Self Esteem, Happiness, and Sobriety

Posted by Hannah Prager on February 25, 2022 at 2:42 PM

What is self-esteem? 

Self-esteem is a person’s beliefs about their worth as an individual. Healthy self-esteem is when a person realizes their inherent value, and sees it as not higher or lower than other humans’, but as equal. Our self-esteem impacts how we interact with ourselves, with other people, our decision making, the lifestyle we cultivate, and the degree to which we can fulfill our potential.  

When self-esteem is too low, this can result in unhappiness, dysfunction, and falling short of one’s potential. When self-esteem is too high, this can lead to narcissism, arrogance, and inability to grow. Having a healthy self-esteem enables humans to connect to other humans on an equal level, allowing the opportunity for healthy giving, receiving, and connection. This can lead to genuine happiness, fulfilling relationships and career, and a higher quality of life.  

Healthy self-esteem is typically sourced internally, from acknowledging our inherent value, while unbalanced self-esteem is usually sourced externally, for example how we think other people perceive us, which may be measured by affection, money, status, fame, etc. 

Jerry Ehmann, LPC, LISAC, Clinical Director at Soberman’s Estate, says “self-esteem is rooted in the many messages that we have received throughout our lifetimes. These internal messages are strengthened or diminished by experiences, peers, successes, and failures. A person in early recovery often has very negative self-talk that has developed a low self-esteem.” 


How to improve self-esteem? 

One way to balance self-esteem is to cultivate “muscles” that the best version of you has strengthened. If you have someone you look up to, what traits do they inspire you to embody? It could be honesty, work ethic, patience, kindness, joy, dignity... it’s never too late to improve strength in different areas of life.  

Positive self-talk and generous praise to others may cultivate a compassion muscle that is beneficial in relation to both ourselves and others. Mindfulness can help cultivate these skills as well.  

Reclaiming your power of speech, having words match actions, also known as integrity, is hugely underrated in cultivating self-trust, stability, and confidence in interacting with others. 

Jerry Ehmann, LPC, LISAC, suggests the following: 

Improving self-esteem can be accomplished with actions, challenging our thoughts, or developing healthy affirmations.  It is not always easy to begin using affirmations such as "I am capable,” “I am a good person,” or “I am worthy," if it is followed by a "but" and the negative messages kick back in. Imagine feeling so full of shame for what you've done in your addiction and then having a therapist tell you to "just start telling yourself that you're a good person."  For many, this statement is followed with "but I've destroyed my marriage, my kids won't talk to me, and my life is a mess."   

I suggest to people that they begin with a simple affirmation formula that provides some freedom from absolutes, such as "I am."  Try stating "I choose to be a (positive quality) just for today."  It can be helpful to make something like honesty a choice and keep it in the present.  No matter how much I have lied in the past, stating that "for today" I choose to be honest keeps me in the present.  It also provides some power and freedom about my choices, considering addiction removes the ability to choose.  

It also provides some power and freedom about my choices, considering addiction removes the ability to choose. 

Once you decide on your affirmation, make it stronger by writing it down and reading it out loud to yourself on a regular basis. The actions of writing, speaking, reading, seeing, and hearing our affirmations increase their strength. Mala beads are a helpful tool for some individuals, as well as journals, phone reminders, and audio recordings. Regular use of affirmations can increase self-esteem, but remember it takes time.  We are often challenging decades old messages and beliefs, and affirmations require time to change perceptions. 


Self-esteem at Soberman’s Estate 

The Soberman’s Estate treatment team integrates education about self-esteem throughout each client’s individualized treatment program. We also educate clients about the development and healing of maladaptive belief systems. In individual sessions and groups, we hope to improve a person’s self-image with this education. Trauma, medical issues, and family dysfunction in childhood can affect an individual’s internal messages, and Soberman's Estate treatment team is able to help with any of these issues. We address childhood events that influence belief systems. Accelerated resolution therapy, affirmations, as well as recognition of goals to measure client progress, are just some of the tools we use to help clients improve their self-esteem.  

The Estate Blog

Soberman’s Estate’s blog has a primary goal to connect with those in need, support the recovery community, and provide inspiring articles, opinions, and research information to help others make the right decisions about treatment and help them reach their potential in recovery.

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