So this story begins where it’s been all my life: a slow supernova of self-loathing and self-fulfilling prophesy expanding in a fireball of snowballing problems, sitting in a therapist’s squeaky leather chair.
“Would you like to try something?” she asks.
I always say yes, because she’s the professional, isn’t she? It’s not like anything I’ve ever tried has worked, at least not long enough to keep me from ending up here, again.
“I’m going to give you a workbook. You’ll do the exercises and report back,” she says, taking notes on a yellow legal pad. She never takes notes. This must be serious.
I stifle a skeptical laugh when I see the title: The Self-Esteem Workbook. I’m expecting stick-figure drawings of children holding hands under a rainbow, Marlo Thomas singing “Free To Be You And Me.” I really don’t think I’ve heard someone seriously use the phrase “self-esteem” since middle school health class. Ironic, isn’t it? Being forced to sit in a room of fellow pre-teens and listen to lectures about deodorant usage and abstinence is probably the original destroyer of self-esteem in young people, but, there you go. We agree (my therapist and I) to skip over the chapter on diet and fitness, for obvious reasons, and I wind up reading the entire book over the weekend. It would be safe to say that this book changed my life.
Now that I’m going back and actually doing the exercises, I find I have a new appreciation for the book. Upon first read, there were concepts and theories that appealed to me: the author’s description of “worth,” for instance, has now become the one concept that is strong enough to fill the void left behind by God when I lost my ability for faith. Oh, and if THAT didn’t convince you, there’s a story about a toddler stuck in a well!
I try to be open-minded about these things — therapy and self-help books — but I’m a natural skeptic! So when I tell you that this book has made me a believer, that’s really saying a lot.
I read over the exercises before doing them the way you read over a Cosmo quiz: you know, trying to figure out how you should answer to control the outcome? Yeah, that’s probably the best way to approach mental health. Controlling, outwitting, and guessing the “right” answer. Yep. Uh-huh.
Well, let me tell you, actually doing the exercises is a whole other ball game. If you really devote the time to introspection and following the directions, you’ll get to somewhere else entirely. Having done some of the exercises, I have to say that about half the time, I never could have foreseen where the results led me. Like getting on the G train and ending up in Times Square. HA!
Look, I’m not saying the book is magic. Wish it were! There’s really no instant-cure fix when it comes to therapy, which totally blows. And there are still some days where I’m completely panicked and I can’t leave the house because everyone hates me and everything is totally hopeless… BUT. This book has helped me SO MUCH when it came to approaching job interviews with confidence and getting out of the house and doing things.
In total seriousness, if you have days like me, where you hate yourself so much that you can’t bring yourself to walk out the front door, I want to gently recommend this book to you. As I said, this is no magic fix…but it comes pretty close.