Not that interesting

“Most of us have distorted self-image.” “Most people think that people are more interested in us than they really are.”

I showed this excerpt from an article in the New Scientist to my client Chris in his first therapy session. A successful SME owner, he had come to see me for both personal and professional reasons. Personally, he had issues with alcohol and cocaine, which were “helping me deal with my marriage break-up.” Professionally, his business was in danger of becoming “very unsuccessful if I don’t sort things out. I need some kind of transformation.”

They haven’t come on holiday to stare at you

However, what Chris started talking about in therapy was his low self-esteem. “I cancelled my holiday to Greece this year – lost all my money – because I could not stand the thought of people looking at me on the beach. Crazy. I knew my wife would lie on the beach all day, but I couldn’t because I hated how I looked. That was the beginning of the end for our marriage.”

His response to the article, specifically the above sentence was profound. “What you are saying is that no one would even notice me on the beach?” “Yes,” I replied, “Or they might do, but fleetingly. I think they are there to enjoy their own holiday. I’m not sure they have come on holiday to stare at you.”

This produced a belly laugh from Chris.

Drugs and alcohol, poor relationships and mental health.

“God, how important low self-esteem makes you feel.” Chris was interested to know what else might be connected to his low self-esteem. I listed some examples: perfectionism and overworking, issues with drugs and alcohol, poor relationships and mental health. “Yes to all of those!” laughed Chris.

In our second session, Chris was in a better place. “That first session. I am now thinking clearly. I got my team together, including my accountant. I could see the relief on their faces that I was back in control of the business. That was a real shock, discovering people were worried about their futures because I didn’t seem concerned about mine.” Chris reported that he had also refused cocaine “for the first time in a long time” and was “discovering the strange enjoyment of a social drink.” His wife, on hearing about his visit to me and early benefits of therapy, also said she was willing to give their marriage a chance.

Therapy: a personal and professional investment

“The funny thing is my wife always said my self-esteem was the issue,” reflected Chris, “but I wasn’t listening. Much easier to put my head in the sand through drink and drugs.”

“Coming to see you has been an important experience for me,” Chris said. “I truly believe that had I not seen you, had you not challenged my negative view of myself and shown me that article, I would not have been alive for that much longer.”

Chris has committed to ongoing therapy, which will focus on a three-year plan that began to take shape on a piece of paper my therapy room. ‘I want to retire in three years, so I need a succession plan. I see you as being part of that process, Mark.’ said Chris.

Getting support

Therapy can be life-changing and even life-saving. If like Chris you are struggling both personally and professionally, please get in touch. We’ve been supporting people in business since 2005