The Self Esteem Flow Pot Exercise is often used in Depression Therapy at The Center For Growth.
Are you feeling consumed by negative thoughts about yourself? Have you been feeling a low sense of self worth? Self esteem is the way that you feel about yourself.
This exercise uses a flower pot metaphor to help you sort through the layers of your self esteem.
- Cut up small, rectangle pieces of paper in order to write words or small phrases on them.
- Size around 2 inches by 1 inch
- Make about 40 total
- Empty large cup or flower pot
- Your favorite writing tool (marker, pen, colored pencil, or crayon) in different colors if accessible
Divide the pieces of paper into five different piles, one for each step of the exercise. You will utilize more pieces of paper in some steps than others and that is okay. It is meant to give you a visual representation of the layers contributing to your low self esteem. Try to come up with as many for each step that you can, but make this exercise unique to yourself to gain the most out of it. The bulleted points are just to help you brainstorm. Allow yourself to expand beyond these initial questions.
1. Begin by thinking about yourself as a seed. The seed is your original biological makeup at birth. This contains your individual differences that are assigned to you. Write down every answer you can come up with that compose the makeup of your seed on separate sheets of paper and keep them in a pile together.
- Your genes (Were you born with any particular, unique genetic makeup? Chronic illness? What is your body type? How is your eye sight? Your smile?)
- Sex (What does it mean to you that you were born male or female? What does your culture tell you about your sex and/or gender identity? Did your parents find this out or was it a surprise?)
- Race (What is the color of your skin? What does it mean to be the race you are? How does your location impact your racial identity? Oppressions you may face or privilege you acquire based off race?)
- Temperament (Were you easy to soothe as a baby? Have colic? More extroverted or introverted?)
2. Every seed has basic needs. While a lot of these are similar among seeds, there may be different requirements of each basic need based on individual differences.
- Sleep (How many hours of sleep help you feel rejuvenated? Do you have insomnia? Feel overly fatigued even though you slept a lot? Are you most alert in the morning, afternoon, or evening?)
- Food (Are you on a particular diet? Sensitive to any types of food? Vegetarian? Allergies?)
- Shelter (What is your home like? Are you living alone? Roommates? Have a family of your own or reside with extended family members? Location and geographical area?)
- How is your financial situation? Do you receive support from others?
- How much sunlight/Vitamin D are you getting? How do you respond to the changes in the seasons/the influence of weather?)
3. Seeds need fertilizer, or manure, to help them grow. However, when thinking about it in the literal sense it is only dirt and manure. Dealing with the darkness of the fertilizer is where most people get stuck when they experience low self esteem. This is the hardest step of the exercise. Start to dig deep into the negative messages about yourself that make you feel really low.
- Negative feelings (Loneliness, shame, depressed, not feeling good enough)
- Struggling with addiction or a family member’s?
- Physical and mental health issues
- Negative messages about your body
- Conflict in your relationships with significant other, family, or friends
- Struggles at work
- Words that you hear in your negative self talk (ugly, fat, stupid, selfish, bossy, pushover)
Allow yourself to stay in the moment of all of the dirt and manure, because while these happen in your mind quite often, writing them down and sitting with them is a difficult process acknowledging that it will be brought back up again in the next two steps.
4. Whenever fertilizer has success in making a flower grow, weeds also tend to sprout. But, if you are going to take good care of your flower, the weeds can be picked so that all of the nutrients are going towards making the flower better. I think of this as your coping strategies to get rid of the extra stress that comes along with growing a seed. Think about the things you actively do, that make you feel better about yourself. This is your version of pulling weeds and for some, gardening may be an activity that provides you with a calmness and sense of accomplishment.
- Working out right after work to get rid of the stress from your job
- Watching your favorite comedy or dramatic TV show after a fight with your significant other
- Writing in a journal before you go to sleep to stop mind racing worries
- Reading a book to unwind from your fast paced, technology driven life
- Talking to a friend on the phone for advice when you are feeling lost
These coping strategies are unique for you and focus on writing down the ones that make a difference in getting rid of all of the fertilizer you wrote down in step 3, not the things you do that add to feeling bad.
5. The healthy flower is the product of all of the seed, manure, and work completed to get rid of the weeds. It really needs all components to thrive. In this final step, write down all of the things that you like about yourself. This can be your identity, your strengths, your true uniqueness, parts of your personality, quirks that make you, you! Get yourself out of the mindset that the fertilizer messages have on you and access your true self. What do other people say about you that you have trouble believing when you struggle with low self esteem?
Now, look at your five different piles. How many did you write in each one? Which step was easiest for you? Which was the most difficult?
Put the pieces of paper that you would like to keep into your flower pot and get rid of the ones that you do not. Growth takes a lot of fertilizer and nurturing your basic needs, however you do not have to let that bog you down into feeling down or being part of the product of your self worth. You have the choice to focus your energy on the parts of the flower that make up who you are and what you like about yourself. If you completed the activity and other exercises on self-esteem and still finding yourself stuck identifying the positive aspects of your self and effectively managing problems, you may need more therapeutic help.
At The Center For Growth, we offer individual counseling, and couples counseling, family therapy and support groups. You can self schedule an inperson or a virtual therapy appointment at one of the following locations. If you prefer to speak with a live therapist, call 215 922 5683 x 100
- Ocean City Therapy Office
360 West Ave, Floor 1, Ocean City, NJ 08226
- Mechanicsville Therapy Office
9044 Mann Drive, Mechanicsville Virginia, 23116
- Alpharetta Office
11720 Amber Park Drive, Suite 160, Alpharetta GA 30006
- Society Hill Therapy Office
233 S. 6th Street, C-33, Philadelphia PA 19106
- Art Museum / Fairmount Therapy Office
2401 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 1a2, Philadelphia PA 19130
- Santa Fe Therapy Office, 2204 B Brothers Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
- Telemedicine: We have therapists who are licensed to work in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia New Mexico and Pennsylvania