CBT for Low Self-Esteem and Self-Criticism
What is Low Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem can be described as the value or worth you place on yourself as a person. When you judge yourself negatively it can affect your self-esteem. Someone with low self-esteem can see themselves as ‘worthless’ or a ‘failure’ and get stuck in negative self-judgements such as ‘I am stupid’ or ‘I am a bad person’.
Early childhood experiences that form our sense of self-worth can the lens through which we see ourselves in current life situations. If we believe that we are ‘worthless’ then we will tend to zone in on situations or information that confirms this in our own mind. This can prevent us from taking into account other information that might lead us to hold ourselves in more positive, even valued ways.
How can CBT help?
‘Negative core beliefs’ about what kind of person we are, can be deep-rooted and strongly held within us. Early life experiences such as trauma, bullying, neglect, experiencing abuse, being held to a high standard, not fitting in, or believing we are not good enough can lead to a sense that there is something inherently bad or wrong with us. Getting stuck in cycles of harsh self-criticism and self-judgement can keep us feeling ashamed, guilty, depressed, or anxious.
In CBT psychotherapy we address how these negative self-beliefs, distressing emotions, and subsequent coping mechanisms keep going around in circles for us. For example, someone experiencing low self-esteem, will often develop ‘rules for living’ or ‘assumptions’ to help us feel more acceptable to ourselves. These rules for living can involve ‘If…..then’ statements such as ‘if I act perfectly….then I will be good enough’ or ‘If I can please everyone all the time….then I must be a good person.
CBT aims to help you find new ways to relate to difficult thoughts, emotions and situations in your life that are impacted by low self-esteem.
Compassion-Focused Therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy developed by Paul Gilbert. By developing a compassionate way of relating to ourselves and the world around us, we can find ways to overcome our harsh inner critic. By finding ways to relate to ourselves in kinder, more compassionate way we can learn to experience safety, warmth, ease, and contentment. Cultivating a friendly relationship towards ourselves and our inner experience is a foundation of wellbeing and a happy, healthy life.
How Does Compassion-Focused Therapy Work?
Compassion-Focused Therapy is an amalgamation of several fields of thought such as social and evolutionary psychology, Buddhist philosophy, cognitive behavioural psychotherapy and neuroscience. It focuses on three emotional regulation systems, which have evolved to help us survive and thrive in our environments. These three systems include: threat (self-protection and survival), drive (motivation, achievement, and excitement) and soothing (contentment, warmth, feeling safe). Compassion-focused therapy works to bring these systems into balance. For example, someone who is prone harsh self-criticism and feelings of shame will spend a lot time in their threat system. They may have difficulty experiencing moments of safety and contentment. The aim of compassion-focused therapy is to help someone to access their soothing system, to be able experience safety, ease, and contentment. These are linked to experiences of happiness.
Mindfulness, compassion, and self-compassion skills techniques are used to help someone balance their emotional regulation systems, and in particular gain access to their soothing system. There are a variety of skills involved, such as becoming aware of the inner critic or bully, developing a compassionate voice towards ourselves, soothing rhythm breathing technique, bodyscan meditation, compassionate imagery, developing a compassionate-self, and flow of compassion inwards and outwards. These are all designed to bring the ‘soothing system’ online. It also regulates and balances the other two systems (threat and drive) in ways that are helpful to our happiness and wellbeing.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you would like to to book an appointment don’t hesitate to get in touch on our contact form below, or phone us at 086 840 3722.