September 28, 2023
Building Self-Esteem: Unraveling Childhood and Relationships
Self-esteem can be seen as the foundation of our emotional well-being, and it’s shaped by our experiences growing up and the relationships we have later in life. As a counsellor, I’ve often seen how these early and ongoing interactions can really influence how we see ourselves. Clients might struggle with how they see themselves. They often have a very negative view of who they are and this has an impact on their relationships and happiness. In this article, we’re going to look at how childhood experiences and relationships shape and build self-esteem, and I’ll share some practical tips for anyone struggling with low self-esteem and those wondering how to work on building self-esteem back up.
The Building Blocks of Childhood
Childhood is where it all begins. It’s this time of being young, open-hearted, and full of potential. This is when the seeds of self-worth are first planted.
Good experiences, like feeling loved, encouraged and valued, are like sunshine and water that help self-esteem grow.
But difficult experiences, like neglect, criticism, or worse abusive situations, will often leave lasting scars.
Understanding Childhood’s Impact on Building Self-Esteem
To start healing and growing, it’s important to get a handle on how your early experiences have shaped you. Looking back at your childhood can be a bit of a rollercoaster, emotionally speaking, but it’s a big step towards getting back in touch with who you really are. Try to spot the important moments, relationships, and patterns that have influenced how you see yourself.
Be Kind to Yourself
We can often be our harshest critic. This shame and self-blame develops as a result of earlier experiences. Start to treat yourself with kindness from now on. Remember, the younger you did the best they could with what they had at the time. You probably had no choice in some of the circumstances you found yourself in.
Show yourself the same empathy and care that you would give a close friend.
Explore Thoughts and Ideas in a Journal
Keeping a journal can be a great way to capture your thoughts and feelings. It’s like a safe space where you can let it all out and gain some clarity. Don’t worry about what you are writing – it doesn’t have to be coherent or grammatically correct – let the ideas flow. My article here provides further information about journalling.
Connecting with a qualified therapist can be life changing. A therapist can help you untangle emotions in a safe way without judgement and allow you to gain better self-awareness.
Breaking the Cycle
Building and Nurturing Healthy Relationships
As we grow, the people we surround ourselves with continue to shape how we see ourselves. Family, friends, partners, colleagues – they all play a role in boosting or challenging our self-worth.
Learning how to set healthy boundaries is key to protecting your sense of self. Get comfortable expressing your needs and limits, and stick with people who respect and support you.
Choose Relationships Wisely
Take a look at the relationships in your life. Figure out which ones lift you up and which ones bring you down. Invest your time and energy in connections that celebrate your uniqueness.
Are these people interested in you – do they take time to learn about you or show that they care?
Check In With Yourself
Regularly ask yourself how your relationships make you feel. Are they boosting your self-esteem, or dragging it down? This self-awareness is vital for making informed decisions about the people you choose to keep in your life.
Building self-esteem and confidence is an ongoing process that involves both self-reflection and practical activities.
Some practical activities and exercises that can help you strengthen your self-esteem and confidence:
Set Achievable Goals
Sometimes our list of things to do (mental or noted down) can seem long and overwhelming. Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. As you accomplish these smaller goals, you’ll experience a sense of achievement that can boost your confidence.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
Practice recognising and challenging negative thought patterns. When you catch yourself thinking self-critical or self-doubting thoughts, ask yourself if they are based on facts or assumptions.
Develop New Skills
Pursue hobbies or interests that genuinely interest you. Acquiring new skills can increase your sense of competence and self-worth.
Regular exercise can have a positive impact on self-esteem and confidence. It releases endorphins, reduces stress, and promotes a sense of accomplishment.
Write about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can help you gain insights into your self-esteem triggers and patterns.
Volunteer or Help Others
Contributing to your community or helping others in need can boost self-esteem by providing a sense of purpose and connection. Some ideas for volunteering can be found in this article here
Positive Visualisation for Building Self-Esteem
Practice visualising yourself succeeding in various situations. This can help boost confidence and reduce anxiety when facing real-life challenges.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
Spend time with supportive, positive people who uplift you and encourage your growth. Avoid toxic or negative influences.
Ask for constructive feedback from trusted friends or mentors. Often, others see our strengths and qualities that we may overlook.
Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. This reinforces a sense of competence and self-worth.
Positive Affirmations for Building Self-Esteem
Create a list of positive affirmations tailored to your specific self-esteem issues.
Repeat these affirmations daily to reprogram your subconscious mind with positive beliefs about yourself.
Gratitude Journaling for Building Self-Esteem
Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This practice can shift your mindset from negativity to appreciation.
Engage in guided self-compassion meditation exercises to develop greater self-acceptance and kindness toward yourself.
Develop self-care routines that prioritise your well-being, whether it’s through skincare, meditation, a warm bath, or a favourite book.
Mindfulness and Mind-Body Practices
Engage in mindfulness meditation, yoga, or tai chi to cultivate self-awareness and reduce stress.
Affirmation Boards or Vision Boards
Create visual representations of your goals and aspirations. Display these where you can see them daily to remind yourself of your potential.
Remember that building self-esteem and confidence is a gradual process, and setbacks are natural. Be patient with yourself and continue to engage in these activities consistently. Over time, you will likely notice positive changes in how you perceive yourself and how confident you feel in various aspects of your life.
Get Professional Support
If you find that your relationships are consistently hurting your self-esteem, think about talking to a therapist.
If you would like to speak to Claire at Insight about arranging in-person therapy in Hove, East Sussex (or Online therapy if that works better for you) – please do get in touch – here’s the Contact Form.
Taking back and nurturing your self-esteem is a journey of self-discovery and self-love. Understanding how childhood and relationships shape you is a big first step towards feeling more confident and true to yourself. You are deserving of love, acceptance, and validation, both from yourself and from the relationships you choose to nurture.