I recently received a message on Facebook from a young woman living in another country who was struggling, from my perspective with low self-esteem and feeling like she’d lost herself, while trying to live for others. She read my blog post 3 Ways to Know If You’ve Got Chameleon Syndrome: Identity Crisis for the Identity Expert and really identified with it. This is by far my favorite blog post and the one with which my ideal clients most connect.
I do provide online therapy, but l do not work internationally (it’s way more than my busy brain can figure out how to do legally right now). So wanted to share some thoughts with her and provide her with referrals for therapists who do work internationally. Below are some of the thoughts I shared with her and thought others might benefit from as well.
I’m so glad that blog post resonated with you. I don’t know if I have the answers to your questions. I just know what has worked for me and has worked for my clients. No person is an island. We cannot survive without a community who know and understand us. If the people you surround yourself with are not able to meet your needs, it will be important to look inward and figure out which needs you can meet for yourself.
We often treat other people way better than we treat ourselves. Why?!?
Take a look at the way you talk to yourself. That’s a powerful place to start. If you’re telling me you hate everything about yourself, that means you’re telling yourself things that are even worse. We often treat other people way better than we treat ourselves. Why?!? Relationships and community are important, but the person you spend the most time with is you. Please consider changing the way that you talk to and about yourself. It is powerful.
If you have the option, build a community that is composed of people who are reliable, consistent, have similar interests, and want to see you succeed. If you have only 1 friend, family member, or colleague who meets these criteria, spend more time with them, talk to them more often. Practice talking to yourself the way that they talk to you. Spend intentional time together and one or both of you can invite another person who also meets the criteria I mentioned above to join the two of you.
Read books that nourish your soul. Limit time with people and things (include social media) that make you feel bad about yourself.
You might want to avoid it, but learning to spend patient and compassionate time with yourself is something you probably need. Take time at least once a week to meditate (consider a loving-kindness meditation), stretch, do yoga, and/or pray. If you belong to a religious or spiritual community, think about if that is a helpful environment. If it is, invest more time and energy there. Read books that nourish your soul. Limit time with people and things (include social media) that make you feel bad about yourself. I hope this helps.
I went on to explain that a Facebook message is not a substitute for a relationship with a therapist, and neither are these blog posts for that matter.
Be the nurturance, compassion, and love that actually fuel motivation, change, and growth.
Many of the things I told this young woman are things I say everyday to my clients. We have so much practice treating ourselves with impatience, lack of empathy, and the absence of self-compassion. I believe that deep inside we believe that this mistreatment of self is intended to motivate us to do something different or better. Instead what it does is snuff out any hope or self-esteem we may have had left inside. Don’t kill your own joy. Don’t extinguish your own fire. Be the nurturance, compassion, and love that actually fuel motivation, change, and growth.
Irene Summers Temple, PhD is a licensed Counseling Psychologist in private practice at Irene Summers Temple, PhD LLC in Rapid City, SD. She specializes in multicultural counseling, coaching, and consultation, serving helping professionals, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ individuals, fostering mental wellness and identity development.