Hello, Creatives. This week, I bring you another theme from the couch. I want to introduce it to you clinically as an important and fundamental goal for personal growth, while giving it “creative people” flavor. The topic: self esteem.
You may be familiar with this concept under different names- and it can be presented in different nuances and aspects including: self esteem, self worth, sense of self and more. Who says what you are worth? How do we internalize what our value is? One of my favorite theories to conceptualize this is Person Centered Theory.
Person Centered Theory will tell us that most of us build a sense of who we are based upon how others value us. From a young age, we internalize rules from others about qualities that make us good or bad, smart or dumb, pretty or ugly, worthwhile or not. In the creative world it is much the same. We learn if we are talented or not, if our art/writing/dancing/music is good or bad. We will likely learn these based on how closely our creative tendencies mimic those that others around us value (e.g. was a parent classically trained? They will likely value this more in you). Overall, these learned rules and internalized value systems that dictate our worth are called “conditions of worth,” and they are not helpful to us.
The problem with conditions of worth (COWs in Person Centered Therapy) is they are based upon external forces. In other words, if we subscribe to them, we essentially allow our worth and sense of self to be dictated to us by others. There are a myriad of reasons why this is not ideal for us and I will leave room here for you to peek back into your own life and generate some examples- but basically it boils down to inconsistency and external locus of control. It’s ok- we all have COWs. COWs develop functionally because as children we learn about the world through mimicry and adoption of others’ value systems as a starting point to develop our own. The problem becomes a sort of self-esteem failure to launch, where, again, for many reasons, we get stuck in the former and don’t move into the latter. If you have now or have had in the past struggles creatively and/or personally with self worth, and examine your young adult years, you will likely begin to guess at some of the contributing factors.
According to Person Centered Therapy, a fully realized, happy person with good self esteem is “self actualized” and has become congruent with their “organismic valuing process” or OVP. Essentially each of us intrinsically “knows” what makes us happy and peaceful, and making choices accordingly gives us happy and peaceful lives. Unsurprisingly, this in turn fills us with self worth because we are living authentically.
If you haven’t guessed it, self esteem work can get emotionally sticky and for that reason I always recommend therapy as a starting point to build insight into your story. What are your levels of self worth? How authentically are you living? What points in your life can you identify as contributing to any stuck-ness in your process of self-actualization? If you haven’t read it- the “Referential Self” blog post is a good accompanying read to this topic.
What I can give you in this post is a belief to launch you perhaps into consideration of a new mindset- a starting point for your own self esteem project. This is often step one when I am working with a client. The belief is based upon a concept of radical self acceptance- accepting yourself in this moment just as you are:
“What I need, care about and feel matters.”
What a simple concept. But- search yourself- do you really accept and believe this fully? Building self esteem through radical self acceptance does not mean avoiding the setting of personal goals for ourselves and working towards change, but it also doesn’t mean perfection. It starts with a place of love and acceptance for ourselves and our life experiences: a place of compassion, respect and understanding for who we are and who our lives have made us.
Ready to build up your self worth? I have a safe place for you to do the work!
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is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.