Accommodating others from an early age leaves us unsure of our values and beliefs and encourages reliance on others. Decision-making becomes difficult, even paralyzing. Low self-esteem and shame heighten our fear of making mistakes, leading to self-doubt, insecurity, and indecision. Instead, we procrastinate or look to others for validation, opinions, and answers, which further undermines our self-trust and self-esteem.
Accommodating others also alienates us from our needs and wants. By not acknowledging, expressing, and meeting our needs and wants, we’re admitting to ourselves and others that they’re not important; ergo, that we’re not important. On the other hand, taking responsibility to meet our needs and/or ask for them (such as asking for a raise) builds self-esteem. When we don’t, we feel helpless and a victim of circumstances and other people.
Not feeling worthy of love and respect – which we deny to ourselves – makes us vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. We don’t feel worthy of being treated well, and deny, excuse, or rationalize being abused or disrespected. Dependent upon others’ approval, we’re afraid to set boundaries lest we alienate those we love or need. We’re quick to blame ourselves and readily accept blame from others because we’re guilt-ridden due to shame. Although we forgive the mistakes of others, especially if we receive an apology, we’re not as kind to ourselves. Apologies to ourselves don’t count. In fact, we can punish ourselves or hold a grudge against ourselves for years over past mistakes.
Treatment for Low Self-Esteem and Depression
Fortunately, we can grow our self-esteem and increase our capacity for self-fulfillment. It will enhance our creativity, ambition, physical and emotional health, loving relationships, and resilience in the face of adversity. It is the key to success. (Assess your self-esteem in this online quiz.) There’s a lot you can do on your own by following the steps in the How to Raise Your Self-Esteem webinar.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (“CBT”) is effective in treating both codependency and low self-esteem. Research has consistently found a link between depression and low self-esteem, and also that raising self-esteem using CBT reduces depression.[i] Treating any underlying trauma is also important, particularly when it’s focused on changing erroneous and self-shaming beliefs.
[i] Tsai-Hwei Chen, et al., “The Evaluation of Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy on Patient Depression and Self-Esteem;” Gardner & Oei, “Depression and Self-Esteem”)
©Darlene Lancer 2017
Written by Darlene Lancer JD, MFT
Originally appeared on WhatIsCodependency.com
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