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Step 1

Section 4: The SEA's 12 Step Workbook
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.


Step 1

We admitted that we were Powerless over the behavioral consequences of our low self-esteem, that our lives had become unmanageable. 


Directions: As you systematically work through the twelve steps of the SEA's program, you will be expected to read the material in this section and respond to the questions in your journal. Each step contains key words or concepts, which are explored in the questions under each step. Your recovery from the negative impact of self‑esteem is dependent on your honest assessment, admission, and acceptance of the steps you need to take in order to ensure your personal recovery. Most likely over your lifetime you will need to review these twelve steps, so for later reference keep the SEA's manual along with the other Tools‑for‑Coping‑Series books in a safe place.

Behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem

Identify what behaviors you have exhibited as a result of your low self‑esteem. If none, apply mark N/A. (Use Laying the Foundation by James J. Messina, Ph.D. to get a complete description of each of these nine behavioral patterns.)

  • Looking good:
  • Acting out:
  • Pulling in:
  • Entertaining:
  • Enabler:
  • Troubled person:
  • People pleaser:
  • Rescuer:
  • Nonfeeling person:
Identify the destructive or negative consequences which resulted from your low self‑esteem behavioral pattern:
  • Self‑destructive behaviors
  • Unresolved loss issues
  • Control issues
  • Unresolved anger issues
  • Personal adjustment problems
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Faulty communication issues
Powerlessness is a result of one or more of the following circumstances: preoccupation with problem behaviors, numerous failed attempts to control the problem behaviors, and loss of control over the problem behaviors.



Preoccupation occurs when your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams are so seriously filled with the negative behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem that the mind is not clearly focused on reality. Give examples of when you have been seriously preoccupied and ignored your responsibilities for self, spouse, family, work, school, or community.


Numerous failed attempts to control

Failed attempts to control the problem behaviors is a mark of powerlessness because no matter what you tried in the past it never worked. Give examples of some of your past failed attempts to control the problem behaviors.


Loss of control

Loss of control over the problem behaviors causes them to become obsessive, compulsive, and unpredictable.



Obsessive thinking and uncontrolled ruminating about problem behaviors render you powerless. Give examples of your obsessive thinking about your problem behaviors:



Compulsively driven and frenzied acting out your problem behaviors results in a sense of powerlessness. Give examples of where your problem behaviors have taken on the compulsively driven modality:



When you find yourself to be more the observer than the doer of the action involved, your problem behaviors have become unpredictable. You cannot clearly predict what your next action will be. Give specific examples where you have found your behaviors unpredictable:

Unmanageability of life
Your life is affected by the behavioral consequences of your low self‑esteem to the extent that there is a deterioration of the quality of your life. This deterioration comes from problem behaviors out of control which result in your life being unmanageable. You are not able to maintain goals, make plans, manage your time, or maintain relationships. The spheres of your life which become unmanageable are: inner feeling, emotional life, spiritual life, family life, social life, work life, school life, and community life.


Inner feelings and emotional life
Give examples of how your feelings and emotions deteriorated and became hard to manage:


Spiritual life
Give examples of the deterioration or lack of management of your spiritual life:


Family life

How have your problem behaviors resulting from low self‑esteem affected your family life? For each member in your current family and family of origin, give examples how they were affected by your

  • behaviors:
  • Current family:
  • Family of origin:


Social life
How much “real'' fun do you have with other people? What is the status of your social support network? How many close friends do you keep in regular contact with? How isolated and disconnected have you become? Give examples of the breakdown in your social life:


Work life

What is the status of your work life? Have you ever been fired or quit? How are your relationships with your co‑workers and supervisors? Are you happy in your career? Give examples of the effects of your low self‑esteem at work:


School life

Have you gotten the highest education you need to in order succeed in your chosen career? Did you feel intellectually inferior in school? Are you an underachiever? Give examples of how low self‑esteem has affected your school history:


Community life

How involved in your community are you? Do you reach out to your neighbors? Do you join civic groups or volunteer in community projects? Give examples of how your low self‑esteem affects your participation in the community:

Admitting powerlessness

Give examples of why it is not easy for you to admit powerlessness over the behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem:


Accepting powerlessness

Give examples of why it is not easy for you to accept powerlessness over the behavioral consequences of your low self‑esteem:


Denial of the powerlessness over problems

Give examples of denying the powerlessness of the problems resulting from your low self‑esteem through use of:

  • Pollyanna thinking (things are never as bad as they seem).
  • Fantasy thinking.
  • Magical thinking.
  • Minimizing.
  • Intellectualization and rationalization.

The “panic'' in recovery

Give examples of how the panic in the initial stages of your recovery keeps you from dealing with your admitting and accepting powerlessness over your low self‑esteem‑based problems. This panic results in:

  • Fear of unknown “new'' me.
  • Anxiety over loss of “old'' me.
  • Terror at the magnitude of change needed.
  • Sensation of getting “sicker'' as you enter “recovery.''
  • Reactions of the significant people in your life to your changes.


Personal responsibility for change in self

Give examples where you find it difficult to take total control of the efforts to change yourself so that you no longer are affected by the negative behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem. Show how this resistance to taking personal responsibility for self‑change blinds you to the power and strength these problems have over you:

Do this for your:

  • Control over your emotional life.
  • Control over your rational thinking.
  • Control over your behaviors with others.



Now that you have explored Step 1 and the concept of powerlessness, restate for yourself that which you admit and accept as the behaviors and issues which result from your low self‑esteem over which you feel powerless.