Self Esteem is a term that is often over-used to describe how we FEEL ourselves. In psychology the term “self-esteem” is more accurately presented as “self-schema”. The significant difference is that we generally let our feelings define self-esteem but it is our thoughts that define our self-schema. Now you are probably wondering….why the heck does this matter?
Any system or structure based on science and engineering has at its core a functional schematic or plan. This plan keeps interconnected systems performing optimally. This is particularly true in a world where automation is the norm. Cars can drive without us and for decades, planes have flown from takeoff through landing roll-out on autopilot.
Self-view is based on how we see ourselves and is more accurately referred to as self-schema. So, how does schema differ from self-esteem?
Schema is based on cognitive appraisal. Bear with me. Cognitive appraisal is simply the process of looking at ourselves that takes into account our traits (strengths & preferences), behaviors, worth, and our sense of the relationships we have with others. However, because we’re biased, we usually need the help of others to figure out if our schema is accurate and supportive, or a disorganized, dysfunctional mess.
Schema (or self-view) can be thought of as the blueprint of our existence that explains how we think about ourselves and the world around us. How we feel about ourselves and the world around us is a result of our schema. So…if we don’t like how we feel it’s time to assess the schema. In this sense, WE are the architect holding the pencil (or eraser) with the opportunity to define (or defend) our self-view.
The best part of schema is that if we change how we think about something…everything else changes as a result!
Why on earth am I nitpicking this to death? Because we cannot fix feelings without changing how we think. If we don’t look at how we think; we’re along for the ride. The good news is that once we understand our schema we can retrain our thoughts and disconnect from self-defeating emotional responses.
Schema and Weight Loss
Now…how the heck does this relate to weight loss? To lose weight we have to challenge and recover from self-defeating behaviors.
For the most part, our emotions surface in response to what we think or perceive about a situation or social interaction. If we think that we are “less than”, that “what we do is never enough”, or that “we don’t have enough”, these thoughts or beliefs are going to bring forth feelings of sadness, frustration and at times, emptiness. So how and why do these feelings lead to weight gain? When our levels of dopamine and serotonin are depleted in response to emotional distress our brain craves foods that are high in sugar and carbs to immediately restore a sense of peace (balance) in the brain. For a short while carbs relieve our feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety. However, if we eat this way often enough…we’ll gain a lot of weight.
BreakThrough! is designed to challenge self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Participants who complete this program have the opportunity to redesign their sense of self. They learn to appreciate their strengths, apply supportive skills, make healthy choices and develop the lasting motivation to take care of themselves.