Background Shadow

Cinderella’s Guide to Self-Esteem: A 21st Century Revision

In the classic fairy tale, after her father’s death, beautiful Cinderella is cast into a different role – exchanging her cherished identity for that of a servant routinely dismissed and abused by her stepfamily.  What she holds of greatest value is something external  – a dream of a changed life dependent upon an outside force.   Dr. Kevin Solomons points out that the fairy tale seduces us into believing that we acquire value (the handsome prince) by being beautiful, kind, and adept at pleasing others.   For too many of us, this becomes the illusive path to self-esteem and our happily ever afters – a path on which external sources dictate our internal worth.   Lacking helpful woodland creatures and a fairy godmother with a magic wand, we must work harder to find our self-esteem.  And once we find our handsome prince, there’s no guarantee that he can or will stick around.   In such a scenario, our self-esteem will likely crash.  So what’s a 21st century girl to do?

Instead of looking for external sources to prop up our self-esteem, what if we begin by examining the process through which our concept of self-esteem develops?   Once upon a time, we entered this world young and vulnerable, and we relied upon our caregivers to provide our needs and to teach us about our identity because we were clueless.  If our caregivers had been more like Cinderella’s father, maybe we would have learned that we were beautiful, loved and valued simply because we existed.  If our caregivers were more like Cinderella’s stepmother, years of negative conditioning may have convinced us that we had nothing of value inside or outside.   We would have lost touch with our authentic self – or possibly never even discovered it – because our experiences never pointed us to our inherent value.

Maybe we’ll find our self-esteem when we embark on a journey to identify our authentic self – not the self others say we are, but the self we know we are.   Maybe the process has been our problem: we’ve been looking for outside evidence of a treasure that has resided inside all along.  We don’t need the glass slippers, the sparkly dress, diamond tiara, coach, and handsome prince.  We need to recognize the conditioning process and set out to discover who we really are.

What might happen when we  learn to separate our truth from                     someone else’s fiction?  

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Not-So-Magic Mirrors, Identity, and Value

“Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all”, asked the evil queen in the German fairy tale, “Snow White”, and a fantastic course of events followed.  Like the fictional queen, many of us look in mirrors to ask our questions daily: Am I okay? Do I look good enough to step out into the world?  For some of us, mirrors on the wall are just the beginning of the challenge: other people become mirrors into which we gaze to determine our identity and value.

This looking outward process started in infancy when the first way we learned about ourselves was through the reflections we saw in our caregivers.  Their responses to us and our needs communicated whether or not we were consistently valued, loved, accepted, safe, and enough.  But what happens if we grow up without a strong  conviction of our inner value and identity?  We might be stuck looking at others to tell us who we are and whether or not we are okay.  We might be so focused on others that we fail to recognize  our own opinions and thoughts.

So what’s a girl or guy to do?  We’d probably all agree that other people function as unreliable mirrors – they are not magic and they often reflect inaccurate messages about our value and identity.  In my therapy practice and in my personal life, I’m discovering the freedom of exploring one’s own inner world.  It begins with an openness to become aware of my authentic feelings and thoughts.

Where are you looking discover who you are and to determine if you are okay?  Maybe it’s time to turn away from your not-so-magic mirrors.

Are You Ready to Start?

If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.