Book Review: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem – Melanie Fennell

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem by Melanie is an invaluable, practical guide to changing the negative core beliefs we have about ourselves using the practices and techniques of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

Review - Melanie Fennell Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

There are two reasons why I picked up this book:

  1. Despite significantly improving the way I think about myself (and the way these thoughts influence my behaviour), I still recognise that low self-esteem can be a problem for me in certain areas of my life, and I feel the need to address these.
  2. I am currently training to become a qualified counsellor and learning about CBT is part, of course, I am on, so I thought it would be helpful to see (and experience) CBT applied to a real-world situation.

It was.

In this book review, I’ll address both aspects- approaching Overcoming Low Self-Esteem to get practical advice and instruction on doing what the book promises, and approaching Melanie Fennell’s work from an academic standpoint.

Let’s tackle the latter first, shall we?

Learning About CBT

Before coming to this book, I knew little about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy other than the fact that it was a more practical, goal-orientated approach to therapy than other alternatives such as Person-Centered Therapy. I also knew -thanks to friends who had undergone a course of CBT- that it had something to do with asking “what evidence do I have that this opinion I have about myself, someone else, or a situation is true?” 

Beyond that, nada.

So, this was an exceptionally helpful guide to the subject which taught me a lot about how we each interpret the world around us and the experiences we have differently. Two people can be in the exact same environment experiencing the exact same thing yet interpret it differently, those interpretations being filtered via our own past experiences and the Rules for living.

It was interesting to learn about how we often create these rules for living as a means of protection (for example “My bottom line belief about myself is that I am stupid, therefore I will never put myself in situations where my stupidity might be exposed“) but which can ultimately hold us back (“If I don’t believe I’m smart, I may not sit tests or study for a new career because I don’t believe I’ll be able to do it”), especially when these core beliefs aren’t even true in the first place.

Case Studies

What I really like about this book, is that Ms Fennell introduces a number of (I assume) fictional case studies early on in the book and frequently refers back to them to illustrate points and not only teach the reader about why CBT works, but how to apply it in overcoming self-esteem issues.

So, for example, we have Jesse, whose father was disappointed in how his own career turned out and thus was overly hard on Jesse growing up, teaching him that the only way to be accepted was to be 100% perfect at everything all the time.

We also have Sarah, the creative artist whose academic parents saw little value in her work and thus impacted the way Sarah thought about herself and her art well into adulthood.

Throughout the course of the book, we see Jesse, Sarah, and many others applying Fennel’s CBT techniques, gradually transforming the way they think about themselves -and thus their level of self-esteem- as the book goes on.

The best part about there being a number of different case studies (nine in total) is that each one is very different, so if you’re approaching this book to get help with improving your own self-esteem, it is likely that you will find at least one ‘character’ you can identify with. 

For example, I could relate to parts of both Jesse and Sarah’s story, whilst others also had experiences that were similar -in places- to my own.

This identification helps you to not only see how using the techniques described in this book could be useful, but how to apply them to ensure that they are in the long run.

Applying CBT to Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

This brings us to the other reason I picked up this book -changing my own bottom line and rules for living so that I could respond differently to those situations that dramatically lower my own self-esteem.

In that respect, I found this book to be incredibly beneficial.

Despite dealing with matters psychological in nature, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem is very practical, with detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to do everything from questioning and examining anxious predictions we make to improving self-acceptance and creating a long-term plan for maintaining improved self-esteem long after we’ve finished the book.

Three Sections

All of this is broken down into a helpful structure with three distinct parts:

  1. What is low self-esteem?
  2. Understanding low self-esteem?
  3. Overcoming low self-esteem.

The first part is pretty self-explanatory – it’s an introduction to the book itself and the concepts it covers.

The second part looks at the causes behind low self-esteem, how it develops in the first place and why it persists.

Finally, in the third part – actionable tasks that we can put into practice to challenge and ultimately change our core beliefs about ourselves and the Rules for Living that these create.

Personally, I like how each chapter doesn’t just tell you what to do, but explains why it will be helpful, gives an example (using one of the nine case studies) of how this could work in practice, and even offers suggestions on what to do if we encounter barriers to doing this work effectively.

An Invaluable Book For Improving Self-Esteem

At time of writing, I’ve only worked through this book once, but already found that it has seriously helped me think about the way I think about myself and has made an enormous difference in the way that I respond to situations which previously had a negative impact on my own self-esteem.

You’ll notice I said “worked through” and not “read.” That’s because to get the best out of Melanie Fennell’s work, that’s exactly what you’ll need to do.

The book is more like a workbook or manual than a theoretical text, so be prepared to take some action whilst going through it.

Don’t let this put you off either – despite there being a lot to do with this book, the effort/reward ratio is off the scale. In other words, the effort required to use the tools, techniques, and strategies outlined in this book is small compared to the huge rewards of improved self-esteem and self-worth that you gain from doing so.

If you’re thinking of buying a copy of Overcoming Low Self-Esteem by Dr Melanie Fennell, you can do so from Amazon via this link.

Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link, meaning I earn a tiny commision on purchases made via that link.

Thanks for reading.

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