A Paradox Of Self-Esteem

September 28, 2021

A PARADOX OF SELF-ESTEEM  

In South Platte Counseling’s ongoing blog series, “Mental Health and Me,” we invite one of our clients to write openly and anonymously about their mental health journey on a topic they’ve personally experienced.  

We are showcasing this series to help de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health.  We want to let people know mental health is an individual journey and a ubiquitous life experience.  

With that being said, let’s read about one person’s experience with this week’s topic: struggling with ongoing self-esteem issues.

Self-esteem is the positive or negative evaluation of the self, as in how we feel about it.

  • Smith and Mackie (2007)

Lately, I’ve found myself telling my therapist that I have “high self-esteem and low self-esteem at the same time.”  And I fully understand that in itself is an exceptional conundrum.  

Somehow, it makes sense inside my mind.  I’ve said it quite a few times during our sessions, so I evidently believe it to be true.  Or, in the jumble of how I feel, that’s the only way I know how to articulate it.    

I know those two things are diametrically opposed, so you can see why I feel confused.  Why would anyone think that?  There are a lot of contradictory emotions inside of me. 

I think of it as loving and hating a former partner at the same time.  I am learning to love myself; however, I hate myself just the same.  I have many emotions and opinions about myself, and (obviously) those emotions are not always in agreement with one another.  

Self esteem wording

Is it fragile positive self-esteem?

I’ve been working with my therapist for over a year now, and I am building the skills to become more comfortable in my skin. The work we’ve been doing together has helped me become more confident. 

Of course, not every day is a good day when you are trying to learn and justify your self-worth to yourself.  When the bad days happen, I feel like I’m right back where I started, even though I know that’s not true, and that’s when I notice I have them both.  

Like, I’ve learned the negative thoughts I have about myself (as crappy as they make me feel) are just that – thoughts.  

Just because I think them does not make them accurate and breaking that self-critical and intrusive thought cycle has been a significant focus of my time with my therapist.  

As I work to improve my self-confidence and worth, my self-esteem has started to rise, and I am beginning to feel better about myself and my place in the world and the good things I bring to it.  

Feeling better about myself does feel good.  However, breaking the thought patterns I’ve had about myself for most of my life is challenging to turn around.  It’s not something that is happening overnight.  

When I say I struggle with high self-esteem and low self-esteem simultaneously – I mean, I’m starting to feel better about myself as I do more work with my therapist, but old habits tend to die hard.  

It’s easy to fall back into the way I’ve always thought about myself because loving myself hasn’t been “normal” for me.  

So now you know what I mean when I say I have high self-esteem and low-self esteem at the same time.  These feelings are constantly challenging each other for ownership of my emotions. 

I continuously remind myself that it takes a lot of kindness, grace, and personal development not to fall back into that trap and keep pushing forward to become my best self.   

I’m so thankful for being in counseling.

Without my therapist’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the conflict inside of me and choose how to go forward in my life, or even realize I have a choice because I would just feel and accept the bad thoughts I had always had about myself.  

I’m glad to know it doesn’t have to be this way.

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