I think it’s safe to say that everyone struggles with their self-esteem at some point or another. It’s just human nature.
But although we may think that low self-esteem is just “our own issue”, most of the time it actually comes about because of things we were taught (that is, things were were scolded for) in our childhood!
When we were growing up, we learned from our parents, our teachers, our peers, and – of course – the media, that we should feel self-conscious and that we should feel as though we aren’t enough just the way we are. These feelings of inadequacy then became embedded in our mind, and as we grew up, it manifested in low self-esteem. And the more complicated life got, the worse our self-esteem seemed to get!
So for this blog post, I thought I’d take a look at some common things that we were scolded for in our childhood that have led to us being self-conscious as adults. And at the end of the article, I’ll explore some practical tools that will help reverse these effects!
Not getting good grades
If you were scolded for not getting good grades as a child, then you might have started to associate your self-worth with your accomplishments in life.
This is something that so many of us do. But in reality, we should never get our sense of worth based on the things we accomplish (in school, in our career, or otherwise). Things like this will come and go – and our self-worth will fluctuate with it!
Instead, we should aim to feel worthy based on who we are as a person.
Saying something “stupid”
If you’ve been made fun of or gotten into trouble for saying something that others deem as “stupid” when you were a child, then later in life, you may constantly feel like you’re saying something stupid.
The truth is, everyone at some point says something stupid. And honestly, it’s not even stupid – it’s just that you might have interpreted something differently or you didn’t quite understand what someone meant. Or it could have just been a total brain fart – it happens to the best of us!
We all have such different backgrounds and such different experiences – you can’t expect to know everything and be able to respond “perfectly” to everything people say.
Doing something wrong
Children don’t have the same knowledge about what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as adults do. This is just biology.
While it’s important to learn right/wrong when we’re growing up, we can’t be expected to become morality masters when we’re 5 years old (or even 10, 12, or 15 years old!). If you were constantly scolded for doing something “wrong” when you were a child, you may become anxious about not doing the right thing when you’re older.
This is problematic, because humans aren’t perfect creatures, and we will all do something wrong at some point. This doesn’t make us bad, and it shoudln’t be something we’re self-conscious about.
Related Article: How to Heal Your Inner Child (When You Always Criticize Her)
Getting angry or emotional
Think about the last time you were sad. What about angry? Frustrated? I’m willing to bet you can remember. Why? Because we have these emotions ALL the time!
Being angry and emotional is a totally natural part of life. The thing is, while we don’t shame adults for being emotional, we do shame kids for it!
For some reason, a lot of people get really mad at children for showing emotion. Not everybody does this of course, but you may have had experiences as a child where you were scolded for just feeling your feelings. I just want to tell you that it’s not your fault, and that it’s okay to feel these things.
If more children were allowed to express their emotions freely, then maybe we wouldn’t have as many adults who are unable to express their emotions or who bottle them all up and then have other, more serious problems as a result.
Eating something that you weren’t supposed to
Many of our parents grew up in a diet culture, so when you were growing up, you may have experienced them telling you things like “that’s not healthy!” or “that’ll make you gain weight!”.
Even if you were never “scolded” for it, there’s a lot of subtle language that can make us feel bad about our food choices (and maybe even our bodies) that can cause us to have major food issues and body image issues as adults.
Doing something that wasn’t your fault
Sometimes when we were kids, we got into trouble for things that someone else did. When this happened to us, we didnt understand why, and we didn’t know how to process it. It just seemed so unfair.
If this happened to you a lot, you may later in life start to worry that people won’t beleive you or that people are “out to get you”. This is a dangerous thing to think, as it can cause major trust issues.
Speaking your mind
How many of you remeber being told as a kid “don’t say that!”. I’m betting a lot of you!
The thing is, many children were taught that they had to behave the same way as adults. We had to say what adults wanted us to say and do what adults wanted us to do. And if we ever were to speak our minds or disagree with our “elders”, they’d get angry at us, and we’d begin to think that it’s not okay to speak our minds.
Later in life, this could lead to you feeling insecure or uncomfortable about speaking your mind for fear of being rejected or shut down.
Not wanting to do something
When I was young, I honestly felt so bad for the kids who never got to have a say in what they wanted to do. Nowadays, there are a lot of kids who get to do whatever they want (this is a different problem!), but there are still a lot of kids who literally don’t get to do what they want – at all.
Alternatively, if they don’t want to do something that really upsets them for some reason (that reason might be hard for adults to understand, but it’s valid nonetheless) and they were pushed to do it anyway, then that would lead them believing that their opinions aren’t valid later in life. And if that happened to you as a child you may have some unconscious beliefs that people don’t care about your opinion.
How to reverse these ideas
Damaged self-esteem from childhood can be difficult to heal, but don’t worry – it’s not impossible! It just takes some practice. Over time, your beliefs can change – as long as you take active steps towards changing them. And that’s what I’m here to help for!
Some good first steps include:
- Bringing awareness to your self-talk in situations that make you feel self-conscious
- Actively working on self-love
- Working on healing your inner-child
- Therapy or counselling
Here are some helpful blog posts I’ve written about changing your limiting beliefs, fostering self-love through journaling, and healing your inner child. These will be a great help in starting you on you self-esteem journey:
I also have some FREE worksheets you can have sent straight to your inbox – all you have to do is sign up below!
And lastly – here’s a great online therapy platform I HIGHLY recommend that will help you – it’s a bit cheaper than traditional therapy and doesn’t require meeting face-to-face (perfect for social distancing!).
Sagesse ("Say Jess")
Owner of Mindaya