Self-esteem is such a common term that it can start to lose its meaning. I think of self-esteem as a sense of self, and a vital building block for recovery and growth. It’s hard to start trusting our inner wisdom until we have a sense of self. But once it’s there, that intuitive voice can become a regular source we can go to for guidance.
One of the first steps in building that foundation is to heal old wounds and grieve losses. This helps us start to understand ourselves, practice acceptance, and form a connection with ourselves. Then we can start feeling capable of respecting and honoring ourselves.
If we don’t truly care about ourselves, or even feel some self-loathing, we’re going to find it practically impossible to make healthier choices. People wonder why they can’t make some of these changes, and it’s because this piece is missing.
When you have issues with food, or anything else for that matter, it’s essential to meet your basic physiological needs first before addressing higher-level needs like self-esteem. This is the fundamental idea behind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which can be used as building blocks of recovery.
So how do you know which level you’re on, and where to start your recovery journey? That’s what we help people decide at White Picket Fence Counseling Center. As therapists we help guide that process and give it a sense of order.
People may come to therapy wanting relief from a specific source of pain. “I need better self-esteem so I can succeed at work,” they may say, or “Let’s work on anger because I want to stop destroying my relationships,” or maybe it’s, “Please help me lose [or gain] weight so I can finally be happy!” But in all of these examples there is probably some other healing that needs to happen first, as a foundation to meet those goals.
This process isn’t a quick fix, and change takes time. While I can rhyme off a list of tools that I know have worked for other people, if they don’t fit where you are in your recovery, they’re not likely to work for you.
Recovery is a process, whether you’re in counseling, yoga-based therapy, art therapy, couples therapy, residential treatment, a 12-step program, or something else. The inner work of recovery is like a master’s program, so you have to first get your high school diploma, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree.
It is definitely possible to achieve inner peace and self-esteem, so you can also feel good about what’s outside yourself. This peace can extend to your relationships, which can grow stronger with healthy communication. But we do all of this layer by layer, step by step.