Self-Esteem

( 32 )

Overview

Self-esteem is essential for our survival. Without some measure of self-worth, life can be enormously painful, with many basic needs going unmet.

One of the main factors differentiating humans from other animals is the awareness of self: the ability to form an identity and then attach a value to it. In other words, you have the capacity to define who you are and then decide if you like that identity or not. The problem of self-esteem is this human capacity for judgment. It?s one...

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Overview

Self-esteem is essential for our survival. Without some measure of self-worth, life can be enormously painful, with many basic needs going unmet.

One of the main factors differentiating humans from other animals is the awareness of self: the ability to form an identity and then attach a value to it. In other words, you have the capacity to define who you are and then decide if you like that identity or not. The problem of self-esteem is this human capacity for judgment. It’s one thing to dislike certain colors, noises, shapes, or sensations. But when you reject parts of your self, you greatly damage the psycho logical structures that literally keep you alive. Judging and rejecting your self causes enormous pain.

Since its first publication in 1987, Self-Esteem has become the first choice of therapists and savvy readers looking for a comprehensive, self-care approach to improving self-image, increasing personal power, and defining core values. More than 600,000 copies of this book have helped literally millions of readers feel better about themselves, achieve greater success, and enjoy their lives to the fullest.

You can do it, too!

This book combines several proven cognitive techniques for assessing, improving and maintaining your self steem. Suitable for both individuals and professionals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

McKay and Fanning recognize the complexity of the human tendency toward self- criticism. Their carefully written, cognitively oriented self-help book wisely avoids simplistic solutions, offering instead a systematic approach to self-eseem development.
—Robert E. Alberti, Ph.D., author of Your Perfect Right

Positive self-esteem is the centerpiece of a healthy personality. McKay and Fanning's new book offers us a valuable storehouse of tactics and strategies for constructing (or renovating) the foundation of our self-esteem.
—Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., author of Shyness

Self-Esteem is truly a very special title. Good writing is especially necessary for self-help titles.... I feel a special enthusiasm in bringing it to the notice of our audience.
—The Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572241985
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: Unassigned Series
  • Edition description: Third Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 66,789
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew McKay, PhD, is a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA. He has authored and coauthored numerous books, including The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, Self-Esteem, Thoughts and Feelings, When Anger Hurts, and ACT on Life Not on Anger. He has also penned two fiction novels, Us and The Wawona Hotel. McKay received his PhD in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, and specializes in the cognitive behavioral treatment of anxiety and depression. He lives and works in the Bay Area.

Patrick Fanning is a professional writer in the mental health field and the founder of a men's support group in northern California. He has authored and coauthored eight self-help books, including Self-Esteem, Thoughts and Feelings, Couple Skills, and Mind and Emotions.

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Read an Excerpt

1

The Nature

of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is essential for psychological survival. It is an emotional sine qua non—without some measure of self-worth, life can be enormously painful, with many basic needs going unmet.

One of the main factors differentiating humans from other animals is the awareness of self: the ability to form an identity and then attach a value to it. In other words, you have the capacity to define who you are and then decide if you like that identity or not. The problem of self-esteem is this human capacity for judgment. It’s one thing to dislike certain colors, noises, shapes, or sensations. But when you reject parts of yourself, you greatly damage the psychological structures that literally keep you alive.

Judging and rejecting yourself causes enormous pain. And in the same way that you would favor and protect a physical wound, you find yourself avoiding anything that might aggravate the pain of self-rejection in any way. You take fewer social, academic, or career risks. You make it more difficult for yourself to meet people, interview for a job, or push hard for something where you might not succeed. You limit your ability to open yourself with others, express your sexuality, be the center of attention, hear criticism, ask for help, or solve problems.

To avoid more judgments and self-rejection, you erect barriers of defense. Perhaps you blame and get angry, or bury yourself in perfectionistic work. Or you brag. Or you make excuses. Sometimes you turn to alcohol or drugs.

This book is about stopping the judgments. It’s about healing the old wounds of hurt and self-rejection. How you perceive and feel about yourself can change. And when those perceptions and feelings change, the ripple effect will touch every part of your life with a gradually expanding sense of freedom.

CAUSES AND EFFECTS

Hundreds of researchers have quizzed thousands of people of various ages and situations, trying to see what causes self-esteem, who has the most of it, how important it is, how it can be increased, and so on.

Studies of young children show clearly that parents’ style of child-rearing during the first three or four years determines the amount of self-esteem that a child starts with. After that, most studies of older children, adolescents, and adults share a common confusion: what is cause and what is effect?

Does academic success foster self-esteem, or does self-esteem foster academic success? Does high social status cause high self-esteem, or does high self-esteem help you gain high social status? Do alcoholics drink because they hate themselves, or do they hate themselves because they drink? Do people like themselves because they do well in job interviews, or do they do better in interviews because they like themselves?

These are classic chicken-and-egg questions. Just as eggs come from chickens and chickens come from eggs, it seems that self-esteem grows out of your circumstances in life, and your circumstances in life are influenced strongly by your self-esteem. Which came first? The question has serious implications for your success at raising your self-esteem.

If external circumstances determine self-esteem, then all you have to do to improve your self-esteem is to improve your circumstances. Let’s say you have low self-esteem because you never graduated from high school, you’re short, your mom hated herself, you live in the slums, and you’re 100 pounds overweight. All you have to do is go to night school and get your degree, grow about six inches, have been raised by a different mother, move to Beverly Hills, and lose 100 pounds. It’s a cinch, right?

But you know you’ll never make it. There’s nothing you can do about your parents or your height. Your only hope is that things are the other way around: that self-esteem determines circumstances. This means that if you improve your self-esteem, your circumstances will improve. So just stop hating yourself, and you’ll get taller, your mom will become somebody different, and those 100 pounds will evaporate like the morning dew.

If you feel that this second scenario is also a little unlikely, you can be congratulated on a keen appreciation of the real world.

The fact is that self-esteem and your circumstances are only indirectly related. There is another intervening factor that determines self-esteem 100 percent of the time: your thoughts.

For example, you look in the mirror and think, “Boy, am I fat. What a slob.” This thought clobbers your self-esteem. If you looked in the mirror and thought, “Well, all right, it looks good to wear my hair like this,” the effect on your self-esteem would be the opposite. The image in the mirror remains the same. Only the thoughts change.

Or let’s say that you’re discussing the news, and when you make a remark about the right-wing rebels your nitpicking friend corrects you: “No, you mean the left-wing rebels.” If you tell yourself, “I really sound stupid,” your self-esteem will take a nose dive. If you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to keep that straight next time,” your self-esteem will not suffer so much. In either case, you don’t change the circumstances, only how you interpret them.

Does this mean that circumstances have nothing to do with self-esteem? No. Obviously, in the area of social status, bank vice-presidents have more opportunity to feel better about their careers than cab drivers have. This is why a study of 100 vice-presidents and 100 cab drivers will “prove” that the higher status job leads to higher self-esteem. What is overlooked among the statistics is that there are some vice-presidents who slaughter their self-esteem by telling themselves, “I should have been president of my own bank by now. I’m a failure,” just as there are some cab drivers who feel good about themselves because they think, “So I’m just a cab driver—I’m putting bread on the table, the kids are doing good in school, things are going just fine.”

This book uses proven methods of cognitive behavioral therapy to raise your self-esteem by changing the way you interpret your life. It will show you how to uncover and analyze the negative self-statements you habitually make. You will learn how to create new, objective, positive self-statements that will foster your self-esteem instead of undermining it.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This book is organized logically, with the most important and universally applicable material at the beginning.

Chapter two introduces the pathological critic, the voice inside you that criticizes and keeps your self-esteem low. The next chapter deals with disarming the critic so that you can be free to begin raising your self-esteem without interference.

Chapter four shows you how to make an accurate self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, an important first step in changing your self-esteem.

Chapter five explains cognitive distortions, irrational ways of thinking that contribute to low self-esteem.

Chapter six introduces the concept of compassion. Self-esteem is closely tied to compassion for others and compassion for yourself.

Chapter seven is about your shoulds, all the rules you have made for yourself about how you should act, feel, and be. Revising your shoulds is one of the most powerful ways to undo old negative programming.

Chapter eight shows how to handle mistakes by changing how you relate to error and by letting go of mistakes in the past.

Chapter nine teaches you how to react to criticism without losing your self-esteem or having to attack others.

Chapter ten covers asking for what you want, one of the most difficult tasks for people with low self-esteem.

Chapter eleven teaches powerful techniques of visualization, a way of setting and achieving self-esteem goals.

Chapter twelve guides you in learning a simple self-hypnosis technique to reinforce affirmations you have created in earlier chapters.

Chapter thirteen is called “I’m Still Not OK” and is designed to help you stop running away from pain while you develop an attitude of nonjudgment.

Chapter fourteen, Core Beliefs, will help you explore, challenge, and change deeply held convictions about your worth.

Chapter fifteen is for you if you have children. It explains what you can do to give your kids the priceless legacy of high self-esteem.

Using this book is simple. Keep reading until you reach the end of chapter three, “Disarming the Critic.” At that point, there is a chart for you to consult. It will direct you to the appropriate chapter to deal with specific problems you may have. If you want to learn about and improve your self-esteem in general, just read the book in sequence from start to finish.

Benefiting from this book is not as simple as just reading it. You have to do some work. Many chapters have exercises to do and skills to learn. When the text tells you to “close your eyes and imagine a scene from your past,” you should actually close your eyes and do it. When the book says, “On a separate piece of paper, list three situations in which you have felt inadequate,” you really need to go find some paper and a pen that writes and sit down and list your three situations.

There is no substitute for doing the exercises. Imagining yourself doing the exercises is not enough. Skimming through the exercises with the vague intention of coming back to them sometime and trying them is not enough. Doing only the exercises that seem easy or interesting is not enough. If there was a way to improve your self-esteem that was easier than doing exercises, it would be in this book. The exercises that are in this book are here because they are the best, easiest, and only way the authors know to raise self-esteem.

You should take your time reading this book. It is densely packed with ideas and things to do. Read it at a pace that will let you absorb the contents fully. Self-esteem takes a long time to develop in the first place. You’ve spent your whole life developing the level of self-esteem you have now. It takes time to tear self-esteem down, and it takes time to build it up. Make a commitment right now to take the time you need.

FOR THE THERAPIST

In his book, The Shrinking of America, Bernie Zilbergeld concludes that psychotherapy has only limited effectiveness for many of the problems that it purports to help. But a review of outcome studies led him to find that psychotherapy does positively affect self-esteem and that improved self-esteem “may be counseling’s most important outcome.” (p. 147)

Clients come to therapy wanting help with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sexual problems, relationship difficulties, and a host of other symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms improve; sometimes they persist despite years of intensive work. But most clients do get a sense of greater personal worth from therapy. While specific symptoms may or may not change, clients at least begin to see themselves as more OK, more deserving, more capable.

The problem with therapy is time. Over the course of months, and often years, a client’s self-perception changes in response to consistent positive regard from the therapist. The sense of approval from an authority figure, particularly one who substitutes for the critical parent, has a potential to be enormously healing. Yet this vital process of raising self-esteem, one that can change many aspects of a client’s experience, is inefficiently and haphazardly implemented. Often the process takes far longer than it should. Often it is done without a plan and without the specific interventions that could hasten its success.

This book is about hastening the process. You can increase a client’s self-esteem more rapidly and more effectively using the cognitive restructuring techniques presented here. Through an exploration of chronic negative self-talk, a systematic confrontation of cognitive distortions, and the development of a more accurate and compassionate self-evaluation, you can intervene directly to raise a client’s sense of worth.

An Issue of Diagnosis

There are basically two kinds of self-esteem problems: situational and characterological. Low self-esteem that is situational tends to show up only in specific areas. For example, a person might have confidence in himself as a parent, a conversationalist, and a sexual partner, but expect to fail in work situations. Someone else might feel socially inept, but see herself as a strong and capable professional. Low self-esteem that is characterological usually had roots in early experiences of abuse or abandonment. The sense of “wrongness” in this case is more global and tends to affect many areas of life.

Situational low self-esteem is a problem ideally suited for cognitive restructuring techniques. The focus is on confronting cognitive distortions, emphasizing strengths over weaknesses, and developing specific skills for handling mistakes and criticism. Since the client is not rejecting himself or herself globally, you will find that changing maladaptive thinking patterns will significantly increase a sense of confidence and worth.

Since characterological low self-esteem derives from a basic identity statement, a feeling of being bad, changing a client’s thoughts is not enough. Identifying and beginning to control the internal critical voice will help, but will not entirely undo the feeling of wrongness. Your main therapeutic emphasis must therefore be on the negative identity that gives rise to negative thoughts. The focus should be on developing self-compassion and a commitment to nonjudgment (see chapter thirteen). These positions can be reinforced through visualization and hypnotic techniques.

Cognitive Restructuring for Self-Esteem

The best place to begin is with the client’s thoughts. Ask what he or she was thinking during a recent episode of self-reproach. Get as much detail as you can about the critical self-talk and then introduce the concept of the pathological critic (see chapters two and three, “The Pathological Critic” and “Disarming the Critic”). Encourage the client to develop his or her unique name for the critic as a way to begin to take ownership of the concept. Typical names are “the bully,” “the shark,” “my kicker,” “Mr. Perfect,” “Marsha (the client’s mother),” and so on.

Personifying the critic helps the client begin to externalize the self-accusing voice. You want him or her to experience the voice as something coming from outside, rather than as a part of the normal flow of thought. It’s easier to fight something that is perceived as external. It’s also easier to make the critical voice ego dystonic, something the client eventually rejects as “not me.”

At the same time that you are identifying and naming the pathological critic, you can also introduce the client to his or her “healthy voice.” The healthy voice is the client’s ability to think realistically. By emphasizing and strengthening this ability you are positioning the client to begin talking back to the critic. Names that are typically used for the healthy voice include “my rational part,” “my accepting part,” “my compassionate part,” “my healthy coach,” and so on. Choose a name that fits the client’s self-concept (i.e., rational, compassionate, caring, objective, and so on).

By creating this dichotomy between the critical voice and the healthy voice, you can encourage the client to confront his or her critic. The following dialogues exemplify this process.

Therapist: So what did the

critic say when you waited and didn’t hear from your new friend?

Client: That I’m not interesting, that I bored him and he was tired of me.

Therapist: What does the healthy coach say back to that?

Client: That our conversation was lively and fun. That there was nice energy between us. I could feel it.

Therapist: What else? Does the coach think you should stew about it, or is there some action you can take?

Client: I could call him and try to get a sense of how he feels.

Here’s another example:

Client: I didn’t get an assignment at work in on time.

Therapist: What did the bully say about that?

Client: That I’m lazy. Over and over: “You’re lazy, you screw up, you’ll never get anywhere.”

Therapist: Can you mobilize the healthy voice to say anything back?

Client: All I hear is the bully.

Therapist: Right now see if you can find your healthy voice so you can talk back to the bully. Are you really lazy and a screw-up?

Client: Well, my healthy voice says, “You did drag your feet, but still you finished it, you turned it in. No one really cared that it was late but you.”

Therapist: So the bully exaggerated about screwing up?

Client: Yes. He always exaggerates.

The next step in cognitive restructuring is to identify the main function of a client’s critic (see “How the Critic Gets Reinforced” in chapter two). In every case the critical voice is being reinforced because it serves some positive function—to promote desired behavior, paradoxically to protect self-worth, or to control painful feelings.

A client must understand the reason why he uses the critical voice and how it helps to protect him. Here’s an example of how this issue can be discussed.

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First Chapter

Self-Esteem


By Matthew McKay

St. Martin's Paperbacks

Copyright © 1987 Matthew McKay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312904432

1The Nature
of Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is essential for psychological survival. It is an emotional sine qua non—without some measure of self-worth, life can be enormously painful, with many basic needs going unmet.
One of the main factors differentiating humans from other animals is the awareness of self: the ability to form an identity and then attach a value to it. In other words, you have the capacity to define who you are and then decide if you like that identity or not. The problem of self-esteem is this human capacity for judgment. It’s one thing to dislike certain colors, noises, shapes, or sensations. But when you reject parts of yourself, you greatly damage the psychological structures that literally keep you alive.
Judging and rejecting yourself causes enormous pain. And in the same way that you would favor and protect a physical wound, you find yourself avoiding anything that might aggravate the pain of self-rejection in any way. You take fewer social, academic, or career risks. You make it more difficult for yourself to meet people, interview for a job, or push hard for something where you might not succeed. You limit your ability to open yourself with others, express your sexuality, be the center of attention, hear criticism, ask for help, or solve problems.
To avoid more judgments and self-rejection, you erect barriers of defense. Perhaps you blame and get angry, or bury yourself in perfectionistic work. Or you brag. Or you make excuses. Sometimes you turn to alcohol or drugs.
This book is about stopping the judgments. It’s about healing the old wounds of hurt and self-rejection. How you perceive and feel about yourself can change. And when those perceptions and feelings change, the ripple effect will touch every part of your life with a gradually expanding sense of freedom.
CAUSES AND EFFECTS
Hundreds of researchers have quizzed thousands of people of various ages and situations, trying to see what causes self-esteem, who has the most of it, how important it is, how it can be increased, and so on.
Studies of young children show clearly that parents’ style of child-rearing during the first three or four years determines the amount of self-esteem that a child starts with. After that, most studies of older children, adolescents, and adults share a common confusion: what is cause and what is effect?
Does academic success foster self-esteem, or does self-esteem foster academic success? Does high social status cause high self-esteem, or does high self-esteem help you gain high social status? Do alcoholics drink because they hate themselves, or do they hate themselves because they drink? Do people like themselves because they do well in job interviews, or do they do better in interviews because they like themselves?
These are classic chicken-and-egg questions. Just as eggs come from chickens and chickens come from eggs, it seems that self-esteem grows out of your circumstances in life, and your circumstances in life are influenced strongly by your self-esteem. Which came first? The question has serious implications for your success at raising your self-esteem.
If external circumstances determine self-esteem, then all you have to do to improve your self-esteem is to improve your circumstances. Let’s say you have low self-esteem because you never graduated from high school, you’re short, your mom hated herself, you live in the slums, and you’re 100 pounds overweight. All you have to do is go to night school and get your degree, grow about six inches, have been raised by a different mother, move to Beverly Hills, and lose 100 pounds. It’s a cinch, right?
But you know you’ll never make it. There’s nothing you can do about your parents or your height. Your only hope is that things are the other way around: that self-esteem determines circumstances. This means that if you improve your self-esteem, your circumstances will improve. So just stop hating yourself, and you’ll get taller, your mom will become somebody different, and those 100 pounds will evaporate like the morning dew.
If you feel that this second scenario is also a little unlikely, you can be congratulated on a keen appreciation of the real world.
The fact is that self-esteem and your circumstances are only indirectly related. There is another intervening factor that determines self-esteem 100 percent of the time: your thoughts.
For example, you look in the mirror and think, “Boy, am I fat. What a slob.” This thought clobbers your self-esteem. If you looked in the mirror and thought, “Well, all right, it looks good to wear my hair like this,” the effect on your self-esteem would be the opposite. The image in the mirror remains the same. Only the thoughts change.
Or let’s say that you’re discussing the news, and when you make a remark about the right-wing rebels your nitpicking friend corrects you: “No, you mean the left-wing rebels.” If you tell yourself, “I really sound stupid,” your self-esteem will take a nose dive. If you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to keep that straight next time,” your self-esteem will not suffer so much. In either case, you don’t change the circumstances, only how you interpret them.
Does this mean that circumstances have nothing to do with self-esteem? No. Obviously, in the area of social status, bank vice-presidents have more opportunity to feel better about their careers than cab drivers have. This is why a study of 100 vice-presidents and 100 cab drivers will “prove” that the higher status job leads to higher self-esteem. What is overlooked among the statistics is that there are some vice-presidents who slaughter their self-esteem by telling themselves, “I should have been president of my own bank by now. I’m a failure,” just as there are some cab drivers who feel good about themselves because they think, “So I’m just a cab driver—I’m putting bread on the table, the kids are doing good in school, things are going just fine.”
This book uses proven methods of cognitive behavioral therapy to raise your self-esteem by changing the way you interpret your life. It will show you how to uncover and analyze the negative self-statements you habitually make. You will learn how to create new, objective, positive self-statements that will foster your self-esteem instead of undermining it.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This book is organized logically, with the most important and universally applicable material at the beginning.
Chapter two introduces the pathological critic, the voice inside you that criticizes and keeps your self-esteem low. The next chapter deals with disarming the critic so that you can be free to begin raising your self-esteem without interference.
Chapter four shows you how to make an accurate self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, an important first step in changing your self-esteem.
Chapter five explains cognitive distortions, irrational ways of thinking that contribute to low self-esteem.
Chapter six introduces the concept of compassion. Self-esteem is closely tied to compassion for others and compassion for yourself.
Chapter seven is about your shoulds, all the rules you have made for yourself about how you should act, feel, and be. Revising your shoulds is one of the most powerful ways to undo old negative programming.
Chapter eight shows how to handle mistakes by changing how you relate to error and by letting go of mistakes in the past.
Chapter nine teaches you how to react to criticism without losing your self-esteem or having to attack others.
Chapter ten covers asking for what you want, one of the most difficult tasks for people with low self-esteem.
Chapter eleven teaches powerful techniques of visualization, a way of setting and achieving self-esteem goals.
Chapter twelve guides you in learning a simple self-hypnosis technique to reinforce affirmations you have created in earlier chapters.
Chapter thirteen is called “I’m Still Not OK” and is designed to help you stop running away from pain while you develop an attitude of nonjudgment.
Chapter fourteen, Core Beliefs, will help you explore, challenge, and change deeply held convictions about your worth.
Chapter fifteen is for you if you have children. It explains what you can do to give your kids the priceless legacy of high self-esteem.
Using this book is simple. Keep reading until you reach the end of chapter three, “Disarming the Critic.” At that point, there is a chart for you to consult. It will direct you to the appropriate chapter to deal with specific problems you may have. If you want to learn about and improve your self-esteem in general, just read the book in sequence from start to finish.
Benefiting from this book is not as simple as just reading it. You have to do some work. Many chapters have exercises to do and skills to learn. When the text tells you to “close your eyes and imagine a scene from your past,” you should actually close your eyes and do it. When the book says, “On a separate piece of paper, list three situations in which you have felt inadequate,” you really need to go find some paper and a pen that writes and sit down and list your three situations.
There is no substitute for doing the exercises. Imagining yourself doing the exercises is not enough. Skimming through the exercises with the vague intention of coming back to them sometime and trying them is not enough. Doing only the exercises that seem easy or interesting is not enough. If there was a way to improve your self-esteem that was easier than doing exercises, it would be in this book. The exercises that are in this book are here because they are the best, easiest, and only way the authors know to raise self-esteem.
You should take your time reading this book. It is densely packed with ideas and things to do. Read it at a pace that will let you absorb the contents fully. Self-esteem takes a long time to develop in the first place. You’ve spent your whole life developing the level of self-esteem you have now. It takes time to tear self-esteem down, and it takes time to build it up. Make a commitment right now to take the time you need.
FOR THE THERAPIST
In his book, The Shrinking of America, Bernie Zilbergeld concludes that psychotherapy has only limited effectiveness for many of the problems that it purports to help. But a review of outcome studies led him to find that psychotherapy does positively affect self-esteem and that improved self-esteem “may be counseling’s most important outcome.” (p. 147)
Clients come to therapy wanting help with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sexual problems, relationship difficulties, and a host of other symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms improve; sometimes they persist despite years of intensive work. But most clients do get a sense of greater personal worth from therapy. While specific symptoms may or may not change, clients at least begin to see themselves as more OK, more deserving, more capable.
The problem with therapy is time. Over the course of months, and often years, a client’s self-perception changes in response to consistent positive regard from the therapist. The sense of approval from an authority figure, particularly one who substitutes for the critical parent, has a potential to be enormously healing. Yet this vital process of raising self-esteem, one that can change many aspects of a client’s experience, is inefficiently and haphazardly implemented. Often the process takes far longer than it should. Often it is done without a plan and without the specific interventions that could hasten its success.
This book is about hastening the process. You can increase a client’s self-esteem more rapidly and more effectively using the cognitive restructuring techniques presented here. Through an exploration of chronic negative self-talk, a systematic confrontation of cognitive distortions, and the development of a more accurate and compassionate self-evaluation, you can intervene directly to raise a client’s sense of worth.
An Issue of Diagnosis
There are basically two kinds of self-esteem problems: situational and characterological. Low self-esteem that is situational tends to show up only in specific areas. For example, a person might have confidence in himself as a parent, a conversationalist, and a sexual partner, but expect to fail in work situations. Someone else might feel socially inept, but see herself as a strong and capable professional. Low self-esteem that is characterological usually had roots in early experiences of abuse or abandonment. The sense of “wrongness” in this case is more global and tends to affect many areas of life.
Situational low self-esteem is a problem ideally suited for cognitive restructuring techniques. The focus is on confronting cognitive distortions, emphasizing strengths over weaknesses, and developing specific skills for handling mistakes and criticism. Since the client is not rejecting himself or herself globally, you will find that changing maladaptive thinking patterns will significantly increase a sense of confidence and worth.
Since characterological low self-esteem derives from a basic identity statement, a feeling of being bad, changing a client’s thoughts is not enough. Identifying and beginning to control the internal critical voice will help, but will not entirely undo the feeling of wrongness. Your main therapeutic emphasis must therefore be on the negative identity that gives rise to negative thoughts. The focus should be on developing self-compassion and a commitment to nonjudgment (see chapter thirteen). These positions can be reinforced through visualization and hypnotic techniques.
Cognitive Restructuring for Self-Esteem
The best place to begin is with the client’s thoughts. Ask what he or she was thinking during a recent episode of self-reproach. Get as much detail as you can about the critical self-talk and then introduce the concept of the pathological critic (see chapters two and three, “The Pathological Critic” and “Disarming the Critic”). Encourage the client to develop his or her unique name for the critic as a way to begin to take ownership of the concept. Typical names are “the bully,” “the shark,” “my kicker,” “Mr. Perfect,” “Marsha (the client’s mother),” and so on.
Personifying the critic helps the client begin to externalize the self-accusing voice. You want him or her to experience the voice as something coming from outside, rather than as a part of the normal flow of thought. It’s easier to fight something that is perceived as external. It’s also easier to make the critical voice ego dystonic, something the client eventually rejects as “not me.”
At the same time that you are identifying and naming the pathological critic, you can also introduce the client to his or her “healthy voice.” The healthy voice is the client’s ability to think realistically. By emphasizing and strengthening this ability you are positioning the client to begin talking back to the critic. Names that are typically used for the healthy voice include “my rational part,” “my accepting part,” “my compassionate part,” “my healthy coach,” and so on. Choose a name that fits the client’s self-concept (i.e., rational, compassionate, caring, objective, and so on).
By creating this dichotomy between the critical voice and the healthy voice, you can encourage the client to confront his or her critic. The following dialogues exemplify this process.
Therapist: So what did the
critic say when you waited and didn’t hear from your new friend?
Client: That I’m not interesting, that I bored him and he was tired of me.
Therapist: What does the healthy coach say back to that?
Client: That our conversation was lively and fun. That there was nice energy between us. I could feel it.
Therapist: What else? Does the coach think you should stew about it, or is there some action you can take?
Client: I could call him and try to get a sense of how he feels.
Here’s another example:
Client: I didn’t get an assignment at work in on time.
Therapist: What did the bully say about that?
Client: That I’m lazy. Over and over: “You’re lazy, you screw up, you’ll never get anywhere.”
Therapist: Can you mobilize the healthy voice to say anything back?
Client: All I hear is the bully.
Therapist: Right now see if you can find your healthy voice so you can talk back to the bully. Are you really lazy and a screw-up?
Client: Well, my healthy voice says, “You did drag your feet, but still you finished it, you turned it in. No one really cared that it was late but you.”
Therapist: So the bully exaggerated about screwing up?
Client: Yes. He always exaggerates.
The next step in cognitive restructuring is to identify the main function of a client’s critic (see “How the Critic Gets Reinforced” in chapter two). In every case the critical voice is being reinforced because it serves some positive function—to promote desired behavior, paradoxically to protect self-worth, or to control painful feelings.
A client must understand the reason why he uses the critical voice and how it helps to protect him. Here’s an example of how this issue can be discussed.


Continues...

Excerpted from Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay Copyright © 1987 by Matthew McKay. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Read Self-Esteem- It's Worth It

    Who's the book for? Anyone who wants to improve their self-esteem. <BR/><BR/>What's the goal of the book? To improve your self-esteem. <BR/><BR/>How does it do this? By showing you how to disarm your "inner critic", you know, that negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. Everyone has one, and people with low self-esteem tend to have a more vicious inner critic. <BR/><BR/>Is it easy to read? Yes, the book is laid out well and written in a very friendly tone. The first three chapters cover the most important and universally applicable information. After finishing them, there is a chart for you to look at. It will direct you to the appropriate chapter(s) that deal with your specific problems. Neat! <BR/><BR/>You don't have to read the book cover-to-cover unless you just need general info- but that's what's good about it; you can use the book to fit your individual needs. With over 600,000 copies sold, it must have helped a few people! Good luck!

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2003

    This book changed me! The best book I ever bought!

    I'm only 22 years old and I have been to countless doctors and even a hypnotherpist to help me out with the problems I had been dealing with. I finally went to one last pychologist who recommended a herb I should try. I took the herb and it made me feel so much better but I didn't want to be on pills the rest of my life (because I did that in the past already) So I went to the book store looking on a self help book. The first book I happened to pick up was Self-Esteem (like it was calling me) I saw on the cover that it sold over 550,000 copies so I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did, with in a week I could feel me changing in a more positive way and thinking and feeling better about myself. Midway through I got off the pills and starting using the book alone with the same fantastic results. My advise is that if you want anything in your life: better car,house,friends, boyfriend, girlfriend or even marrage you should work on yourself first thats the only way you would be completely happy is to take care of yourself first. Even if you think you don't have self esteem this book would still change you, along with your thinking process.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    A Wonderful Look at the Inner Workings of Self Doubt

    I have read three books that have had a deep impact on my views of myself, the strength of my marriage, and the ways in which I keep my clinical depression in check. These books are: Love Is Never Enough, How to Fix Your Marriage Without Talking About it, and Self Esteem. Love is Never Enough deals with cognative therapy and how it can help you to understand where emotional situations come from that would ordinarilly be mundane. How to Fix Your Marriage deals with where the sub-conscious thoughts from which these origins of emotion come from. Self Esteme deals with the conscious level critic we all have to some degree and how that little voice in your head can cause you to see things in the exact wrong light. Self Esteme has been a transforming insight into silencing the critic and moving on with my life in a way that does not create drama where none existed. It has had an amazingly positive impact on my marriage and the overall level of joy I feel on a daily basis. Since reading this book and doing the excersizes within, I am a better person that I was. And it shows.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2004

    The Best Book

    I was just browsing the book store and saw this book. It called out to me and I now do the exercises in each chapter. This book has taught me so much and has opened my eyes to things that I never even realized. I have recommened it to others. Highly effective !!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2003

    Amazing ...

    I have struggled with my self-esteem for years. I decided that I couldn't keep ruining relationships and friendships because I needed to fix *me*. I went to the book store and saw 'Self-Esteem'. Out of all the other self-esteem books out there, I had no idea if this was any better or worse than the others. I liked that it has techniques and work areas to actually DO the exercises .. and work through your issues. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs help discovering their own self-worth.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Contains Truth, but......

    Content -A+ Mechanics - C- Spelling errors, poor punctuation, poor syntax (no pun intended) make it difficult to read. Much seems as if one person dictated, but no one went back through to edit. I find it easier to take a "positon" paper seriously if it is well-written.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2009

    Revealing! May need help...

    Self Esteem is a self-help book for the "regular" person. It is offered as "do-it-yourself" therapy w/o the therapist, although I really feel a therapist would help a great deal in explaining a lot of the reasons the book offers as to why we have such low opinions of ourselves. I needed to re-read the chapters several times to understand some of the concepts, but then, I am not a therapist or psych major who would be more familiar with the reasoning behind these explanations. This is not a quick fix type of book and involves a lot of time and dedication to be successful in building the readers' self-esteem, let alone the constant practicing of the concepts to ensure the concepts "work" and take hold. I think this book would work best for the reader when done in a program with a therapist.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An instructive guide on enhancing self-esteem

    Each individual manifests self-esteem, or the lack of it, differently. Generally, people with strong self-esteem had parents who nurtured them constantly during their early childhood, while those with low self-esteem often did not. Can people with low self-esteem build it as adults? Yes, because self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, and your thoughts control your feelings. If you take command of your thoughts, you can take command of your feelings, including your sense of self. In this fine book on self-esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning show you how to banish regressive ¿stinking thinking¿ and the nasty inner critic that inevitably tries to flatten your self-esteem. You can use their instructive ¿cognitive techniques¿ to elevate your self-esteem, develop self-assurance and feel better about yourself. getAbstract finds McKay and Fanning¿s book warm and practical. If their self-esteem is high, there¿s a good reason.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2012

    I purchased this but unfortunately it can't be read on iPad or iPhone nook. Wonder if I can get money back.

    I purchased this but unfortunately it can't be read on iPad or iPhone nook. Wonder if I can get money back.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2009

    GREAT book for those of us who struggle with low self-esteem!

    I just checked this out from the library at my college and the introduction alone got me interested. At 19 y.o. (after years of being weighted down by lack of esteem and a sense of self-worth) I'm so excited to read this book, but I'm going to have to purchase it, seeing that it's due back in less than two weeks.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted September 20, 2011

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    Posted December 12, 2010

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    Posted May 1, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2011

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    Posted April 29, 2011

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    Posted June 4, 2010

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    Posted July 2, 2010

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    Posted February 7, 2011

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    Posted December 29, 2010

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    Posted May 24, 2010

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