Help with Self Esteem – Part 1 of 5

Self-esteem can be a complex subject. It is essentially the way you see yourself and your value. It also affects how you see and interact with the world around you. Self-esteem has many facets and is shaped by internal and external factors. It plays a vital role in how connected you are to others and your ability to influence others. Your emotional maturity is also tied to it, which affects decision making – both beneficial, healthy decisions and bad ones too. Yes, self-esteem touches every aspect of your life.

We are here to support your growth. We want to help you understand why your self-esteem may be low, impart words that will affirm your worth and value as well as help you develop new tools to build yourself up in a sustainable way. It will most likely take more than an article to adequately cover this subject. Take heart and please stay tuned for more! If you would like to receive a direct email with our next discussion on this matter, please send an email to

External & Internal Influences – An overview

The external influences of self-esteem are related to your environment, (friends, family and community.) Internal factors are your thoughts, actions and how you react or respond to your world. We will be covering this topic in depth in our next article.

External Influences and early childhood development 

We will look at the external influences first, these first impressions shaped your personal development, worth and value. When you were a baby you were helpless and relied on your mother or parents to care for you. How well cared for you were or responded to your needs, communicated your value to them. For instance, if you were left alone for long periods of time- ignored or weren’t fed on time and cried a lot, were hungry for too long ect.. You would get the message “you’re just not worth it”. If on the other hand, your family cared for your every need, hugged and kissed you often, talked and read to you regularly, fed you on time, and met your every need, you would generally get the message “you matter to me and you are important.” These experiences indeed shaped your initial self-esteem thus affecting how you feel about yourself today.

The first exercise – Understanding your self-esteem from an early age

Now that your relationship to your family has been raised, We suggest an exercise below to reflect on how your self-worth was shaped early on, and whether a healthy self-esteem was lacking. By honoring your memories and your feelings you gain key insights about “why”. You may want to write your answers down. Keeping track of how you feel can help you see your progress toward better self-understanding and care.

Before you complete this simple exercise, there are a few words of caution: If you know right now that your upbringing was not so healthy, your temptation in this exercise may be to focus on others and how they have hurt and harmed your self-worth. While those are valid feelings, don’t allow yourself to become distracted by experiences of the past. At this point in your life, you can’t do anything about how others treated you before, and you can absolutely do everything to control how you feel about yourself now and moving forward. This is your time for you, so place your attention on where you are going next with your thoughts, your heart and your life. If you are struggling to let go of past injustices, a counselor may be a good choice to assist you with processing your grief. You are welcome to speak with a Birthright friend too. We are here to listen and never judge.

Regardless of the answers, keep your focus on yourself. Acknowledging and honoring your feelings is an act of self love, and you deserve it.

You may feel remorse, loss, anger and pain by those memories. Those are acceptable feelings and worthy of attention. Early childhood memories may naturally emerge in this process, and that’s OK. Grieving the past is also a healthy part of the healing process so you can move forward in your life. Are you ready?

Here are seven important questions to consider when reflecting on your early childhood:

  1. Did you feel loved and cared for?
  2. Do you have fond memories?
  3. Did you feel accepted for who you are?
  4. Did you experience a general sense of well-being and belonging?
  5. Did you feel that your family cared about what was important to you?
  6. Did you suffer any traumatic experiences that just don’t go away?
  7. Were your feelings important to your parents?

What did you discover? Have you identified any issues with the early development of your self-esteem? If not, you are very fortunate, and there may be more internal thinking patterns and self-defeating behaviors that result in low self-worth. But if you did identify issues, you’re probably asking, what next?

Understanding the human condition is a first good start. We all try to avoid suffering, but it’s a part of all life. So the real question is – what are you going to do about it? Here are some suggestions to lighten your load and take control of your feelings and experiences. In doing so, you should feel pretty good about yourself because you are taking steps forward. Isn’t that enough to start? Be sure to place realistic expectations on yourself on your quest for growing your self value, and make sure what you do is achievable:

  1. Have compassion. Being a human is a hard task. We are all here for a reason, and we step on each others toes a lot trying to find our way. Avoid the people who step on your toes often. Find people who exercise kindness and care about your feelings.
  2. Make new connections. Nobody is an island. Ask for help. We all need each other and have different gifts. Tap into other peoples experiences and support. If you want help, it is there for you. We are all unique and amazing. Find the amazing people to be around and understand how they think and feel. This will help you identify your own uniqueness and amazingness.
  3. Avoid mean people. Some people are just mean and want to cut others down to build themselves up. They can’t wait to make a snide or rude remark that is cutting. Negative people will always bring others down. It matters not if it’s family, a relationship or friends. Don’t allow people to bring you down. Establish healthy boundaries and set the terms of engagement. Otherwise, stay away.
  4. Honor your feelings. They are always valid. It’s when we feel the most within our hearts, and honor those feelings, we begin to affirm our value. God gave us a heart to feel with. It can be broken, and loved, but it is ours. We must open and grow it.
  5. Laugh at yourself. We are all truly lovable, and we are all truly laughable and do ridiculous things. This is part of being human. Learn to laugh at yourself and find the lighter side in life. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

Has this done your heart any good and helped you feel a little better about yourself? We hope so. Reach out and let us know what’s happening for you. We care.

There will be times when you just need to talk to another woman. An Adult! We know about that and we’ve been there.  Our local office in Downtown Vancouver is located at 214 E 17th St, Vancouver, WA 98663. Our Main Office number is (360) 694-8156 or you can call anytime After Hours at (800) 550-4900. We want to be a positive support to you in any way we can. Please always know, you are not alone!

Disclaimer: Birthright of Vancouver Washington is sharing the above article to provide information/education, is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.