“Fake it until you make it” gets tossed around a lot as a way to deal with overcoming low self-esteem issues. The theory is that our brains believe what we tell them, so by acting as if we’re confident, we’ll eventually become confident. I’ve done it my whole life, but it hasn’t made me any more confident than I already was. If anything, I think it’s hindered me from actually developing more confidence. From the outside (and if you don’t talk to me for very long), it seems as if I have my shit together. I had it ground into me that I was not allowed to show emotions, especially negative ones, and I still have difficulty expressing those emotions out loud.
Side Note: When I was younger, I was a sponge for all the negative emotions around me. I could actually feel them as I walked by people, and it made me physically ill at times. This was before I was able to erect good emotional shields, and it’s one reason I don’t like being in crowds. On occasion, I would flash on why someone was feeling the negativity they were (though, of course, I had no way to confirm it. I was not going to ask a near stranger if they were being abused by their husband, for instance), and it made me profoundly sad. It was exhausting for me to be around people because I would be drained from running the emotional gauntlet.
Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) is all the rage right now, and I hate it. I wasn’t sure why exactly until I read someone explain their distaste for it in an Ask A Manager column (where they are overwhelmingly for it). She explained that it felt like gaslighting to hear the therapist say, “That’s just a feeling. It’s not real.” She was more eloquent and expansive, but that’s the part that really resonated with me. A big part of CBT is focusing on behavior (duh), and dismissing the feelings behind them. I’ve already spent a lifetime dismissing my feelings; I don’t need to pay someone to do that as well.
Side Note II: One thing I really hate about AA and all the groups that have sprung up that are based on AA, well, besides the fact that it’s success rate is no better than any other recovery program, is the insistence on powerlessness. Again, I couldn’t exactly explain why until I was talking about it with my then-therapist. I was participating in a CoDA program (Co-Dependency Anonymous) online, and I just couldn’t get past that (or the god shit. I hate the god shit). My therapist recommended a book to me by Dr. Charlotte Kasl called Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. My therapist described the theory in a nutshell–for people who are not Bill W. types (i.e., white male Christian), we spend a lot of time feeling helpless/powerless, anyway. We don’t need to give up the power because we don’t have it. If anything, we need to feel empowered, rather than powerless.