Therapist and Counsellor at Anglia Counselling, Penni Osborn, shares with us here her imaginative and her inspirational perspective of self-esteem, and how we should all get growing more!
When I think of healthy self-esteem I imagine it as a flourishing garden, filled with beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. Pastels and vibrant hues nestling side by side in a wonderfully natural space, each existing exactly where it should be – confident and comfortable to be where they are – each individual plant or tree has earned its rightful place in amongst all the other plants and trees. And when some begin to fade (as some plants do with time), new seeds arrive creating an ever-changing environment; alive, thriving and continually renewing and growing.
The flowers, shrubs and trees that grow in this self-esteem garden represent all our achievements – great and small – positive validations, praise and recognition. Their seeds are planted when kindness has been acknowledged and when hard work is rewarded. The leaves are the reflections of pride on our parent’s faces, the flower petals their expressions of understanding and validation of our sadness and disappointments.
The bark on the trees is their loving embrace that lets us know that, unconditionally, we are worthy; we are good enough. Each individual flower echoes those moments when we learn our truth and know that our truth is ok, even if it doesn’t match the truth of others.
But what if we didn’t get those things? What if we didn’t receive praise, validation, reassurance or unconditional love? What does that garden look like? Perhaps we might imagine a barren piece of ground, where nothing can ever possibly grow, other than ugly weeds. Dry, inhospitable soil, resistant to every good thing that is placed in it, not allowing even the smallest bit of growth to emerge.
When we didn’t receive the nurture we deserved as children, it can be tempting, in adulthood, to imagine our self-esteem garden in this way; barren and empty, but for the weeds. It can feel like it’s a waste of time even trying to plant anything in our garden because it will surely wither away before it even has the chance to grow. So, what’s the point? Surely we’re not worthy of a beautiful self-esteem garden anyway?
But we are worthy. We all are. Just because it wasn’t given before, doesn’t mean we can’t have it now.
The garden may be empty and full of weeds, but the soil is fertile and ready to receive new growth. And every weed is something you can take great pleasure in pulling out and getting rid of!
Adulthood brings with it many responsibilities – work, bills, family, home, relationships. Maybe some of that is a bit mundane, but we have another adult responsibility, which, to my mind, is magical and transformational; we get to have responsibility for our own wellness, choices and values. We are no longer at the mercy of others – the ‘grown ups’ – or their opinions, negativity, dogma, fears or toxicity. We’re free!
We get to choose what we believe about ourselves, not what others have led us to believe because of their own dysfunctionality. As grown-ups now ourselves, we can design our very own self-esteem garden.
Every kindness we offer, every task we accomplish, every fear we’ve felt yet overcome, every tough time we’ve come through and every time we offer a smile of encouragement to others, we can plant something new in our garden. Perhaps an oak tree to symbolise strength, or spring bulbs for every new beginning, roses for staying calm under pressure, pansies for smiles or bluebells for kindness.
Before too long, the empty yet fertile soil of our own gardens will be bursting with life, colour and happiness.
So, go on, what are you waiting for? Get planting and grow your own self-esteem garden!