Self-esteem is a real tricky question with which to grapple - like grabbing at a handful of smoke. Those with healthy self-esteem have little cause to even give self-esteem a second thought. To them, it is a pretty meaningless notion. There are also plenty of voices all over the Internet saying self-esteem is a pretty meaningless notion and so, poof! is the problem with it to disappear like a puff of smoke?
Self-esteem may or may not be a valid concept. Let others agonize over this if they wish. What we are focused upon here is a viable means to overcome low self-esteem if that's the term you use to describe struggling through life possessed with only the thinnest of skin and seemingly every raw nerve open to the elements…
People with healthy self-esteem have it anchored in place during infancy and childhood. As a child begins to understand him or herself as a separate entity from his or her “mother,” a ‘sense of self’ develops, by gradual assimilation from experience. If this assimilation is supported, the child will learn intrinsically that his or her self is worthwhile. Voila, healthy self-esteem…
If you do not pick up a healthy sense of self worth in childhood, getting what you lack when you are an adult is problematic. There is not time to pick up a new sense of self-worth via a second upbringing. What takes years of tender loving care to nurture during childhood cannot be downloaded into your adult personality. This is why it is futile to grit your teeth and reason your way to healthy self-esteem, “like a grown up.” You have to include other less controllable intangibles, like emotions, in the mix.
Infancy and childhood do point the way to a constructive approach - one that can be expected to compensate for what you missed out upon. If childhood nurtures a sense of self worth gradually from experience, an experiential therapy can do something similar. Providing the right experiences in the supportive and ‘safe environment’ of the therapy (fully encompassing thoughts AND emotions) is where the skill and intensive training of the therapist come into play. As long as you are willing to engage in a sometimes difficult, sometimes exhilarating, process of self examination, the learning accumulates; and, almost imperceptibly, there builds within your constitution a different sense of self worth. Ultimately the wealth of experience reaches a point such that self-esteem becomes a non-issue. Then you need hardly give the matter a second thought. There we are back at where we began above.
This makes the therapy process sound a lot more clean and clinical than it really is. Almost as though there could be ordered steps and procedures the therapist could apply to advance you on your way. In reality, it is not ordered or predictable, just like childhood. In reality, it is highly individual.
Therefore, describing the therapy process in any more detail is fruitless, because the fine detail (which is what really matters and produces change) is acutely personal. Hence the need at some point to decide to stop reading all there is to read about self-esteem and instead to start having the experiences that can make a difference to your self esteem. The latter is such a specialized field of study, you cannot possibly read about what you need to know in any book. In the words of the Gods of advertising (arguably the art of generating esteem), there comes a point at which you have to ‘just do it.’