There is no doubt that low self-esteem can hold you back in life - maybe you don’t believe you could do a certain job, or you don’t take the initiative with relationships or friendships because you believe the other person could never like you. Low self-esteem can lead to you presenting yourself to others as of less value (I’m so stupid’ or ‘I’m useless at Maths’) and this can affect the way people relate to you. We may say ‘sorry’ when we are not fully responsible for something, but this can lead others to think that it’s our fault. We may hold ourselves physically in a way which projects the opposite of confidence and can affect others’ first impressions of us.
Counselling aims to provide a safe, reflective space to explore the reality of the client’s beliefs, what led to your lack of self-value. The counsellor may challenge whether these beliefs are 'true', helpful and flexible to changes as you go through life. We are looking not for arrogance and unhelpfully high self-esteem but a healthy ‘I’m ok’ or 'good enough'. We are looking to replace self-criticism and self-condemnation with acceptance and compassion for the inevitable human weaknesses and frailty that we all have.
This can be an attitude which can be hard for you as a client to turn towards yourself when your standards are set ‘too’ high and you feel you ‘should’ be something you are not. I sometimes ask a client: ‘would you have that attitude about your friend or a loved one?’ The answer is ‘no’ because my client does not expect others to be invulnerable or superhuman. When as a client you see how you might have absorbed messages about yourself from others close to yourself and from formative experiences, self-compassion can be cultivated and this can lead to a real shift in self-value.
What can be most healing of all is the experience of empathy and acceptance which your counsellor can offer you.