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Overcoming Low Self Esteem

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 6:53 PM

As a psychotherapist, one of the many reasons people come to see me is for help in overcoming low self esteem. Self esteem plays a large role in many aspects of our lives; career, relationships, our very happiness.

Many people are unaware of how their self esteem has developed. Essentially, our thoughts create belief patterns and this influences the way we think about ourselves. We come to see these belief patterns as the truth of who we really are. But really, these beliefs are lies that come to influence our behaviours. For so many people, low self esteem stands in the way of living their best lives.

We can overcome low self esteem by changing the way we think about ourselves and more importantly, changing our self talk.

At Harmony Ranch, we use horses to help clients overcome low self esteem. We do this through the use of interactive activities using horses.

One of the most inspiring examples of this was in my work with Johnny. Johnny was 17 yrs old and dealing with severe anxiety and developmental delays. Johnny didn't feel very positive about himself and was often unsure of his ability. But when Johnny was around the horses, things were different. Johnny felt relaxed and accepted among them. There was never any judgment. Horses provide valuable lessons for overcoming low self esteem. They forget the past and live only in the moment. They also never judge or criticize themselves.

One day, Johnny was in the arena working with the horses. In particular, he was working with Laredo, who didn't trust many people. Johnny was trying to get Laredo to allow him to pick up his hoof. As an animal who relies on his feet for escape, it is a significant sign of trust when a horse gives you his hoof.

Johnny tried several times but Laredo stubbornly refused to pick up his foot. When I asked Johnny what he was saying to himself he replied “I CAN'T do it”. We then discussed how Laredo needed to trust him and if he didn't believe in himself, how could Laredo. He agreed and we discussed how Johnny could think differently. Taking a big breath, Johnny stated loudly “ I CAN do it”. Laredo easily lifted his leg into Johnny's hand.

With Laredo's help Johnny was able to find the courage to change his negative thought patterns. Equine assisted therapy provides the opportunity to change negative belief patterns and resulting behaviours. It provides a safe place to try out those behaviours and experience the outcome. Overcoming low self esteem is really about changing our negative self talk and creating the life we want.

For more information on Equine Assisted Therapy please visit

Helping Your Teen with Low Self Esteem

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 6:49 PM

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I frequently tell people you couldn't pay me money to go back to high school. The insecurities, the emotional turmoil, the challenges. It can be a difficult time for many.

Assisting teens through this time, leads to happier, better adjusted adults. As a therapist, many of the adults I see in my office can attribute low teen self esteem to the beginning of their difficulties. Teen self esteem is a serious issue that is often behind depression, anxiety and poor impulse control. When children and teens are having difficulties, it is important for the entire family to examine ways that they need to change. Children learn through observation. As a parent, what is your own self concept like? Are you positive or plagued with self doubt?

What creates a healthy self esteem, a positive self perspective? One of the most important aspects is the quality of our self talk. Negative thoughts create negative feelings. I have read that we think over 60,000 thoughts a day. How many of those thoughts are positive?

Not only do we need to think positively about ourselves but we also need to set aside our concerns about what others think of us. Focus on what you have control over and we don't have control over what other people think of us. Positive social support and an environment free of criticism are also very valuable to shaping healthy teen self esteem.
One particularly effective technique for developing self esteem is equine assisted therapy. Teens get to participate in interactive activities with horses to learn about themselves and their behaviour. It can be challenging to get a teen to open up and discuss their feelings. The horses provide an opportunity to be active and feel less threatened. Teens can learn by doing as opposed to being lectured.

In our teen workshops at Harmony Ranch, participates are able to connect with others who are going through similar struggles. They are able to feel connected and supported. Horses ask that we be honest with them as well as ourselves. I have observed that the teens who experience more success within the activities, are the ones who learn to put self doubt aside and believe in themselves.

Our group activities allow them to work together as a group and feel that sense of belonging that is so important to developing healthy teen self esteem. The horses also provide a powerful model of how we should all live our lives. They are honest, non-judging and live in the moment. Through hands on experience, teens are able to see how horses benefit from these traits and how they can work for them.

Most important in helping your teen with their self esteem is by being patient with them. Allow them to make mistakes and allow them to learn from them. How you as a parent deal with challenges provides a powerful example for your teen. Teach your teen to be positive and loving in their thoughts and actions. Remember, it is not what happens to us, but our reaction to it.

More Info: Helping Your Teen with Low Self Esteem