Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Therapy Thursday: Make a Self-Esteem File

pocket therapist front cover small.jpgI have decided to dedicate a post on Thursday to therapy, and offer you the many tips I have learned on the couch. They will be a good reminder for me, as well, of something small I can concentrate on. Many of them are published in my book, “The Pocket Therapist: An Emotional Survival Kit.

What is a self-esteem file? The first thing that I would grab–okay, after the kids–if our house were to catch on fire: a simple manila folder containing letters I commissioned from folks on why they like me, hang out with me, even admire me. Because I’m not one of those people who can simply look into the mirror every morning and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and Gosh darn it, people like me!”


The year my self-confidence plummeted like a submarine to below seawater, my therapist told me to go home and list 10 of my strengths as a starting point to acquire some self-esteem.
I was unable to do that.

I wrote “thick fingernails” and “a well-proportioned nose” and then I ran out of things to say. So she instructed me to ask four of my closest friends to list 10 strengths of mine.

My friend Mike said I was a loyal friend, that I had a big heart and I wore it on my sleeve. Beatriz said she admired my strength to stay sober our years at college when the entire campus was drunk. Michelle said I could still make her laugh even when I wanted to take my own life.

I put those letters in a folder and labeled it “my self-esteem file,” which grows every time a reader tells me that my blog has helped her make it through her day or that my singing video gave her a much-needed laugh.


My critics say this is a stupid technique to acquire shallow self-esteem. But you have to start somewhere on the ladder to self-confidence and self-acceptance. And the appraisals inside my noggin are pretty pitiful. So the letters give me courage to put myself out there one more day and see what I get back.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shelly

    When I was reading your blog from beginning to present day last winter, I came across this idea and decided to step out, get the courage to ask for emails. I received emails from several friends, family and my kids. It is a great way to ‘remember’ how wonderful I am when I am feeling lower than a snake’s belly. After rereading them over and over, I have the sentiments in my head and rarely have to look at the emails.
    I shared this SEF idea with my therapist and she’s passed it along to some of her other clients.
    Thank you Therese.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marcia

    All I can say to your “critics” is that they are “stupid” to say that gathering and taking in positive affirmations of who you are is NOT stupid, but a life saving and healing technique. Not “shallow” in any way. In fact, your friends and readers’ comments are real and heartfelt. As a current “client” and a former therapist, I have often used this technique to everyone’s advantage. It is so easy to forget your best self when others around you want to put you down for whatever reason. A cliched picture comes to mind: When we point the finger at someone else, three fingers are pointed right back at us. Therese, who you are and what you write have helped thousands, if not more, people in this world. You seem to do this almost effortlessly as you share your own life experiences. Keep up the good work. You make a difference in people’s lives.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mike R.

    This is a great idea on gathering self-esteem ideas, but what would you suggest if I can’t think of many on my own AND I don’t have any “close friends” that I could ask?

    (I’m actually doing well with this post, as I usually just hit the delete key when a post suggests asking your friends for anything, under the assumption that everyone has some.)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rita Duran

    Checked out your little book at the library…it is very informative, practical and funny..I throughlt enjoyed it…and I will purchase my own copy (library said 3x check-out…let someone else enjoy it). Went back to school in my old age to receive my MS in Counseling Psychology so I could better understand my life…clinical depression….luv you and you have been an enormous strength to me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    this is a wonderful idea but I’m afraid I’m much like Mike R. above…”ask your friends to”…. is something I too would have difficulty doing. Getting family involved is also a tricky thing for me. I guess I could as my husband to do it……

    Mike – by posting here I can say that *you showed courage to overcome your fear of posting *you show strength in your willingness to learn by reading Therese’s blog * you are steps to greater self esteem by not hitting the delet button and instead asking a very valid question.

    This post also underlines the need for us to be generous with our praise to others. It doesn’t take much to say something nice, even to strangers, and we all need those positive strokes.


  • Ginny

    Great post. I’m a real believer in the value of this exercise.

    When I began teaching years ago, a veteran teacher told me to keep all nice notes and positive evaluations from my students in a “fuzzy file.” Whenever you have One of Those Days, he said, read the notes and get a warm fuzzy and remember why you do this job in the first place. It was great advice.

    And once when I was in a bit of a writing slump, I got up the courage to ask people what they like about my writing. Their answers were very affirming and helpful at getting me back on track. It felt weird to ask, but I’m glad I did.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda

    Our writers group did a similar “exercise.”. We decided to write about one person a week. The topic was to be focused on what color we saw them as and why. Only one of us wrote (me) about two of the others. Then the topic fizzled and so did my self-esteem. LOL! I think I shall resurrect it. Its quite a challenge!

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