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Anyone here had low self esteem all their lives and got over it?

(5 Posts)
emlu67 Fri 01-Jul-11 18:06:23

I thought it would get better as I grew older but in fact am finding the opposite.

General background - a happy child until parents started fostering babies when I was six. With a demanding baby always in the house, with us every time we went out and even taken on family holidays it meant there was little attention left for myself and my brother as the babies always had to come first. Much younger siblings came along too and were doted on pushing myself and my brother out even further. Parents never helped me with homework or took any interest in my activities or knew any of my friends. Coped by being bright at school and getting teacher approval instead and also did well at work until leaving a few years ago to be a full time mum.

Parents have never told me they love me or that I was good at something or even good enough at something. They have never said they like my car, house etc or even showed much approval of DCs or their activities (their only grandchildren). They had no appreciation of my career or anything else. They had babies staying with them for all those years yet my children are never invited over except for family get togethers and if I ask them to babysit it really feels like a big ask.

The brother close to me in age is almost a recluse except for working so I know the fostering affected him as well and nowadays he hardly speaks when we all get together but my parents don't seem to notice.

Without parental approval for anything much it was inevitable I grew up with low self esteem and after I left school found it really difficult to make new friends outside of work. I now live in a small village where most of the mums don't work and all have a large circle of friends but nobody wants to include me. At social events I am barely acknowledged so have stopped going as I would always be the one sitting on a table with people I don't know while the mums of DD's class all sit together and wouldn't dream of including me. They all share cabs to get there while I just drive myself even though they have to pass my house to get out of the road. I make a real effort to talk to mums in the playground but it makes no difference, as soon as someone better comes along they turn away. There are one or two that I get on better with but they are 'loners' like me but don't seem at all bothered about having friends anyway.

I go to sports events at the school and everyone seems to be with others and most of the time I just sit there alone.

Needlesss to say I am not bringing up my DCs the way I was brought up and am always full of encouragement and praise, so far they have turned into happy, confident children. DH is my rock but I have no idea why he is with me. I think he must wonder why I have so few friends.

I hate feeling lonely and I try to be friendly to others I really do but to no avail. I would be very interested to hear if anyone else has been able to make friends and build up their self esteem again as at the moment I can't find a way out of it.

NanaNina Fri 01-Jul-11 22:39:33

I don't think you can "get over" low self esteem but you can make it more manageable. There is no doubt that the way we were parented has a tremendous affect on the adults we become. I wonder if it would help if you could find a good therapist to talk through some of your feelings about your childhood and how you felt pushed out by the foster children. Sometimes this can help and make it more manageable.

You are to be congratulated on how you are bringing up your own children and not repeating your parent's mistakes, and you have happy confident children. You say you don't know why your DH is with you, and I think yu are being very hard on yourself. You must have some very positive characteristics, the fact that you are a warm and nurturing mother stands out straight away.

Re your attempts to connect with others, I wonder if you are "trying to hard" and are almost expecting that you won't be accepted and so are setting yourself up to fail, a self-fulfilling prophecy if you know what I mean. People are usually interested in people who are intersted in them if you see what I mean - we are all quite selfish in that way (and I don't mean that in a critical sense) - I suspect others may be thinking you are stand offish and don't want to be part of the group. What is your experience of making friends - have you been able to do this in the past. People are also drawn to seeing vulnerability in others, as we are all vulnerable, some hide it better than others.

I think you have to resign yourself to the fact that for whatever reason your parents are not going to be as you would want. Remember though that when your children are grown, you will in all probability enjoy a good relationship with them and your granchildren. As ye sow, so shall ye reap - sorry I am not religious - that just popped into my mind.

I honestly don't think the other mums are as against you as you think though I can understand what has made you feel this way. Pluck up your courage - probably something like "mind if I join you " is all that is needed, and then show interest in them and it will be reciprocated. Remember we are all scared and vulnerable at times, and so are these other mums - it's part of the human condition.

Jellykat Fri 01-Jul-11 23:31:51

Have you had any counselling, with a good counsellor emlu?

My sessions started with this

And i have been continuing to reinforce the 'turning around the negative thought patterns' with a WA group.

I can say, that my background is similar to yours, and i view things very differently now.. so yes, you really can do it.

I've learnt assertiveness, that my opinions are valid, so much stuff to mention - but mainly, if anybody (particularly my mother) tries to bring me down, i can now question them, stick up for myself, and realize it's 'their stuff' and i don't need their approval. (which i'll never get from my 'DM' anyway, and why should that wreck my happiness?)

For instance, if i said hi to someone i knew in the street, and they didn't reply, before i would've automatically thought it was because they didn't like me.. now i think maybe they didn't hear/see me, maybe they were in a world of their own and in a rush. Things like this situation no longer makes me feel bad about myself.. and you know the next time i see them, all is fine, they stop and are completely normal and friendly.

A very simplistic example, but it really is possible to change it around.

maristella Fri 01-Jul-11 23:46:50

I don't think you can get over having a low self esteem, but I am proof that you can raise your self esteem.

I grew up in a toxic environment in which I was resented from day one. I was never praised, always criticised and reprimanded, despite being a capable, confident (to start with) child. Because I saw my sibling being treated with so much love and respect I knew this was unfair, although in later life I felt it was because I was not as adorable etc.

As a young adult I was emotionally so dependent on the validation of others, and had a succession of damaging and abusive relationships.

Change came after my break down, mid twenties. I saw a counsellor, who incidentally specialised in damaged teens. We talked through the reasons behind my behaviours; it was tough, and she pushed me hard, sometimes I bloody hated the woman, but every time we came down to the fact that I felt worthless and undeserving. Every time we reached that point she challenged me again and again, until I saw that actually I deserve respect, and began to more independent emotionally. It was such a major turning point for me, and I will now only be treated with the respect that I believe my DC should be treated, beacuse he learns from me and how I will be treated.

I no longer read into people's behaviours to an unhealthy extent. for example if I was not being included in sharing lifts etc, I would ask outright if I could join in; I don't wait to be included in conversation, I join in; I'm friendly to everyone I meet and if it is not reciprocated that is not my problem.

Sometimes I bump into my old counsellor out shopping etc. She is always amazed to see me buzzing around, making eye contact, working in a challenging environment, driving 100's of miles each week. When I first met her I could not talk face to face, it was too intense, but she made me to it; I could barely drive. She says I'm one of her success stories, and always tells me she is happy to see me happy.

My advice? Find a counsellor who can push you out of your comfort zone while also caring. She was not my first counsellor, but she will probably be my last.

emlu67 Sat 02-Jul-11 11:35:47

maristella it is interesting that you say you could barely drive. I have not been able to drive on motorways or fast roads for the last few years as I have panic attacks. I feel that at 50mph+ I have no control over the car and am a danger to myself and others.

Was this how you were? I am OK driving around local roads although can't say I particularly enjoy driving much at all these days.

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