I have trouble with learning to love myself most days. I tend to lack any real self-esteem. In elementary school, I was even placed in a group for kids who had self-esteem issues as I did. Needless to say, loving – or even liking – myself for the way that I am has always been a major struggle for me.
When my therapist asked me what I wanted to work on in therapy, I simply said “I want to learn how to love myself and build up some self-esteem.” I again brought up this goal during my last therapy session and I was shocked by how my therapist went about this situation. Instead of telling me that I need to learn how to love myself as I am, she started preaching about losing weight, dieting and eliminating carbs, and exercising more. She also told me that if I lost some weight and made some real changes and stuck with it that I will probably like myself better.
I feel like my therapist measures her happiness by how much she weighs. A few years ago, this was not the case. My therapist made some lifestyle changes, lost a ton of weight, and is now more judging of other peoples weight than ever. At least that is how she appears to me these days.That might work for her, but I am trying to get out of that distorted mindset that tells me being thin equals being happy. When I was 80 pounds lighter a few years ago, I looked a hell of a lot better (in my eyes) but I was still miserable with myself. I am living proof that being a healthy weight and thinner does not always mean that you will also be happy and be able to love yourself as well.
I get it. I know that I am overweight. I know that I packed on the pounds. But I honestly want to learn how to love myself in the skin I am in and not for what I could be if I stopped eating bread and pasta. I was slowly, very slowly, coming to terms with my current weight and now I feel like my therapists view on how to learn to love yourself has drastically set my progress back by a few years.
Every time I try to explain to my therapist that I would really like to learn some tips on how to build self-esteem, she never actually gives me an answer that I could work with and insists that I already know how to work on my self-esteem. Which makes me want to scream, “Look, lady, if that were the case I wouldn’t be wasting my breath asking you for tips and advice.”
I don’t know much when it comes to trying to boost my own self-confidence, but what I do know is that you cannot let your happiness depend on the number the scale reads back to you. Your weight should not determine your worth in your own eyes.
But, in all honesty, shouldn’t therapists be urging you to love yourself as you are? Flaws, imperfections, and all. If you are basing how you feel about yourself by your weight, you are not loving yourself to the fullest extent. You are placing conditional love on yourself and your worth by thinking that the smaller you are the more you’ll love yourself. If anyone deserves your unconditional love, it should be you!
I have struggled with my weight my whole life. My weight yo-yo’s and goes up and down. If my therapist were to be right and I could only learn to be happy in the skin I am in if I lost a decent amount of weight first, I may as well abandon all hope of gaining any self-esteem now and walk away with my hands thrown up in the air.
There has to be other ways to help build self-esteem and learn how to love yourself. I once attended a partial hospitalization program where the therapists actually helped you with what you are trying to accomplish and that offered helpful and useful tips to their patients. But isn’t that what a therapist is supposed to be there for? To help you?
I honestly don’t know if my therapist thought she was being helpful or not, but she has to watch how she words certain things. It really felt like I was being told that I won’t be able to learn to love myself unless I lost some weight first. Or like maybe weight loss is the only key to gaining self-esteem. For some time after my last therapy session, I felt like maybe I wasn’t even worthy of trying to love myself and that I am stuck right where I am.
I feel like if a trained mental health care professional can’t help me, what chance do I have of actually helping myself? Perhaps I read too deeply in to what my therapist was saying. Maybe I analyzed and dissected her words until there was nothing left. Maybe that is just the way that My Bipolar Mind and my anxiety like twisting things. But how many ways can a person honestly perceive what she said any differently?
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.