Self-esteem and assertiveness are really more difficult projects than what most people think. Self-esteem requires far more than confidence in achieving grandiose achievements. There are many millionaires and CEOs of their own companies who have very poor self-esteem. There are also many people who are aggressive business people who can’t ask their spouse for some attention.
Strengthening self-esteem involves two major components. First it involves strengthening internal resources. This can be done a variety of ways including group therapy, self-help groups, participation in a religion, auto-hypnotic training, mindfulness meditation as well as psycho-education by a counselor. The second component of self-esteem is to reduce unconscious shame and trauma. Buried memories of humiliation will act like holes in a bucket. It’s hard to fill self-esteem to the brim if unconscious shame is draining out emotional energy down below. Treatment for this may involve different techniques of trance, EMDR or ego-state therapy.
Assertiveness is a complicated topic as well. For example, some people can be assertive about what they don’t want yet they can’t assert themselves for something that would give them pleasure. A therapist often needs to assess whether a client is inhibited on a particular motivation. Is the client inhibited about risking dependence? Is the client inhibited about conflicting with someone else’s will? Some people even have tremendous inhibition about allowing themselves to feel any pride. Helping someone to become more assertive often requires an initial assessment of their blocking inhibitions. After that the therapist can design cognitive exercises to train the client to “disinhibit” their true voice. It’s a beautiful sight to see someone become more free and authentic.