Intimacy: Deep Gazes Into Your Soul

An inaccurate self concept can be devastating especially when a person evaluates themselves in a harsh, overcritical way. Commonly referred to as low self esteem, there is a pattern of self-denial, a belief that they don’t matter and don’t “deserve” anything good. So they often deflect encouragement and compliments by saying “that’s just a cheap blouse off the rack at Walmart,” or “Yea but I could stand to lose 20 pounds,” or ”It was ok but I should have done better.”

When a person outwardly deflects compliments and encouragement it is a sure bet that they have established a pattern of thinking that is negative toward self and defensive toward others. It is based on an erroneous belief that they do not stack up to others, don’t belong and are not acceptable enough to be loved or cared for by others.

Gratefulness can be part of a hope-giving remedy for low self esteem.

At the same time, they are defensive toward others especially when there is a perceived criticism coming from a close friend or family member. I say “perceived” because often a person with an inaccurate self concept will set their radar to ping on anything that is not perfectly encouraging or that is missing a desired positive statement or non-verbal connection e.g. a hug or smile.

This double whammy of denying themselves good feelings and blaming others will eventually erode an intimate relationship to a self-fulfilling prophecy of isolation, rejection and devastating pain. It is insidious. A vicious circle of self doubt begins with painful loneliness founded upon real or perceived rejection. They then launch a search for a relationship promising love. In the love relationship they quickly express doubts and begin disbelieving the love that is given and increasingly disallow their love to penetrate the self-protective wall within. The result is actual rejection and loss repeating the pain of loneliness and starting the cycle over again.

There is need for some serious work in the counseling room for someone who is caught up in this cycle of pain but one small thing they can do to begin to improve is to acknowledge their goodness by saying two powerful words … “Thank You.”

For example: Most couples leave for the day or end a phone call with, “I love you,” to which the recipient says back, “I love you too.” This is a sweet and typical closing to loving relationships. For the low self concept person the “I love you” is usually interpreted as being less real than it is meant. They see it as a rote greeting that their partner probably does not really mean. They reason (unconsciously) If they really loved me they would know how much it hurts when they do or say such and such.

Her “I love you too” is felt and expressed as a truth statement but also with a hidden feeling of obligation to say the expected response.

In this simple isolated instance that occurs several times each week, a person who wants to improve their self esteem could try the following:

Their spouse or friend says, “I love you.”

Instead of “I love you too.” The person with low self esteem takes a moment of reflection to allow the expression of love to sink in. After penetrating a bit and allowing themselves to believe they are loved they respond with an intentionally heart-felt, “Thank You.” A relational transaction has occurred but more significantly the recipient’s heart has opened a tiny crack in the wall to allow for love to be realized and accepted within their lives.

Gratefulness is powerful because it forces a person to win a small inner battle in the war for positive self concept by allowing a good thing to be acknowledged for what it is rather diluting with feelings of unworthiness.  It forces a person to consider with slightly more objectivity that they actually do have value. At least at that moment and to that person and can allow themselves positive and accurate self value. They listen to their inner voice say, “I am loved” while their outer voice says “Thank you.”

Extending this concept into everyday conversations with friends and co-workers can multiply its effect. A compliment from a co-worker or a good evaluation from a boss is an excellent opportunity to apply the heart-felt “Thank you” to life. If friends encourage your progress toward a goal, “Thank you” is a platform of self confidence that helps you take the next step.

Winning the gratefulness battle on a regular basis can lead the way to profound improvement of accurate self esteem. Developing radar for encouragement and compliments and responding with a heart-felt “Thank You” will improve self worth over time. Replacing negative messages with accurate, positive messages develop self confidence that feels genuine and is expressed automatically having reduced or eliminated harmful levels of self devaluing thoughts and feelings.