Many patients enroll in psychotherapy because of self-esteem issues resulting from an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt and lack of confidence. These feelings are often brought about by conditioned or reflexive behaviors that stem from childhood or long-standing relationships. While some actions, feelings or thoughts are welcome, such as those that create confidence and healthy interactions, some might be destructive or self-defeating, which dictates the need to change. However, to change such ingrained behavior, it is necessary to consider the root causes.
Childhood is a formative time in our lives. The world is new and fresh, and we have to find our place in the current order. These developmental years and experiences lead to the adaptation of a belief system that will guide many of our decisions throughout our adult lives. Unfortunately, not everyone has positive experiences during these developmental years. Some people come from abusive or neglectful backgrounds. However, even those that share similar backgrounds do not always conform to the same belief system. For example, two children who both experience belittling and negligent parents might develop differently. Child A might develop an attitude of perseverance that equates to great success. However, child B might develop an approach of self-defeat, leading to social withdrawal and feeling of inadequacy. Therefore, our experience guides the development of our belief system, but our interpretation of those experiences leads to our view of self-worth and expectation, often materializing in a positive or negative internal dialogue.
Negative Internal Dialogue
We all talk to ourselves, and these internal interactions can determine our level of self-esteem and self-respect. Healthy internal dialogue often includes the recitation of personal and uplifting mantras, like "I am capable" or "I am beautiful." Unfortunately, depending on the relationships of our past or the interpretations of past trauma or experiences, some people develop a consistent and negative internal response system. These individuals might recite things like, "I am not deserving" or "I am not good enough," which only hinder productive development and lead to poor social development. Therefore, it is necessary for individuals expressing such internal dialogue to understand the root cause of such behavior and adopt a new approach. For example, while a patient's natural or learned response might be self-deprecating, they can establish a new routine by merely asking themselves, "what is my best interest?" This simple question can lead to self-reflection and a realization of internal desires and passions, eventually eliminating negative talk and replacing it with hope and positivity.
Negative internal dialogue often stems from unhealthy relationships. These relationships might have occurred in formative years, such as a parent-child, or later in life with an abusive relationship. Whenever they occurred, their effects are overarching, and likely resulted in self-alienation. People in abusive relationships often adopt self-loathing and self-critical behaviors, becoming subservient to the abuser or dominant personality. When these relationships end, the victim is often left with this self-destructive personality, requiring practiced self-awareness and esteem building skills to overcome.
Creating Permanent Change
The goal of creating permanent change after such experiences is realized through rigorous self-reflection and the realization of individual wants, goals and desires. Therefore, to change negative self-talk or to recover from unhealthy relationships, the individual needs to ask themselves, "what is in my best interest?" Through such reflection, a person can begin to evaluate their life experiences and weed out the self-defeating beliefs to create permanent and positive change.