Trauma's Role in Low Self-Esteem
It’s no surprise that trauma affects a lot of aspects of our daily lives, but did you know that it has an impact on our self-esteem as well? Self-esteem is the way that we view and value ourselves. Simply put, it is our opinion of ourselves. Individuals that have gone through a traumatic event often have low self-esteem because they begin to view themselves in a more negative light. Their opinion of themselves is now altered due to their experience.
Trauma causes negative thought processes and thought cycles to develop. Negative feelings begin to dwell and ruminate. The individual starts to self-criticize, telling themselves they’ll amount to nothing, that they’re not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, that they are to blame for things that are out of their control, etc. Trauma clouds the way an individual understands and relate to others, so the individual might feel that many mundane things are threatening, that people are judging them, secretly despise them, or want to harm them.
As a result, individuals with low self-esteem have difficulty maintaining and developing relationships, fear judgement, start to develop unhealthy perfectionism, are scared to try new things, neglect their self-care, and might even adopt self-harming behaviours in order to cope with this gap that they feel between themselves and others, or to cope with their perceived opinion of themselves.
Some common characteristics of someone with low self-esteem are being extremely critical of themselves, ignoring their positive qualities and achievements, using negative words to describe themselves, blaming themselves when things go wrong instead of considering other factors that might have contributed to the outcome, and not believing people when they receive compliments.
When untreated and unexamined, low self-esteem can also lead to things such as anxiety, eating disorders, panic disorder, social anxiety, substance use, stress, or depression. Luckily, low self-esteem is not permanent.
One way to tackle low self-esteem is by reminding yourself with positive affirmations. Try writing down all your achievements and accomplishments, the qualities you like about yourself, what you like about others, what you’re looking forward to seeing or doing in a journal. When things get really negative, you have something to tether yourself back to positive truths about you and the life you lead.
Another way is by going to therapy. A trained professional can help navigate those negative thought patterns and help learn coping methods that face the cemented thought pattern while dismantling them. It’s really important to challenge those thought patterns that develop with low self-esteem because they actively work to maintain negative beliefs. It’s cyclical, and breaking the cycle is what helps an individual move forward.
Remember that you are worth more than you believe.