Positive self-esteem is very important for our general health and wellness as human beings. Having positive self-esteem is also important for promoting any type of healing, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Poor or low self-esteem on the other hand can be quite detrimental to our well-being and even our very existence. Negative self-esteem can create anxiety, stress, loneliness, depression, problems with relationships, seriously impair academic and job performance and also can generate an increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse and dependency. On the other hand, a person with positive self-esteem tends to be more motivated in taking on and creating a life that he loves, living it powerfully and in this process be authentically related to others in his community. Having positive self-esteem appears to be necessary for having a happy and healthy existence regardless of who we are or what profession we are taking on in life.
What is self-esteem? We commonly think that self-esteem is merely about how we feel about ourselves at any particular moment. While seemingly existing in degrees, we tend to believe that we have positive or negative self-esteem and that we make that determination simply by how we feel about ourselves. However, within a conversation of Transformational Counseling, our feelings or emotions do not exist alone or have an independent existence. We do not just simply feel. Rather, for every feeling or emotion that we have, either positive or negative, there is a corresponding thought that we have about ourselves that generates the experience of self-esteem. Whether positive or negative, self-esteem is merely how our organism experiences the thoughts that the individual has about himself or herself. If a person has positive thoughts about himself he will experience positive or good self-esteem. On the other hand, if the individual has negative thoughts about who he thinks he is then he will experience poor or negative self-esteem. Therefore, to truly understand what self-esteem is all about and more importantly to be able to alter it when necessary for ones wellness or healing, we must first get it that self-esteem is really about our thinking, and more specifically about the thoughts that we develop or create about ourselves. The thoughts or beliefs that we have about ourselves are crucial in that they determine or create the structure of our experience of self-esteem and the various emotions associated with it.
We also tend to think of our self-esteem as being something that is shaped by the events that take place in our life, particularly those from our past. We tend to believe that who we think we are and how we feel about ourselves is merely the product, effect or caused by the experiences that we have had in the past, that we are who we are by virtue of what has happened to us as human beings. More specifically, we tend to think that the cause in the matter of who we think we are and our self-esteem is due to circumstance, situation or others, people, places and things. We do not tend to think that our self-esteem is something we actually developed or created. Within the work of transformation, it is not the past, circumstance, situation or others, that determines our underlying self-image and corresponding self-esteem. We created our thoughts and with it our emotions from the meaning that we gave to the events that took place in our life, especially at an early age. As meaning making machines we give meaning to everything in our life including and most importantly to ourselves. At an early age the meaning that we give an event tends to be made out to be all about us. While events do happen it is not the events that are important but rather the meaning that we give them and especially how we made it out to be about our identity.
Given the fact that our thoughts determine our feelings or emotions and equally important that we are truly responsible for their creation, to change or transform our self-esteem, how we tend to feel about ourselves, amounts to us altering how we see or conceive of ourselves in the world in the now and this work is our responsibility alone. It is our self-image, how we define ourselves as an individual in the world in the present, that determines our experience of self-esteem and it is this that we are truly responsible for creating and equally responsible for transforming. When we alter or transform our definition of ourselves in the present we change how we feel about ourselves and with it our experience of reality and life in general. If we do not get it that we are responsible for what we think about ourselves and that we are the real author of our self-image and self-esteem we will continue to blame something or some body, remain powerless and stuck in life. The question of how to actually go about altering or improving an individual’s self-esteem is one that has been debated for many years by professionals both in the mental health and addiction arenas.
Self-esteem can be improved or transformed in several ways. One way to improve ones self-esteem is to do the work of transformation as outlined in my articles, Transformational Counseling and The Conversation of Transformation. To improve ones self-esteem in this manner is to become present to ones self limiting belief, that which has stopped us in life and in the process create new possibilities for oneself, a new self-image from which to begin to live life into. Another way to improve an individual’s self-esteem is through the use of positive affirmations. Given that the basis of self-esteem is the thoughts that a person has about himself, an individual with poor or negative self-esteem is believing negative thoughts or ideas about who he thinks he is. The individual may think, for example, that he is “worthless” or “not good enough” and as a result will tend to experience poor or negative self-esteem. Within the work of transformation and Transformational Counseling, the thought that is at the basis or core of our self-talk is defined as a person’s Self Limiting Belief, the fundamental or core belief about who we think we are. Unless this core thought or belief that a person has about himself is changed or transformed he will continue to experience a poor or negative self-esteem and as a result of this negative thought pattern create or generate life experiences that will match and validate what they think about themselves. Given such a cognitive and emotional situation life will continue to appear as it has in the past and ones future will merely be the probable almost certain future.
Utilizing positive affirmations can be a very powerful tool for transforming what a person thinks about himself and as a result improve the individual’s self-esteem. Consistent use of positive affirmations will transform the negative beliefs about who a person thinks he is into positive ones, will begin to alter the basis and structure of his self talk or inner voice and produce a transformation from poor self-esteem to positive self-esteem. While utilized in a various ways, working with positive affirmations will be more effective when delivered through or combined with therapeutic relaxation music. What therapeutic relaxation music does to enhance the effect of positive affirmations is to create a very relaxed audio environment for the individual to become even more open or suggestive to the language of positive affirmations. When therapeutic relaxation music is combined with binaural audio tones the audio space that is created for the delivery of positive affirmations is even more relaxing and as a result very powerful. In addition to utilizing a unique type of therapeutic relaxation music, the infusion of either theta or alpha binaural tones is crucial for the success of this type of intervention. When therapeutic relaxation music and binaural audio tones are combined in this fashion the individual will experience a very deep state of relaxation and as a result be more open to the reception and eventual acceptance of the positive affirmations.
The key to the effective use of positive affirmation in this or any other type of intervention is consistency. The self-image and the negative thoughts about who a person thinks he is that generates his experience of poor or negative self-esteem is well established in the his belief system. In many cases the development of a negative self-image took years to create and has been reinforced through repetitive behavioral validation. Once a person creates and then believes that a self-limiting belief is true he will continually act as if it is true. This seemingly fundamental belief will appear to the person as true and as a result will continually be acted upon and thereby be reinforced through ones behavior. Much of that person’s behavior will be to continually validate who he thinks he is. Ones behavior will always be directed at supporting, reinforcing and validating what the person believes is true about him. While necessary for ones well-being and health, such a transformation of ones self-image from being basically a negative one to one that is fundamentally positive does not happen instantly. As with the development of an individual’s negative self-image, the development of a more adequate belief about the true nature of the individual will necessitate consistent and repetitive work by the person. Basic to this process is that the individual must fully embrace his sense of complete responsibility for the development of his self-image and also for its transformation. To do otherwise will only leave the individual feeling powerless and unable to create the life that he or she truly desires and unless there is consistency and repetition such a transformation will simply not happen.
Enhancing My Self Esteem is an audio product that will effectively transform the very structure of an individual’s thought or belief pattern, the basic ideas and language structure that he uses to define who he thinks he is in the world. This product was designed specially to change the self-talk that a person experiences on a daily basis by changing the ideas or beliefs that the person has about himself, the very foundation or backdrop of his inner conversation. As our identity is merely language, change the language in a person’s mind and his life transforms. By listening to this product an individual has the opportunity to practice or repeat fifty positive affirmations that will empower them to alter their life. Within a conversation of Transformational Counseling, committing an affirmation to spoken word makes it so or real especially if it is done repeatedly. Listening to positive affirmations before sleep also allows the person’s mind to begin this restructuring or reprogramming process even while the individual sleeps by taking the words and language into their dream state. By consistently listening to and practicing the positive affirmations in this product the individual will have the opportunity to begin to redefine themselves, who they think they are in the world, from one that is negative to one that is positive and enhancing for their life. With the acceptance of the words and language of the positive affirmations will come an improved self-image and with it an experience of positive self esteem.
I am currently using Enhancing My Self Esteem with all the clients that I counsel at the Holistic Addiction Treatment Program in North Miami Beach, Florida. All of the clients that I have worked with who are experiencing a drug and/or alcohol dependency problem also have very low self-esteem. My clients tend to be very depressed and unmotivated in many if not most of the various domains of their life, including and especially with their recovery. When given to my clients as homework, consistent use of Enhancing My Self Esteem alters how they think and improves how they feel about themselves. With an improved self-image and enhanced self-esteem my clients become more motivated in their life and especially with their recovery. If a person continues to experience low self-esteem and there is no intervention to disrupt the underlying cognitive process taking on improving their life and working the 12 Step Program will be meaningless and eventually given up completely as so many other things have been in the past. It is my belief that not altering or transforming the fundamental structure of ones self-image accounts for the great percentage of individuals who begin recovery and eventually relapse. The work that is essential to successful recovery is for the individual to be able to redefine who he thinks he is, to alter his self-image, the very foundation of his experience of self-esteem and life. Who the individual believes he is will determine what he does and how he will be in and appear to others and the world.
Harry Henshaw, Ed.D., LMHC
Dr. Henshaw earned his doctoral degree in Human Development and Counseling from Boston University and has designed and implemented mental health and substance abuse programs in outpatient, residential and hospital settings in Illinois, Massachusetts and Florida.
Dr. Henshaw is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida, a certified Clinical Supervisor and a member of the American Counseling Association & American Psychological Association. Trained in neuro-linguistic programming, Dr. Henshaw is also certified to practice and teach hypnosis in the State of Florida.
Dr. Henshaw is also in private practice in Hallandale Beach, Florida and utilizes the technology of Transformational Counseling. In addition to his work as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Supervisor, Dr. Henshaw has developed a series of audio helath care products for use by professional providers and the public.