Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time to "Reclaim" Your Value/Worth

In all my therapeutic experiences (and possibly even prior to that), the one theme that just keeps coming up over and over, the one that seems to get in the way the most, is the theme that surrounds how valuable or worthwhile we feel we are. So many times, people have grown up in homes where they were either not told they were valuable or not shown. In fact, often, it is just the opposite. Abuse can take many forms (physical, mental, sexual, emotional, etc). However its form, the impact is the same: it is toxic and destructive. Each person that receives such abuse, whether it is a once in a while phenomenon or a regular occurrence, walks away feeling a little less than they did before.

So, how do you change this feeling? And, why is it so important to change? Why not continue feeling worthless? For me the answer is obvious, but for others they seem to ware it like a badge of honor.

Jenna was one of my first clients (all references are fictional, though based on personal experiences). She was a skinny, tall teenage girl who slunk down in her chair and didn't say much. She was only mildly interested in interacting with me, but when I began to bring out the art supplies she perked up. She was the third child in a seven children family. Although she knew she was loved by her parents, she felt like she did not matter, that her only value was in how many chores she could get done at home and how invisible she could become.

It took some time, but Jenna began to allow her self to be interested in things and express her creativity more and more. As she began to see that she was good at it, she grew in confidence. “You matter,” I would tell her. She would look at me in disbelief. “What’s in the way of YOU knowing that you matter,” I asked her. She shrugged her shoulders and didn’t seem to know how to answer this question. Despite this initial reaction, it wasn’t long before Jenna said clearly, “My family doesn’t believe I was molested by my brother.” This statement would have shocked me when I had first began doing therapy, but I found it was common to find abuse associated with lack of self-esteem.

We worked on it, her self-esteem. Before long Jenna began to believe she was worthwhile. She began to experience confidence enough that she began to stand up for her self. We had to work on how to do this in healthy ways, but it worked. She became more outgoing, having fun and relaxing around people, no longer shy and withdrawn.

That simple statement, “You matter,” can have a profound impact on someone. As a therapist, I am in a position of authority, but any person can make a positive impact on another human being. All you have to do is say the words, and then begin to believe in them for your self. Sometimes what we have to do is tell ourselves "I am worthy" over and over until we begin to let some of this truth sink it.

Each person has their own version of low self-worth. I had one client who thought "I am no good." I had to challenge this belief, identifying it as a belief that was handed down from his care givers, but was only their opinion. Not the truth. The truth is what we determine for ourselves. We can give power to a negative belief (which will give us certain outcomes) or we can choose to give power to a positive and empowering belief (which will also give certain outcomes). WE are the ones who get to choose. Not our family. Not our significant others. Not our children. No one, but us.

Homework: Determine what belief YOU want to have in your life. Then, take the time to spend a few minutes "trying it on" as if it were true. How would YOU feel if you believed you were fundamentally a good person? A loved person? A smart person? A dependable person? Whatever your negative belief is about your self, turn it around to the positive and then sit with it for a few more minutes each day! Then, let it sink in...

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