defeating beliefs that she picked up from early childhood that needed to be challenged if she was to ever build her self-esteem.
So many people have self-defeating beliefs that are picked up from childhood. This makes perfect sense too. As children we observe everyone and everything around us. As a child, if someone was to tell me that I was good at basketball, you’d better believe that I was dreaming of playing in the NBA. Conversely, If someone said I was worthless and was never going to amount to anything, I would have believed them. Especially someone that was important to me. Henry Ford puts it best when he said,
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't-- you're right."
These beliefs are easily adopted as children and once adopted they are usually mindlessly taken into adulthood as facts. These beliefs if left unchecked can lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety… you name it.
Some of the work that is done in counseling is identifying these unhelpful beliefs and challenging them with more accurate and helpful beliefs. This is sometimes easier said than done. Some clients that I have believe that I am trying to brainwash them when I repeat over and over again that “you are good man/woman” or “You have everything it takes to be successful”. To that I usually reply, “I am”. This is the work of challenging our beliefs. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the helpful beliefs that we want to believe. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or friend for some outside perspective. Sometimes it is easier for others to see these beliefs.
What beliefs are unhelpful in your life? What helpful beliefs are you reminding yourself of? What helpful beliefs are you communicating to others like your kids, family and friends?