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Counseling/self-esteem issues over situation


hello joel,
i was at a fast food restaurant the other day getting some condiments, when a girl about 17 or 18 got beside me and reached for some items right in front of my face. the least she could have done was say excuse me. i would have thought she'd be intimidated by me, since i am a fair size guy with a long beard. i would have been upset had anybody done that, but i feel a lot worse when it's someone i find attractive. i'm in the thirties, and i feel i should have gotten some respect from this much younger person. i'm just looking for some helpful feedback on how to cope with this situation in a healthy manner. it's really nagging me, and similar issues like this seem to keep happening. thanks very much for your time.

Hi, Greg.  Who said that you didn't react in a "healthy manner" or least react in a way that makes perfect sense?  First of all, what she did was downright rude and you had every right to take offense.  In terms of reacting to someone you consider attractive, well, why wouldn't you just consider that a biological imperative?  Finally, let's deal with the whole concept of self-esteem.  Unfortunately this new age diagnosis (that's exactly what it is) has mistakenly been rendered a noun.  Then people go to therapist like me and expect them to fill them with self-esteem - good for therapists' bottom lines; not so good for clients' bottom lines. I rather think of self-esteem as a verb; it's something that happens when you take some action that you consider a positive accomplishment. It might be helpful to think about some response you could take in the future when you happen to come upon rude attractive female individuals (or anyone else for that matter) - maybe a witticism proving that you can maintain a sense of humor in the face of boorishness.  Who knows?  Maybe it'll make you even more attractive to those attractive rude women!  Meanwhile, I don't think that we have to turn every normal reaction into psychological pathology. To quote Harry Stack Sullivan: "we are more human than otherwise."   Hope this helps; let me know.  Joel  


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Joel Simon


General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.


Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website:

A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at

Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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