What causes low self-esteem?

C bullet 6 yellow swirls aa-img021_crThe cause of low self esteem isn’t that you just are no good

It’s horrible to feel no good. If that applies to you, but you’ve got as far as reading this page, then you’ve made a crucial step. You’ve started to realise that there is a reason for that feeling, other than that you actually are no good.Low self-esteem has causes. It results from failure, from direct or implicit criticism, or childhood hurts and conditional love. This can come about as an adult, or be left over from childhood, sometimes from schooling but sadly often from lack of love.

Here are three common scenarios causing low self-esteem. There are many more – everyone is unique.

(1) Conditional love is a kind of criticism

If as a child you were criticised, you grow up discouraged and not believing in yourself. Some parents directly say things like “Why are you so useless?”, but even loving parents can undermine children without either children or parents realising.

For example, there is an age, maybe 2-1/2 to 4, when kids are actively saying “No!” That’s not naughtiness, it’s an essential part of growing up – at that age we are all trying out “doing it MY way.” If parents are too strict, then every time the child tries to “do it MY way”, he or she hears “no, not like that / no, not now / no not here.” Very quickly the child learns “everything I do is wrong – there must be something wrong with me – I must be no good.” Mum has never expressed any direct criticism, has never wanted anything except the very best for her child, but the conditionality of the love leaves the child feeling criticised anyway. This is simplified, but something like this is the commonest reason a person feels worthlessness. Lack of love or conditional love can leave a profound and fragile vulnerability in feeling good about yourself.

Or you might have been:

  • Subjected to unrealistically high standards
  • Only loved when you performed well
  • Constantly in the shadow of a brother or sister
  • Over-protected
  • Nothing bad happened to you, but your mother or father themselves had low self-esteem and you unconsciously picked that up
  • You went to a low-achieving school
  • You changed schools so often you never caught up. I call this “education trauma” – variations on it are surprisingly common.
  • … or, in a thousand and one ways, received only conditional love.

But the good news is that the loveable, worthy, valuable “who you are” which was ignored, un-loved or un-affirmed as a child is still totally present inside you as an adult. These qualities are never destroyed, only mislaid of buried. Life-dynamic counselling, hypno-psychotherapy and the other tools I use can be distinctively effective in re-connecting you with your inner treasures, with the feeling that “I CAN,” with the feeling that “I AM OK,” that “I AM LOVEABLE” and “I KNOW HOW.”

(2) Setbacks in adult life

Major life events  – redundancy, criticism, breakup, bereavement, a toxic relationship – obviously can have a major impact on us all. If some major part of our lives falls away there can be all sorts of emotional consequences. There’s one particular variation which is surprisingly common, which I term “first big failure syndrome” and mainly affects people aged 25 – 35. Someone can be confidently flying through life, and then some kind of mishap or failure takes the wind out of their sails. Though in fact manageable, still this is the first reverse they’ve ever had, they aren’t used to it, and they feel terrible. Their self-belief collapses. Paradoxically this happens most to people with the highest self-esteem – they’ve just never failed before.

This can be one of the easiest situations to remedy. Quite often all I have to do is to re-connect the person with their previous successes and use hypnosis to kindle the spark of those memories into a flame of confidence. Indeed there are occasions this is so rapid and complete that it is almost as if hypnosis is a kind of “reset button” for the human mind – push the button and a short while later, the problems are forgotten

(3) Abusive relationships

Abusive relationships are another serious situation which creates (sometimes crucifyingly) low self-confidence in adults. Sometimes a person  is criticised, undermined and dominated by their partner, to the point where the person loses all sense of themselves and their self-worth. It can take years to recover from such a toxic relationship. While it’s more often men who are physically abusive to women, I’ve know women to be extremely psychologically abusive to a man.

In fact this situation does not originate in adult life, but rather rests on a foundation of childhood low self-esteem. This caused the victim to choose such a partner in the first place, and to need to remain with him. Unconscious feelings may include “I’m so useless and no good I’ll never get anyone else to love me if I leave this this person.” Underneath that is often a hidden complex dynamic where one part of the person passionately loves the partner because he or she is just like dad or mum was – abusive. It can be painful to disentangle the love from the hurt.

Life can change and you can feel proud of yourself. To find out how I can help you towards that, just give me a ring. Never feel you don’t matter enough to take my time up – I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free, no-obligation half-hour initial meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective. Andrew White 0845-3510604 / 0117-955-0490

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