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Counseling/Low self-esteem


Hi. I suffer from depression and very low self-esteem. Both of my parents were very critical of me and I was also bullied all through school which had a detrimental effect on my self-esteem. I hate myself, and am unable to see any good in myself. I have been told all my life that I am smart, and so my entire sense of self-worth has been based on that. I KNOW that I am not pretty, have never been popular or had a lot of friends, am not stylish etc. The only compliment I have ever gotten is that I am smart, so I am very hard on myself when I make a mistake. For example, I am quite upset because I just realized that I made a spelling error in one of the Christmas cards I sent out. I misspelled the word generosity (I spelled it generousity). I feel so stupid, and certain that when the person notices that I made a spelling mistake they will realize that I am not smart at all, and that I am in fact stupid and illiterate! This fear of looking or sounding stupid stops me from doing a lot of things or takes the joy out of doing things I would otherwise enjoy (like sending out Christmas cards). Do you have any advice for me? I know this must sound silly, but I have been agonizing over the fact that I made that mistake, and wondering if I might have made others. I beat myself up for a long time after making a mistake, tell myself I am stupid, worthless etc. This makes my depression worse. Thanks for listening. I hope you can offer some words of advice. It would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Erica,
Thank you for your letter. We are just the same in some ways. We are both not stylish, etc., but I've worked on my self-esteem a lot with a counselor. So we are not alike in that sense. Let me tell you a funny story. This probably would have driven you nuts, but I let it roll off my back.
Last night I went to a City Council meeting for this issue we've been working on regarding the zoning of a nearby parcel of land.
Anyways, before the meeting there were eight of us sitting in one row near the front. The mayor came over and shook hands with the first person, then we all stuck our hands out to shake.
When he started to get to me, I shoved my hand in front of the man next to me and shook the Mayor's hand first.
It was an odd moment because I guess the man next to me wasn't really sticking his hand out enough and the mayor was coming toward me. But then the man stuck his hand out more, so the mayor didn't know whose hand to shake first. So I reached out more.
So we're sitting there after that and I look at the man next to me and say, "I'm sorry for that!" and he said, "For what?" Then I just looked down, and he said something really dumb, like, "I know what you're talking about, it's okay."
Then I felt kind of stupid for about three minutes, and just sat there fidgeting. Then I let it go.
I bet you would be hitting yourself on the head if you did anything that stupid. But I'm just laughing about it.
That poor guy. I was on his case from the start (I never met him before last night). Anyway, he's my neighbor, apparently.
If I ever see him again, maybe we can laugh about it.
As far as Christmas cards - part of the fun is to make a few mistakes and not worry about it.
Actually, one of the rules of life is to make a few mistakes, and learn from them. We learn by making mistakes. Making mistakes is good even if just to learn to let go of mistakes.
If you have any other questions, please write back.


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Nori Muster


Art therapy, positive thinking, and abuse recovery.


I have been an expert at since 2000. Before that, during college and graduate school, I put in approximately three hundred volunteer hours working at juvenile halls. I also worked in drug and alcohol counseling agencies. In addition, I have done art and writing therapy with young people who grew up in abusive religious groups.

The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), helps families, people who grew up in cults, and people leaving cults.

Books by Nori:
Dreaming Peace: Your Thoughts Can Change the World, a history of positive thinking and how to practice it in the post-9/11 world.
Child of the Cult, a collection of stories about children who grew up in restrictive religious groups.
Cult Survivor's Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life, a recovery handbook for people who had a bad experience in a group.

For a summary of all writing, see

Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies (psychology, counseling, and criminal justice), Western Oregon University, 1991.

Awards and Honors
Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement won an award from for best selling book in its category.

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