In current trends society has been emphasizing the development of sense of self: self-care, self-worth, and self-esteem. I have worked with clients with low “self-worth” and symptoms of depression over the past 6 years. We often discuss personal strengths, limitations, values, and inherent worth. We are able to talk through these concepts and come to reasonable conclusions and cognitive realizations. However, I have seen the most personal growth occur when there is a secure mentor relationship with the client. How then does the “self” truly develop and how does one truly foster a secure sense of self?
Foundations of the Self
According to attachment theories, interpersonal neurobiology, and human development: we understand ourselves through relationships in early infancy and childhood. In fact, infants see the parent and themselves as one until the “we” becomes a “me”. Children then start sharing their development of sense of self verbally and cognitively with the people around them. Exchanging life experiences with a parent begins to determine how a person views their inherent worth. This can look like being cared for both physically and emotionally (feeding, bathing, changing, comforting, emotional attentiveness). Everyone can look back on their upbringing and how that influenced the way they look at themselves and their worth.
What then happens to an individual’s sense of self if there was loss or neglect in early childhood? What is the outcome when traumatic experiences are combined with the differing physiological make up that further layers the “self? I believe that even with combined limitations, there is the still the opportunity to foster a secure sense of self.
The Self Fostered in Relationships
Individuals can foster a sense of self when they are engaged in consistent relational experiences of acceptance. A sense of self can be fostered in a relationship where physical and emotional safety is prioritized and commitment, acceptance, security and attunement is demonstrated.
Acceptance can be observed through a hug, providing a meal, showing up to sessions, using accepting language, and providing boundaries. The more an individual can experience acceptance from others the more they can build and understand their own worth. I recall my own moments of acceptance: recognition that I did my best, help with daily tasks, an apology, and a listening ear.
Our main work at Lake House Academy is to facilitate these moments with our staff but more importantly with families. We provide for moments of self development through routine hygiene, tea-time before bed, listening, sitting in discomfort with students and attuning to student needs. With families we provide consistent sessions, parent seminars, and regular visits and visit planning. Providing moments of acceptance with families allows for the path to healing.
Waiting to Help You
Lake House Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for girls between the ages of 12-16. Recognizing that it is through relationships that an individual grows in resiliency, positive behavioral change, confidence and lifelong success, we work with families to build and re-establish healthy connections with family and peers.