Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Why I Can’t… or Why Can’t I?

The beliefs we carry with us carve out forks in the road of our life. They direct us down very different paths and experiences. Our… Continue reading Why I Can’t… or Why Can’t I?

Raising Resilient Children

As parents, no matter how devoted and nurturing we may be, our children often struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and a host of other… Continue reading Raising Resilient Children

Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Best Foot Forward

Most people begin their dating relationships by putting their proverbial “best foot” forward. We do this to entice the other person to like us and possibly fall for us.  If the relationship succeeds the courtship typically declines over time as the routine sets in. The months may turn into years and eventually one or both people may claim, “You’re not who I thought you were.” Of course not, how can we possibly know each other when we’re selectively hiding particular aspects of our being?

Putting your best foot forward makes no sense in light of the fact that over time, your true self will surface. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to present your genuine self and not worry about someone else’s judgment? When we manipulate or alter ourselves out of concern for what others will think, we abandon our authentic self-esteem and invest in what I call other-esteem Self-Esteem or Other-Esteem? This is not only ruinous to our actual self-worth it is nonsensical in terms of the relationship itself. Two people doing a dance around authenticity doesn’t augur well for a successful relationship

From my professional experience – as a therapist and marriage counselor – it takes as much as two years of being in a committed and emotionally intimate relationship for a couple to reasonably feel that they know one another. Yet, very often, the pledge of commitment occurs prematurely for the other shoe hasn’t yet dropped. So what are we committing to? Who we’re pretending to be? This is a prescription for disaster and accounts for a large percentage of failed or unhappy relationships down the road. In fact, emotional intimacy requires removing the masks and disguises that we wear which obscure our genuine self.

A client of mine shared the following story: He met a young woman for lunch on a prearranged blind date. He said he had a really nice time, found himself emotionally and verbally engaged and quite attracted to her. I asked him if he thought she felt similarly. He happily indicated that was the case, as far as he knew. Yet, there was something nagging at him.

There were aspects of his life that he felt she would be judgmental about. I explored this with him and helped him consider that he might be constructing a problem where none existed. His inclination was to hide those aspects of his personality and his past that she might scrutinize. I suggested that he do just the opposite. I encouraged him to reveal his true self. What did he have to lose? If his fear was justified and she disapproved of him, why delay the inevitable? Did he want her to like who he was pretending to be or who he really was?

On their next date, he freely shared stories about himself that he otherwise would have kept hidden, for fear of her scrutiny. He reported with surprise and delight, that she not only accepted the cloaked parts of his persona, but, was actually intrigued by them. When we defend against our insecurities and put our best foot forward, masking what we feel vulnerable about, we betray our authenticity and self-esteem and sabotage the future of the relationship as well. Being thoughtful, considerate and sensitive shouldn’t be confused with hiding aspects of yourself that you feel tentative about. You owe it to yourself and the future of the relationship to embrace your discomfort and reveal your genuine self.

Freeing Yourself from the Grip of Low Self-Esteem

To further our exploration of developing authentic self-esteem, I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Self-Esteem Workshop, a live, interactive videoconference, beginning Tuesday, August… Continue reading Freeing Yourself from the Grip of Low Self-Esteem

Self Esteem or Other Esteem?

In my previous article, Self-Esteem: A Missed Diagnosis, I proposed that a devaluation of one’s self lies at the heart of most psychological and emotional… Continue reading Self Esteem or Other Esteem?

Low Self-Esteem: A Missed Diagnosis

According to the National Institute of Health, one in every two Americans will ultimately be diagnosed with some form of mental illness. What’s behind this… Continue reading Low Self-Esteem: A Missed Diagnosis

Diagnosis Disorder

I would like to propose a new disorder for the American Psychiatric Association to consider in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: that… Continue reading Diagnosis Disorder

Making New Year’s Resolutions Succeed

Year after year, we make New Year’s resolutions that over time wither and fade into failed attempts to transform some aspect of our lives. The… Continue reading Making New Year’s Resolutions Succeed

When Doing the Best You Can Becomes a Compulsion

Is it always a good idea to do the best you can do? This question came up recently in a therapy session and catalyzed me… Continue reading When Doing the Best You Can Becomes a Compulsion

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Crises come into our lives, no matter how we may try to avoid them. They are troubling, unwanted experiences or events that take us out… Continue reading Turning Crisis into Opportunity