Self-Esteem For Dummies
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Experiences you had when growing up, and perhaps your current relationships with family members, all impact your self-esteem. When you were a child, you were open to everything that happened, and your mind was highly impressionable. You didn’t have control over most of what you heard, saw, and experienced in your life.

Hop into your mental time machine and imagine that you are observing what happened in your past. What loving behavior did you experience? How much kind attention did you get? When were you praised for what you did well? Who did you get affection from?

When parents appreciate their children and guide them toward their strengths, their children naturally develop healthy self-esteem and confidence. What helped you in this direction?

On the other hand, certain experiences in the family can lead to low self-esteem. By comparing the two, you can see what experiences you’ve had that have led to your sense of self-esteem today.

Following are some family experiences that lead to healthy self-esteem:

  • Receiving kisses and hugs

  • Being spoken to in a polite manner

  • Being listened to

  • Being praised

  • Being given high and achievable expectations

  • Being told that effort over time produces results, so obstacles are accepted

  • Being told that failure happens to everyone, so disappointments are accepted

  • Being valued for who you are

  • Receiving attention and care

The following family experiences, on the other hand, lead to low self-esteem:
  • Being severely disciplined

  • Being screamed at and ordered around

  • Being disregarded

  • Being belittled and told you do everything wrong

  • Being given high but impossible expectations

  • Being told that fortune or luck produces results, so helplessness is the outcome

  • Being told that if you fail, you’re no good

  • Being compared unfavorably to siblings or other children

  • Being neglected

Think back on your experiences now. You likely see that experiences typically, but not always, can be categorized as either positive or negative, and depending on which they were, you developed either a healthy or low sense of self-worth. Either way, this feeling can carry over into adulthood, leading to an opinion of yourself as being either a success or a failure.

Look at the previous bullets of how experiences in your family can create either healthy self-esteem or low self-esteem. Grab a notebook, and write down on one page all the things you remember that were done in your family that helped you develop healthy self-esteem. Then write down on one page all the things you remember that led to low self-esteem. Which list is longer? Write down which experiences had the greatest impact.

Think about your parents or the people who raised you. What were their favorite sayings? What things did they say over and over again in relation to everyday events? In your notebook, write down the language of your childhood to identify the beliefs that were communicated to you.

It can be tempting to fall into the trap of blaming your parents or other people from your past. If you find fault with others instead of taking responsibility for your own life, you’ll wait for others to change. While that might happen, you can't depend on it. The change must come from within you.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

S. Renee Smith is a renowned self-esteem and branding expert, speaker, author, and resource to the media. Her expertise in personal and professional development and ability to inspire others to make positive, permanent changes has made her a sought-after consultant and speaker to Fortune 500 corporations, universities, government and nonprofit agencies, and churches. Vivian Harte has taught assertiveness skills online to over 10,000 students worldwide. She has 14 years of experience teaching in the classroom at Pima Community College and the University of Phoenix. She also hosted her own radio and television shows for many years in Colorado Springs, Minneapolis, and Tucson.

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