Blog : self-esteem

You are enough

You are enough

This article appeared in Joe’s monthly column in the Traverse City Record Eagle.

Imagine Bonnie. She’s 47 and she’s a middle manager for a local company. The company numbers are down. Bonnie also had a father who was a hard working Detroit factory man. He didn’t have time for excuses. He had grit. From a very early age, Bonnie learned that she was not enough, but working hard could make up for her short comings.

We live in a world where hard work, achievement, and moving up the ladder are concepts embedded into our culture. Many of our religious, political, and family systems have this are part of their message.

This focus on achievement is one of the values that has helped The United States become a world leader. We value research, education, and entrepreneurship. Let’s start by talking about some of the dysfunctional ways that people view themselves.

A Dysfunctional View

That word “dysfunctional” is often thrown around. All it means is that something is not functioning how it should function. Think back to Bonnie. If her boss comes in and tells her, “The numbers are down, bring them up.” What is healthy in this situation?

Working hard to bring the numbers up is obviously part of doing your job. However, if Bonnie internalized this, personalized it, beat herself up, drank more, or spent all weekend pondering and worrying, that’s not action that is functional.

Most of the time, when we have a version of “we are not enough” going around in our heads, is is rooted in fear.

What Fear Does

Bonnie may be thinking, “If I don’t do this, then I will lose my job.” That may be true. But, most people will then fall into a mental spiral of worst-case scenario thinking. It might go something like this:

“If I lose my job, then I’ll lose my wages, then my house, my kids can’t continue college, and forget about having mom move into the house, mom’s going to be homeless too!”

Psychologists call this “magnification.” The general public might call it “blowing things out of proportion.”

Yes, the initial trigger of increasing numbers at work is a reasonable request to Bonnie, but her emotional reaction is not serving the function it needs to serve. Therefore, she needs an alternative.

Be Honest You

Let’s zoom in on a marriage. Each person has their own opinions. I want Thai Cafe tonight, well I want Amical. Yet the conversation usually goes something like this, “What do you want for dinner?”

“ I could go for Thai, but what do you want?”

“I’m not sure, Thai doesn’t sound that great to me tonight.”


When a couple begins to bring their honest needs or wants to the conversation, it changes the dynamic. When one or both people are not saying what they really prefer, there are a multitude of choices and reactions. However, when both say what they actually want, the conversation becomes much easier. As couples are more honest, they can see the other person for who they really are.

The same is true in other areas. As you start to identify what function behavior is serving, you’ll begin to understand that a large percent of your thinking and behavior is actually dysfunctional. It’s not achieving what you want.

The path for Bonnie, you, and for me is to identify the function of our thinking, address fear and avoid magnification, and to bring our true self to conversations, because you are enough!

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City. He is also a business coach, he writes about small business basics at Practice of the Practice. 

Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC


Many people go through life expecting the worst. Alfred Alder, the 19th century Austrian psychotherapist, stated: “Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.” But you can help your clients change their perceptions of themselves and the world and, as a result, work toward positive and high self-esteem.

In the words of self-help pioneer, Maxwell Maltz: “Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.

When people have deep spiritual, physical, and emotional wounds, they can carry these burdens with them through life. In so doing, they cloud their perception of their own value or importance. And our perception of ourselves is what dictates our self-esteem.

In carrying the burdens of low self-esteem, people often substitute these feelings with dependency self-gratification methods, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, and pornography. In some ways, these people want control of changing their low self-image, and for too many the answer is to indulge or self-medicate. Dependencies allow them to deal with the status quo and numb away the negative feelings.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to the overall opinion we have of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Low self-esteem means that the tone of this opinion is negative: for example, “I’m unlovable” or “I’m useless.”

Of course most people have mixed opinions of themselves, but if the overall opinion is that you are an inadequate or inferior person, or if you feel that you have no true worth and are not entitled to the good things in life, this is low self-esteem. And low self-esteem can have a painful and damaging effect on one’s life.

The Ways People Support Their Low Self-Esteem

 Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning in their book Self-Esteem (New Harbinger Publications, 2000) list ways in which one maintains a low view of oneself. Talk to your clients to see if they practice any of these bad habits:

  • Overgeneralization: From an isolated event, you make a general, universal rule. If you failed once, you’ll always fail.
  • Global Labeling: You automatically use negative preconceived labels to describe yourself, rather than accurately describing your qualities.
  •  Filtering: You selectively pay attention to the negative and disregard the positive.
  •  Polarized Thinking: You lump things into absolutes, black and white categories, with no middle ground. You have to be perfect or you’re worthless.
  •  Self-Blame: You consistently blame yourself for things that may not really be your fault.
  •  Personalization: You assume that everything has something to do with you, and you negatively compare yourself to everyone else.
  •  Mind Reading: You assume that others don’t like you, are angry with you, don’t care about you and so on, without any real evidence that your assumptions are correct.
  •  Control Fallacies: You either feel that you have total responsibility for everybody and everything or feel that you have no control; that you are a helpless victim.
  •  Emotional Reasoning: You assume that things are the way you feel about them.

Ways of Increasing Self-Esteem

 We are what we think. What people take in influences their perceptions of themselves, and the filters they use to gather information about themselves is key in how they feel.

The problem with changing anything in life is that people fight it: no matter how bad they feel, humans are creatures of habit.

The following is a list of potential ways of increasing self-esteem that you can recommend to clients in your practice:

  •  Use positive self-talk: Tell yourself you can handle it and support yourself in going after your goals.
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise fends off depression, low energy, and disease, while increasing stress management abilities and enhancing your mood.
  • Take care of your needs: Be good to yourself by getting adequate sleep, taking care of your personal hygiene, creating time to be alone, saying no when you need to, eating in nutritious ways, stimulating your mind, and connecting with others.
  • Let the little things go: It is damaging to your health to beat yourself up over every little thing.
  • Own who you are: Give yourself permission to like what you like and not like what you don’t like.
  • Practice self-acceptance: Get to know yourself. Let go of any need to be perfect.
  • Be creative: Creativity helps you achieve a greater sense of well-being and gain better control of your thoughts. Step out of the box.
  • Have a grateful and optimistic attitude about life: Practice daily gratitudes.
  • Have personal integrity and live by your values: Listen to your inner voice.
  • Participate in meaningful activities: Follow your passions.

The bottom line when it comes to self-esteem is we play the most important role in our own self-esteem. One’s personal happiness can greatly increase by taking positive action in changing one’s attitude.

Advise your clients to take time in their days to meditate and take stock in how they are processing the world around them. Teach them to be attuned to setting healthy boundaries with themselves and others, and not be afraid of asking a trusted love one to give a valid and honest assessment of how they are doing. Lastly, tell them to take the brake off, and allow themselves the freedom to enjoy the ride of their lives.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” Karen Ravn


Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience