Self Esteem

#1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Pauline Amaismeier. I started out with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Duquesne University and worked in several areas until I discovered psych nursing, where I found my niche. I worked both inpatient and outpatient with both children and adults and decided I needed more education, so I went to California University of Pennsylvania and obtained my Master in Science in Community Agency Counseling. Because I already was knowledgeable about mental health issues by the time I was in graduate school (I had my Board Certification in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing for at least 15 years) I focused all of my graduate school practicum and internship on mental health trauma. This included working at STTARS Program (Sexual Trauma, Treatment and Recovery Services) and also going to Morgantown, West Virginia to the Trauma Recovery Institute. This was the start of my specialization in mental health trauma. I now work in my private practice, Counseling and Trauma Services. Since then I have been trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and utilize that theory (and others as needed) in my trauma work.

Along with this I have an interest in disaster mental health. This includes being an active volunteer for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team and also being on the Disaster Medical Assistance Team out of Pittsburgh as their mental health support person.

I have been married for 32 years and have four adult sons (and consider myself blessed to have survived living with five males for so many years.) For hobbies I am a green belt in Tai Kwon do (halfway to a black belt) and enjoy reading, music, tole painting and faux finishing.

#2. What type of impact can being in a relationship to being single have on someone’s self esteem?

Being in a relationship can have both positive and negative influences on a person’s self-esteem. Let me discuss the positive first.

Studies have shown that people who are in a romantic relationship tend to be healthier and more settled. You already have a person to go out on a date with, to share and make happy and sad memories with, and to have nearby so you are not alone. There is an automatic support system, and couples tend to complement each other, which helps them to actually grow beyond where they would have if alone. There is also more structure and consistency with having a relationship and under most situations structure helps increase security and safety.

Being in a relationship can be very detrimental to a person’s self-esteem also. In my work as a mental health therapist I have assisted both women and men who have lived in or are still in abusive relationships (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, including domestic violence). These people have self-images that are extremely low. As a part of the abuse they feel that they are inept, helpless, will never be able to be successful on their own, have no self-confidence and are incapable of living a good life without the assistance and control from the abuser. Once out of the abusive relationship, they then struggle to build themselves up, a little at a time.

#3. How can someone single boost their self-esteem?

One of the first things I recommend to those who are attempting to boost their self- esteem is to clean up their self-talk. I firmly believe that motto “garbage in, garbage out.” How many times do you year people putting themselves down I’m an idiot¦How stupid¦Dummy and other put downs. Instead focus on the behavior as being right or wrong, but the person is always good. If you make a mistake, okay, so anybody makes mistakes. If a mistake is made, acknowledge it, fix it and try not to do it again. Humor is helpful too. I like to say “so I made my mistake for the year!”

I have also noticed how single people tend to compare themselves with others who are not single. This increases their sense of I’m not okay. On the outside others seem to be happy and have fun, but this is just an outsiders view. Instead of comparing yourself as newly single to others, instead focus on what you do that is healthy and the gifts that you have. You may be gifted in art, reading, or mechanics or other areas. Spend time with others who also have a similar interest. Companionship and friendships can develop from this, and the single person will discover that they are pretty special after all.

#4. What type of professional help is available for someone who is single and has a difficult time boosting their self-esteem?

As a counselor I can help the person safely explore the basis of their poor self-esteem. Many times a newly single person feels like a failure and I can help them identify the source of that feeling and can assist them in rebuilding their own self-esteem. I believe that we are all resilient and by focusing on their ability to have bounced back from other difficult situations in their life they will also be able to recover from changing from a couple to a single person.

The loss of a relationship can also cause some grief issues. As a professional I can identify that and explore ways that the single person can help themselves. A typical response to a loss can be increased isolation and not as much interest in areas that in the past had given the single person pleasure. There is also a social stigma of being a single as opposed to a couple. There is much pressure from our society that both men and women should have a love interest, settle down and have a family. When a person is newly single, they will be hyper aware of other’s opinions and beliefs, which are usually perceived as negative in the single person’s perspective.

Lastly, some single people believe that they are incomplete without having a boyfriend/girlfriend. This may be caused by family, society, personal expectations that there is “something wrong” with single people, which is absurd, but is implied and may be a core belief system. Again, my joy as a professional counselor is to identify that core belief and assist the single person in unifying his/her feelings and beliefs that he/she is actually a good person who deserves to be happy and does not need to be in a relationship to be happy and fulfilled. I use EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) to help the person join their thinking brain with their feeling brain. The single person thinks that she /he is fine, but does not feel that way. EMDR and other therapies assist the person in feeling better about themselves.

When needed I take on a coaching role and give positive feedback when earned. Many times single people have a very limited support system and need to receive feedback on some of their actions and behaviors. In his way I can also encourage the participation in groups that they may be interested in, like joining a mystery book discussion group or a softball team. These social activities will help to decrease the tendency to isolate and expand the single person’s social network, while fitting in with their own skills and interests.

#5. What last advice would you like to leave for someone single who can use a boost in their self-esteem?

Avoid drugs and alcohol! Many single people tend to feel sad from their loss and drink or use drugs to help them to feel better for a little while. This is a big mistake. It is easy to become addicted, turning to drugs and alcohol as a way for a temporary fix. This is temporary and can end up causing a lot of problems with addictions.

I would also recommend exploring yourself and your life goals and beliefs. Isn’t it better to find out early in a relationship that there is not a good fit then later when commitments have been made? Identify your fears of being single. Is it just the loss of a companion, or is it a basic belief that others will have a family and children, “the American Dream,” and you will be left behind? If it is the second, there probably is something deeper and you may benefit from counseling.