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Monday, September 1, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

There is an old adage, "Everything changes. Nothing remains the same," which is true not only for the circumstances of our lives but also for changes in how we see ourselves.  In a prior article, Navigating Life's Transitions, I discussed, in a general way, how change can affect us and suggested some tips on how to get through times of difficult change, whether they are changes that we choose or changes where we have no choice.  In this article, I'll be focusing more specifically on changes in self perception.

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

People often resist change because they fear the challenges that the change might bring.  This is, of course, understandable because some changes can be frightening and overwhelming.  This includes changes in our self perception.

Even Changes in Ourselves That We Welcome Can Make Us Feel Ambivalent and Uneasy
As I mentioned in my prior article about coping with change, even changes that we want can be stressful.

For instance, let's look at hypothetical example:  A woman, who is told by her doctor that she must lose weight or she'll be at risk for certain obesity-related medical problems, works hard for many months to diet and exercise to lose weight.

When she gets down to the weight her doctor recommended, she feels a sense of pride and a sense of accomplishment for achieving her goal.  She now has more energy.  She also fits into clothes that she loves that she couldn't wear before.  Her friends and coworkers are happy for her and compliment her.

Generally, she's happy that she feels and looks great.  But when she looks in the mirror, she is momentarily taken aback by the image she sees.  It's so different from the image that she was seeing for the past 20 years that she thinks, "Who am I now?"

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself

In addition, she's also getting much more attention from men than she ever did before, which, on a certain level is flattering but, on another level, is new and a little frightening for her because she never saw herself as being attractive to men.

So, she begins to realize that, in many ways, the way she sees herself, both internally and externally, hasn't caught up with the reality of this big change in her, and she has some mixed feelings about these changes.

She also begins to realize something that she never allowed herself to see before--she has lifelong problems with self esteem.   In the past, she never allowed herself to see that she saw herself as someone that men would never be interested in.

In the past, before she lost the weight, whenever any thoughts of this came to mind, she brushed them aside by telling herself that this wasn't important.  Now that she is getting more attention from men,  she feels confused about why men are more interested in her now and how she feels about it.

There are times when her ambivalence and unease about how she sees herself and how others see her make her almost wish that she was overweight again.

When she talks to friends, who never had these problems, they don't understand.  They tell her that she looks great and she should enjoy this new attention that she's getting.  She feels frustrated because they don't understand what she's going through.

After months of struggling with these feelings on her own, she decides to go to therapy to work through this issue.

Coping With Changes in How You See Yourself
She's relieved to discover that her therapist not only understands the complexity of her situation, but she's also able to help her to adjust to the changes and begin to thrive.

This hypothetical example is one of many different circumstances where changes in how we see ourselves can be a mixed bag.

In future articles, I'll discuss other examples of changes in self perception.

Getting Help in Therapy
When you're going through changes in your life, one of the most challenging can be a change in how you see yourself.

There are times when this kind of change can be overwhelming and loved ones don't understand.

At that point, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who can help you not only to cope with the change but to thrive (for some tips on how to choose a therapist, see my article:  How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I've helped many clients in therapy to overcome their fears about change and to see themselves in new ways.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:  josephineolivia@aol.com.

Also see my article:
Gaining a New Perspective in Therapy About Yourself and Others





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