Shrink Wrap in Psychology Today
Sarah Ferguson: How Can She Get Self-Worth?
By Dr. Jane Greer
Watching Finding Sarah, Sarah Ferguson’s reality show on the OWN network, made me wish I could speak to her directly because there are, in fact, very specific steps that she can take to help her get self-worth which my patients have found to be extremely helpful . She can learn how to stop making the same mistakes which lead to loss over and over again, her biggest mistake to date being getting caught in her attempt to sell her ex-husband Prince Andrew’s story for money.
Sarah suffered a traumatic abandonment as a child when her mother left when she was 12 years old. The years leading up to that certainly couldn’t have been easy while she endured a cold mother who eventually left her in the hands of an unsupportive, critical, humiliating and blaming father. Given that reality, which many people experience in various forms, what is the impact that this is going to have? Is it any wonder that as an adult she ended up repeating that experience and creating situations for which she was endlessly ridiculed in the press? The only thing she learned as a child was that she was worthless, no good and at fault for her mother’s abandonment. When this rejection and negativity become your inner reality you are inevitably going to believe it, blame yourself as well and wind up feeling plagued by guilt. This guilt then leads people to punish themselves by being self destructive. Like Sarah, people grow up and tend to live out their belief that “I’m no good” in their adult relationships and experiences. This becomes a way to prove to themselves, and in Sarah’s case to the world, that they really are worthless and at fault. No matter what type of success they may have attained, their experience of self-hate leads them to sabotage it and wipe it out.
Sarah does not feel good about herself because nobody ever taught her how to. Instead, the people in her childhood who she needed the approval from in order to build her confidence only reflected what was wrong with her, never what was right. How could she not continue to seek out approval when there was such a profound lack of it? Once she can come to terms with the fact that the root of the problem truly came from no fault of her own, understanding that she was not the cause of or at all responsible for her mother’s inability to love and nurture, she can begin tackling the guilt that repeatedly leads to her undoing. She can finally learn how to feel good about herself by reflecting on her abilities and enjoying her strengths. Sarah has to start to give herself what she never got as a child. She is able to be loving and supportive with her own daughters, she needs to be that way with herself. If she can realize that there is still a little girl in her who is damaged and has to heal, she can give herself needed positive recognition by shining a flashlight on the things she is able to do well, rather than on the things she has done wrong. Part of that is making her goals more manageable so that she can live up to the expectations she sets for herself thereby setting herself up for success instead of failure.
Given the financial struggles she has been dealing with, that would be a good place to start. Learning how to manage and be more in control of them would lead her to feel empowered. Being secure in her ability to handle herself financially and take care of her children will increase her self-worth and enhance her emotional security.
One reason she got into financial trouble in the first place, she said, was that she took care of her staff literally at her own expense. Giving to others while sacrificing your own well-being is the fastest way to lose your self-esteem. It might feel good at the time, but you are going to end up feeling like a loser. With that in mind, another step would be learning how to set limits with other people. By knowing how to be clear and advocate for her own needs, she can then hold onto her self-esteem and feel more worthy when people are responsive and generous. According to Sarah, she is now debt-free with the support of her friends and Andrew, hopefully she will continue to learn how to support herself.
Sarah is steadfast in her resolve to learn from her mistakes. This is what it takes to move on, the willingness to be open to change and growth. If you can finally come to terms with what you did miss out on as a child, you can then accept the limitations of your parents for who they were and know it no longer determines who you are. Then you can stop blaming, punishing, and holding yourself for emotional and financial ransom, finally freeing yourself from the damage of the past. Sarah has to pick up from the point where she wasn’t parented and learn how to nurture herself so that she balances the negative. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Sarah, and you as well, have had the power all along. The trick is being ready to tap into it.
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See Dr. Greer’s article on Psychology Today.
Posted July 7, 2011 in Psychology Today