Self Esteem

Your self esteem is made up of personal beliefs and messages that reflect how you value yourself. Self esteem is either low or high, depending on the types of beliefs and messages. As an abused child you developed a sense of low self worth – these messages came from the adults in your life who abused you. You have also subtly incoporated some of these negative thoughts into your belief system.

Self esteem is an important issue for everyone who was abused as a child. Your attempts to stop the abuse most likely met with little or no success, which resulted in feelings of shame, impotence, helplessness, and incompetence. It is possible to carry these feelings with you into adult life and often they result in an individual’s low self esteem.

Blaming yourself for the abuse is also very common. It is a manifestation of low self esteem. We do this because we were either overtly told by our abuser that it was our fault or we are led to believe that it was our fault by covert messages we receive from others. Psychological abuse also attacks our self esteem and forces it even lower. Name calling, put downs and insults all add to give us the overall impression of low self worth.

Having internalized these messages we often play them back in our heads over and over again. The result is reinforcing these negative feelings, which may result in depression, or destructive behaviours that serve only to further lower our self esteem.

Putting yourself down are messages called negative self talk. They play down your value as a human being and contribute to your feelings of depression, anger, or frustration. The messages come from our past, but they are spoken in our own voice.

I’m fat. I look terrible, I’ve been losing my hair since I was nineteen and I started putting on weight when I turned twenty. I’m never going to find a lover looking like this. I’ve always hated the way I look. My nose is bent, my ears are big and I feel utterly unattractive.

I know all of this came from my Father. He used to make me stand naked in front of a mirror and then tear me apart verbally. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Exercise: Write down some of your own negative self talk messages. Be specific. are they work related? What about your intimate family? Do you run these messages with friends and family? Do you blame yourself for being abused?

So why change low self esteem? Well really low self esteem is self abuse. It continues to victimize us and perpetuates the cycle. Eventually it will also effect loved ones and family members. If you want to heal your wounds you need to come to terms with your inner abuser.

30 Responses to Self Esteem

  1. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for this website– I actually have been trying to fight the voices that I internalize about how helpless, ugly, fat or whatever… in the formative years I experienced sexual abuse.
    I wonder how that has impacted my relations with people, the ability or inability to process reality…. my need to un/ fugue states. A site like yours helps us survivors feel safe, accepted, and realize that it really is not our fault. Recovery is possible and we can move out of those previous old thought patterns and states of mind.

  2. No Name says:

    I was sexually abused by my mother and then by my parents. I had no one to talk to except for my bears. I am now 44 and sometimes I think of committing suicide. I was betrayed, no one can help me. I think by being close to people I treasure, I will make them dirty. Only Hell wants me.

  3. Victoria begg says:

    To no name who posted 1st march please do not give up. What happened to you happened to me. 35 years later the animal went to court but was found not quility. I was at last believed and it was the police who believed me. I am starting counselling next week and will hopefully put my demons out of my head. Please do not hurt yourself if possible see a counsellor. X

  4. Janine says:

    To no name posted on March 1st. Don’t give up … They already stole the first 44 years of your life don’t let them take the rest. Let the end of your life be the best years of your life. Let Jesus male you whole again x

  5. no name says:

    I’m the youngest in the family and as a little girl my dad and brothers would do whatever they had to to make me scream and cry/put me over the edge just to watch me. It was fun to watch and it made them feel good. My frustration and inability to express myself was “interesting” to see. Up into my teen/adult years I was only valuable for the entertainment I could provide. I have problems talking and expressing myself and I usually just try to stay away from people. my dad died just recently and I’m finally realizing that alot of my upbringing was abusive. My mom struggled drug/alcohol addiction so she was never really there for me but she said once that she always felt bad.. I don’t have many people to affirm that any of this was wrong. I’m 19 and I just feel like a joke I don’t think I was meant for anyone to love or take seriously. Dad’s gone and both of my brothers have substance abuse problems and I’m still as much of an embarrassment as ever. I didn’t really realize until recently that I wasn’t supposed to feel as worthless as I do. It just seemed like the way it is. Everything I put work into feels driven by a need to be taken seriously but I don’t think I can take myself very seriously or even really deserve that

    • Charlene Ayers says:

      No name, You are not a joke.You have been through to much to even consider your self in that manner. I’m sorry but what I am about to tell yoh you will have to do it on your own.Begin to write your name in a diary, journal or a note pad.Your name I Love me.I Love everything about me.I Love me because Im stronger than everyone who tried to hurt me.I Love my flaws my imperfection because I am perfect for me.You got to Love you first,You got to want you first,and listen at night as you sleep website that speak I Am video by the creator channel

  6. Robin Smith says:

    Don’t carry their low behavior, their sins are theirs, not yours. You are the offended, not the offender. If you can, find a good therapist or counsel with your minister if you think he/she will be of great assistance. Otherwise, do not. Group therapy is good to start with so you can see that you are not alone, You have value. I can see your value from your writing above. Get a good education and make plans for your life. And stick with the plan. If you can get out of the house, do. Good luck! If you have access to books, read up on the topic and how to keep yourself whole and safe. If you are attracted to it, get a good education no matter how long it takes you and how hard the schedule. That will be your biggest ticket to freedom. From one sister to another, love Robin

  7. Asim says:

    I wish you well friend

  8. Sam says:

    I’d suggest the the greatest of care must be taken when considering issues of self esteem. More often victims of compound trauma suffer because of core beliefs. Core beliefs are not amenable to changes in perspective taking.

  9. Ann says:

    Both my parents have passed away – my mother 12 years ago and my father 2 years this Feb. I didn’t realise that the abuse I suffered as a young child and young woman would effect me the way it has. I’m an older woman and still struggle with feelings of low self esteem and trusting people. I find it really hard to believe that anyone truly loves me…this is really difficult for my family as you can imagine. I have a large family and a husband…I know this hurts them and I don’t mean to hurt them…but the actions of our parents follow through to the next generation sadly. I have spent all of my years being a mother and Grandmother confirming to my children how much their father and I love them. This has broken the cycle I’m glad to say. When both my parents passed away an Uncle said to me “I don’t know how you survived your childhood and managed to be the way you are with your own children and grandchildren” it was easy I said i love them so much, I couldn’t let them grow up feeling how I did and do. I just need to love myself as much as I do them.

  10. Diana says:

    Thank you for the informative article. Speaks volumes. It would also be helpful if techniques were shared on how to move on from the past or negative self talk. How to overcome such challenges of low or no self esteem. Thanks again.

  11. Low self esteem says:

    Child abuse affected me also. It has given me have low confidence for most of my life especially at school im described as quiet or shy. It’s cos i have a bad bad childhood but I’m kinda hiding it. How should i fix this? I understand counselling but my STRONG shame and embarrassment stops me from going to one. Is there an anonymous online counselling for my case? i think others are in my position too

    • Lonely says:

      To Low self esteem
      Hey. Please do not feel guilty about what happened to you. It was not your fault. You do not need to feel embarrassed. I know it’s hard to take the first step and to talk about it, but it truly help. In your first session, you can talk about whatever you want, maybe at some point you will be safe enough to talk about what happened.
      I’m so sorry and I wish you well 😉

  12. Confused says:

    As a kid I loved playing soccer it was my favorite sport. My dad of mine would always go to my soccer games and will tell me “you hit the ball like a girl” “you need tons of work” “you play like a girl” hardly said anything good that I did. There was times When I didn’t even want to touch the ball because I would hear voices in my head saying all these things.. As soon as I Would get the ball I would want to kick it back to them. I had anxiety. I didn’t want to make a small error because I knew that on my way back home in the car I was going to get told all these things saying I basically sucked. When my dad didn’t go to watch me play I was relieved & confident. I felt better playing without that person watching me play. Through the years I’ve felt like it has ruined my self esteem. I know that my guardian didn’t mean to hurt me , he was just trying to make me a better player, my dad probably didn’t know how to talk to me because he didn’t grew up with a father and didn’t know how to talk to a kid. I now know not to make the same mistake when I have kids

  13. Kathryn says:

    My mom and my younger brother been calling me ‘super weird’ for 3 years now. She criticizes me about at least once every week, and yells at me at least once every week. My brother is abusive because he calls me names and annoys me just to get a negative reaction to me. My mom says that it’s because he hates me. He flicks boogers and hairs at me while my mom isn’t watching. My mom does nothing about it.
    My mom forces me to do things, like go to social events. She says yes to social events without me agreeing. She has called me ‘the nastiest person that I have ever met’ (not physically nasty; just the ‘mean’ kind of nasty), ‘the laziest person that she has ever met’, and ‘super selfish’. The only time she complements me is on my voice and my looks. She only likes my brother and my sister Maria out of the six kids in our family because my brother is ‘normal’ in her opinion and has a 4.2 GPA. And Maria spends time around her all the time and practically worships her. My mother constantly humiliates me in front of her friends (the friends that have children who are my age). My brother threatens me whenever I do something even remotely embarassing in social situations. My mother has threatened to hurt me. My mother gets mad when I don’t agree with her.

    My brother has threatened to hurt me as well, and he uses his height and strength to scare me.
    And, I didn’t even mention my other sister, Tanya. She has physically abused me quite a bit– choking me, hitting me on the head, grabbing my wrist, ect. I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in this family who they target. I feel the most unloved by my mother and brother, though. I feel like both of them want me dead.

    I feel like I need to let this out. I just want to die these days, or move out just to get away from these cruel people.

    • Bookish Florentine says:

      Hi Kathryn. It sounds like you’re the scapegoat in a highly dysfunctional narcissistic family, with your mother as the narcissist at the centre of it all. It’s so hard to be the scapegoat. The best thing is to survive as best you can until you can safely get out. Try to get out as soon as you can and create a safe space for you to live, also find a good therapist that you can trust. I’m the ex-scapegoat of my family. I was severely abused and traumatised but I’m grown up now with a family and home of my own. It gets better. It really does. It’s not easy coming to terms with the abuse and the trauma but you can absolutely do it. The most important thing is to get away from the abuse as soon as you can and find safety. Read up as much as you can about narcissistic abuse. There’s a great community on reddit called ‘Raised by Narcissists’. Check it out. I hope you find refuge and safety soon, but until then hang in there as best you can. xxx

  14. Ollie says:

    I’m 25 now. Just moved out. As my parents were emotionally abusive: my dad always put me down criticised everything I did. And when he got really mad he’d chase me up the stairs and scream at me telling me there’s something wrong with me. My mum often sided with my dad in arguments. And when I would bring up previous things said that hurt me, my dad simply said he doesnt remember saying that. I hope I’ll heal I’m sure it’ll take a while. As my self esteem is very low and at work it’s magnified as everyone around me seems happy and sociable.

  15. Dan says:

    I’m a 55yr old male and still remember the belittling, the being called stupid, bloody idiot and face pulling and annoyance my father directed towards me as a young teenager.He made me feel useless and worthless everyday in some way. He would talk with my sister about me as if I wasn’t in the same room and describe me as an idiot to her. I didn’t have the guts to say something to him, but when I tried explaining how I felt to my mother, she would say just ignore it or blame it on his being treated badly by his mother…that never helped me one little bit.My marriage failed because I worked non stop to have the nice house, the nice cars and give my kids everything I never had, because my parents couldn’t afford it…I was a workaholic….my ex just had enough of my being tired all the time and constant arguments about money…she left me and filed for divorce, during which my mother passed away…I lost so much at the same time, my wife, my kids my house and my mother….that was 20 yrs ago…I still feel very bitter towards my father even writing this I have a inner feeling of hatred towards him and he has been dead for the past 17yrs.. I know I need to move on but it’s holding me back like a big ball and chain…

  16. Lyra Adams says:

    The emotional effects of abuse are so challenging to overcome. Each person here is doing what they can to relate their pain. For those of you who are interested, I have a free podcast – Breaking Free Healing the Emotional Effects of Sexual Abuse. Just google my name. I speak about many of the topics that are affecting all people affected by any type of abuse.

  17. African says:

    I was physically, emotionally abuse by my father. He will beat 250 to 800 flogged. I developed a self esteem, lack of confidence and today I’m 31 yes old still living with it. Hidding myself scared of meeting people because he will retained us inside without making contact with the outside when I escaped I taught I was free but no…sometimes I’m just want to go back coz I feel comfortable with him but I can’t cut of all the abuse.

  18. Junia Marcela Izaguirre says:

    To all of you courageous souls who have had the incredible guts to speak up on this site, I bow!

  19. Junia Marcela Izaguirre says:

    I’ll be turning 48 next month..
    I was sexually abused by my father from the time I was 11 until 16.
    He died on February 8, this year..

  20. Junia Marcela Izaguirre says:

    I hear you all! I always thought that if “I” could keep the secret until he died, everything would be fine

  21. Junia says:

    Fat chance

    • Junia says:

      No way… In any case, it has left me more confused and feeling even guiltier (if that could ever happen

    • Junia says:

      If anything, I’m more confused than ever…
      Don’t even know where I stand anymore.
      Furthermore, people around me seem to believe that my Father’s death has not had the slightest impact on my life

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