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Overcoming damaging effects of low self-esteem

(18 Posts)
AngryPuffin Tue 24-Oct-17 07:48:09

I'm hoping some people here will have experience and advice about dealing with low self-esteem. I've struggled with it for whole adult life (probably longer) but still coming to grips with where it started and how to address. I don't feel like my parents were critical or neglectful, although becoming a mother 2 months ago has made me start to see my childhood as being more problematic that I previously thought.

The reason I am posting here is that it is having a really damaging impact on my ability to relate to my partner and has done in the nearly 10 years we've been together.

While it manifests in feelings you'd expect, like feeling unlovable and losing a strong sense of self, the main way I express these feelings is through anger, which is very destructive.

I sought help from NHS and got a course of 1-2-1 CBT but it didn't help. The exercises relied on finding evidence that my bad feelings about myself weren't true but it just didn't work for me, because I couldn't find any! It actually made things worse because I couldn't find plenty of evidence for being unlovable. I basically just did my CBT homework, tried to make it work and at the end of the course allowed the therapist to believe I felt better. This is all very typical of me, I am a high achiever in large part because I can anticipate and meet people's expectations in situations like this. I just shelved the idea of therapy at that point.

Has anyone had similar experiences and found help that isn't CBT? Now I have a child I want to protect her from this.

Or does anyone have experiences from the other side, people who have been in relationships with people with low self-esteem? Could relationship counseling help or do I need to focus on sorting myself out?

Bumshkawahwah Tue 24-Oct-17 11:06:42

This sounds exactly like what I am going through right now. I always thought my childhood was OK, because I wasn’t beaten, or abused, or property neglected. And it was OK in many, many ways, but the way my parents were with me has definitely affected how I am. I was really resistant to that idea, because I do love my parents, and I hate the thought of blaming them for anything.

I’m seeing a psychologist right now (i’m living in the US at the moment, so obviously there are a lot of therapists around! ). I originally went to see her because of relationship problems and also just being so sick of this feeling of hating myself.

Like you, I also have found that my anger is having a very negative affect on my relationship. Basically whenever I feel hurt it comes out as anger, which then leads to be feeling even worse about myself. I can totally relate what you said about not having strong sense of self.

I think seeing this therapist since May And I honestly think I’ll be seeing her for a good while to come. It’s definitely not CBT, it’s just talking, a lot! And is helping, although very slowly.

AngryPuffin Tue 24-Oct-17 13:49:56

Thank you, it is really good to hear I'm not the only one. I feel like a monster sometimes. It's a shame the NHS doesn't go in for psychotherapy much because I feel I'd benefit more from exploration in the first place rather than being solution-focussed.

I'm really glad to hear it has been helping you. Are you in a relationship at the moment?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 24-Oct-17 14:30:34

You are not a monster, no way are you this. You sound very empathetic but are struggling with your own FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) re your upbringing.

BTW do you have siblings and if so were they treated any differently?.

I don't know much re therapies but I do know the CBT barely scratches the surface when it comes to dysfunctional and thus emotionally unhealthy parents so was not altogether surprised to read that it was not successful. The problem you have also is that on the NHS therapy sessions have a long waiting list and can only accommodate a small number of sessions. Ultimately you will need to find a therapist privately and you will need to interview several before picking one. Such people are like shoes and you need to find someone who fits in with you. BACP are good and do not charge the earth.

I would read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward as a starting point.

I would also suggest you read and post on the most recent "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these Relationships pages. That could well help you no end.

ravenmum Tue 24-Oct-17 14:54:30

I also found one-on-one talk-based counselling useful. You need quite a good lot of it, though, as the above poster said (you get a bit more here in Germany, too.). And you just have to be honest and admit how crap yu think you are.

I personally found anti-depressants helpful, as when I was taking them I was able to believe what I was learning. Now I'm off them I remember that, and how real it felt, and I can still persuade myself it is true.

Bumshkawahwah Tue 24-Oct-17 15:15:03

Yes, I am in a relationship. I am I’ve been married for 13 years and have two children. I’m starting to realize that I partly need to get the help myself, So that I can be a better month and I think I’m being at the moment.

Bumshkawahwah Tue 24-Oct-17 15:16:09

I have thought the same about myself, very often, feeling like a monster. I love my family so much, but I just feel like if I went away it would be a happier house for everyone then with me in it

AngryPuffin Tue 24-Oct-17 15:57:43

@AtillaTheMeerkat I have a brother, and would say we were close growing up and in our 20s, but I live abroad now and sadly have struggled to meaningfully keep in touch. He was the dominant personality growing up though, in competition with my dad. I realise now that I learned to accommodate for this as a child, reinforced by being considered the 'easy' one.

My parents and brother are frequently in touch via email etc and I know this is them reaching out to say they care. But we don't talk about anything that matters and I don't feel they know who I am as an adult.

I am naturally introverted and self sufficient but even as a child I remember being very protective of my personal thoughts and vulnerable sharing these. It definitely gets in the way of intimacy in friendships and relationships. it doesn't help that DHs (unintentionally) pushes some of these buttons, although he will also try to encourage me to feel safe opening up.

DH would be first to say he has toxic parents. I've always admired how far he's moved on from it, without considering that I may have my own challenges to confront. He has unfortunately learned really bad ways of arguing which are also very destructive.

Thanks for thread recommendations settles in for mammoth bfing reading session

Bumshkawahwah Tue 24-Oct-17 15:59:56

Oops - I used the dictation function for that second to last message. It should read ‘ be a better mother than I think I’m being at the moment’

AngryPuffin Tue 24-Oct-17 16:10:30

Bumshkawahwah I understood smile

Wanting to be a better mother is my main motivation. Feeling responsible for my DD's emotional security has made me realise how much responsibility I took on for my own - and my parents'.

I'm also worried about the dysfunctional nature of my relationship and that I'll be there sort of mother who puts that codependency first - i.e that I put my need for my DH's approval above her needs

expotition Tue 24-Oct-17 20:39:57

I identify strongly with all of this except the anger (I often struggle to express anger). For your reading list: Alice Miller, The Drama of Being a Child. I'm finding it illuminating.

expotition Tue 24-Oct-17 20:43:23

Also I've found CBT unhelpful because for me my inner "parental" voice is very rational and says exactly the kinds of things CBT approaches propose - so I'm already very accomplished at arguing myself out of my feelings. That's not what I need at all. Talking counselling with a good counsellor has been very helpful.

broccolicheesebake Tue 24-Oct-17 21:49:58

I relate so much to this! I had no self esteem whatsoever growing up and have really struggled with all kinds of relationships... Both friendships and romantic. My low self esteem manifests itself in avoiding close relationships and keeping people at arms length. Partly because intimacy feels so alien and partly because I don't really have much of a sense of why on earth people would like me. I learnt through counselling that this all stems back to not having a secure loving attachment to my parents. Dad is an emotional abuser and was an object of fear for me growing up. Anyway, I didn't do loads of counselling but learning about attachment was a huge breakthrough for me. It made me realise there was a solid reason for my inability to bond and get close to people. It wasn't just that I was a weirdo! That has been a bit of a catalyst for my self esteem improving.. I would agree with finding a private therapist that you truly click with flowers

Howlongtilldinner Wed 25-Oct-17 00:21:29

I also have terribly low self esteem. I’m despising myself at the moment, and cannot see why anyone would want to like me. I’ve been ‘angry’ for as lng as I can remember.

I was bullied in my primary years, this has hugely impacted my life. Like the OP I can’t remember a dreadful childhood, but maybe something was lacking? I need to explore this too..

AngryPuffin Wed 25-Oct-17 06:20:51

Broccoli, it's interesting you mentioned attachment theory, I remember studying this at university. But for 15 years I had taken it for granted my attachment was secure. I'm not convinced it isn't, yet, but giving some critical thought.

"I don't really have much of a sense of why on earth people would like me." - I could have written this!

AngryPuffin Wed 25-Oct-17 06:25:13

How long, I also was bullied in late primary and middle school by a single 'friend'. When I think about it (which I try not to), she really zeroed in on my vulnerability around trying to accommodate for dominant personalities and my fragile sense of self, in a vicious circle.

broccolicheesebake Wed 25-Oct-17 09:47:31

I did a little bit of attachment theory at uni too puffin, but it never occurred to me until I had counselling that I had an insecure attachment, myself. I've even wondered before if I am on the autistic spectrum due to my trouble in forming relationships confused, but no, attachment theory explains everything for me!

AngryPuffin Thu 26-Oct-17 14:26:08

The more I read about it broccoli the more I agree! It really is like a light switch going on and all the other clichés. Now I need to work with out how not to repeat it with DD. Having had such a great start to the day I've just had row with DH, again triggered by my angersad

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