How Family Impacts Self-Esteem - dummies

How Family Impacts Self-Esteem

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

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.

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, and in your notebook, 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.

Now, don’t 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. That’s not going to happen! The change must come from within you, and we show you how to make those changes throughout this book.