Change Your Diet

Change Your Diet

This is a composite description of many of my clients and is not based on any one person or therapy session. Rather, this is a regular theme that I encounter over and over with many people.

So, I was in session the other day with a relatively new client and after some discussions, it became clear to me that this person really had low self-esteem and had been doing some otherwise unhealthy things in relationships in a vain attempt to feel better about herself. In my best compassionate voice, I told her what seemed clear to me now about how she seems not to hold much value in her own eyes. She looked at me and almost laughed out loud. “Really? Duh! Raleigh, my problem is not that I don’t know that I hate myself but what I don’t know is how to change it.”

How do you change it? Good question. How do you challenge a message that has been told, reinforced, clarified, hammered in, beaten in, and otherwise has surrounded you all your life from most every important caregiver and partner you have ever had? You have had a steady diet of this message and as your self-loathing has grown fat, your self-esteem has nearly starved to death. The fact that you have even mustered the courage to even try therapy after all this time is a tribute to your will and resilience.

Suddenly my own self-confidence and smug sense drains away as I realize again the deep holes that people are sometimes in when they come to therapy. My own fear about not being up to the task of helping her find ways to help herself starts to rise up some. But I also know that if this person has had the courage to be vulnerable with me, I owe it to them to remain calm and present and be willing to sit with this difficult truth; the truth that finding what was so long lost will be the journey of the rest of her life.

Yet what I also know is that there are gains to be made. I know that when we choose to change our “diet”, to start feeding ourselves those other messages, we can get better. These are the messages that remind us we don’t have to be educated enough or smart enough or white enough or black enough or religious enough or man enough or woman enough or sexy enough or giving enough or thin enough or anything else enough to be of value. These are the messages that remind us that even when there is no one immediately present to tell us so, we are worthy of love and belonging anyway. It may take a long time. It may take forever. But if there was ever a journey worth the effort, this is the one.