Saturday, September 20, 2014

Self-Esteem Heart

Expressive art can be a great tool for working with someone that has low self-esteem or body image issues. The self-esteem heart is a great activity for helping clients explore the causes and triggers of low self-esteem, as well as create a discussion around ways to cope.

Print out a picture of an anatomical heart, and have the client write down words that are related to their low self-esteem (i.e. hurtful names they've been called, negative self-talk, etc.) on the heart. I try to have clients come up with at least 5 words.

When they are finished writing, have the client cut out the heart and color it (make sure the words are still readable). After the heart is colored in, have them glue the heart to construction paper or card stock.

On another piece of paper (or to save paper, use the leftover paper that the heart was cut from) have the client write phrases, sentences, or words that can be coping mechanisms for or that challenge the negative words in the heart. Have them write at least enough positive or coping phrases for each vessel on the heart. Have the client glue each positive word or phrase coming out of the vessels (or out of the heart if they extras). The result will have those phrases flowing outwards of the heart vessels, symbolically releasing the negativity.

When I asked one client how she felt when she looked at her finished self-esteem heart, she said she felt a little better, but that all the words and negativity were still there. She felt like they were just floating around inside of her, and hadn't gone away. She was absolutely right; this one activity wouldn't shed her of all that hurt and make her love herself. I told her that there will always be people, or maybe even her own inner voice, that will try to keep these words surrounding her; that will try to make her become those words. But using her healthy coping tools, changing her inner voice, and continuing on the path towards healing will help her to get to a point that she can love herself. That she can feel confident. And eventually, she will be able to hear those words and know in her heart that they are not the truth.

Picture and idea inspired by Katarina Thorsen.

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