If there is one quality most survivors share, it is low self-esteem. Chronic
feelings of being bad or unworthy are intricately connected to all the other "self" words that are used to describe the adult survivor: self-effacing, self-deprecating, self-conscious, self-blaming, and so on. Low self-esteem causes survivors to become their own worst enemies by turning against themselves in a damaging reenactment of their own abuse.
There are many abuse-related factors that contribute to low self-esteem.
The way your parents/abusers treated you, the message they conveyed about your personal value and worth, the amount of power they granted you and the degree of control you had over your own life are a few examples. Of course, there is also a host of non-abuse-related factors that can lead to low self-esteem. Concerns about your physical appearance (especially during adolescence), your progress in school, your social standing among your peers and your family's financial or social position may all contribute to feelings of low self-esteem.
While self-esteem stays relatively constant over the years, it is still a learned behavior and, as such, can be changed by rethinking and reworking old attitudes and perceptions. The first step in reversing low self-esteem is recognizing how you feel about yourself. Then you must learn to see how your shame, sense of unworthiness and anger turned inward pervade your life and cause you to make bad decisions. Building self-esteem is a major task for adult survivors and is specifically addressed in Step Sixteen.
Go to journal questions for low self-esteem
Survivor to Thriver, Page 45
© 2007 THE MORRIS CENTER, Revised 11/06