Chloe* came to see me because she had persistently low self-esteem. Home from university she had been persuaded to see me by her mother, who was worried about the change in her daughter’s mood.
“I wish mum wouldn’t worry about me” Chloe told me “because I just feel even worse about making her worry. And I’m not even sure why I’m like this. She thinks it’s because I’m tired from late nights and parties, but it’s nothing to do with that. I’ve come to see you but you can’t wave a magic wand and make me feel better about myself.”
Chloe was right of course – I can’t miraculously make people feel better about themselves, or hypnotise them to forget their worries. What I can do is help people to think differently about themselves, and about other people. Sometimes that’s through hypnosis, and sometimes through discussion.
What it always depends on though is that person giving themselves the best chance of success. That was the conversation I had with Chloe, to make sure that her habits were helping rather than hindering her.
Three 20 minute sessions of exercise a week, a healthy diet, and good sleep are the three essentials for avoiding a persistent low mood. Chloe cycled for half an hour pretty much every weekday, but she often ate takeaways or ready meals because it was quicker than cooking. Her sleep pattern wasn’t great either, with late nights socialising or before deadlines.
A student with a poor diet and not enough sleep wasn’t a shock, and I explained the effects of these on her mindset and mental health. Like a lot of people Chloe was resistant to the idea of having to make changes in her life. For many people this is because the habits that are causing them problems are the ones that they use to relieve their stress. Chloe though had a different objection.
“If that’s true then why is everybody else having such a good time? Why are they all okay when they do a lot worse than me – don’t exercise, drink, drugs, live off McDonalds? If that’s true how come they’re so happy?”
Those three questions showed the root of Chloe’s low self-esteem. She was doing what so many of us do – comparing her insides with other peoples’ outsides. That comparison isn’t just usually wrong, it usually leaves us feeling a lot worse about ourselves. With social media it’s also one that’s easier to make, and Chloe spending a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram wasn’t helping her.
I ended up helping Chloe with stopping comparing herself to other people, and dealing with her feelings about other peoples’ presumed happiness. That though could only take her part of the way – self-care through exercise, diet, and sleep were vital for her lasting success.
* Chloe’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story.
If you found this case study about stopping self esteem interesting then why not sign up for my monthly newsletter here with three stories every month on the quirky side of psychology and relationships.