The Impact of Self-Esteem Wounds on Your Educational and Career Success

This is the fourth of my four-part series on the impact of self-esteem wounds. We have looked at the impact of such successwounds on our mental health and overall well-being and on our relationships. Today we’ll examine their impact on educational and career success.

While self-esteem wounds can be in any area, we can generally divide them into person wounds and performance wounds. Person wounds occur when we feel that we are not likable or lovable and anticipate that we will be rejected or ignored. Performance wounds occur when we feel we are inadequate and incompetent and anticipate that we will fail or be judged.

As you might expect, performance wounds have a greater impact on educational or career success. While the fears of rejection, typical of person wounds, can make one back away from opportunities because of social fears, such an impact seems to be less frequent.

The impact of performance self-esteem wounds is pretty obvious. The person believes that she is not as smart, capable or competent as others. She looks at an educational possibility as totally out of her reach. She believes that others can do it, but not she. She chooses an easier major or a lesser degree.

When the employee questions his abilities, he will be less likely to share ideas in meetings. He will worry that his suggestions are unimportant or worthless. He will anticipate disapproval from others on the team. If he does speak up, his anxiety may impair his ability to present his ideas with clarity. He may seem hesitant and unsure of himself. Others may not give his recommendations proper consideration, completing his self-fulfilling prophesy.

It’s sad to think of the potential talent that has been ignored or wasted because of self-esteem wounds. These false, destructive self-beliefs prevent many from realizing their true potential. Highly intelligent and capable individuals settle for lesser positions and we all lose.

We need to do everything we can to help people recognize the presence of self-esteem wounds and promote healing. It is possible to heal self-esteem wounds. My book, “Parables for a Wounded Heart” is designed to do just that. It is actually a combination book and workbook, as the chapters conclude with exercises. You might also check out my webinar, “Reclaiming Your Positive Self-Esteem.” This four-hour course provides another resource for that healing.


Question: Have you seen the limiting effects of self-esteem wounds on yourself or someone you love? What steps have you taken to combat such wounds? 

The Impact of Self-Esteem Wounds on Your Relationships

This is the third article in my series on the impact of self-esteem wounds. Today, we’ll look at the impact of these Self-Esteem and Relationshipswounds on relationships. We’ll examine how your choices, your perceptions and your reactions in relationships can be altered by self-esteem wounds.

A self-esteem wound is a negative belief about self that has been created by previous negative experiences. Such wounds can be classified as person wounds or performance wounds.

A person wound means that the individual believes that he is not likeable or lovable. He may expect or anticipate rejection.  Person wounds are produced when an individual experiences rejection or emotional distance from some family members or friends.

Performance wounds mean that the person believes that she is inadequate or not able to perform as well as others. She will anticipate that others are judging her and being critical. Performance wounds are created when one experiences harsh or frequent criticism or judgment during childhood.

Our Reactions:

First, let’s look at the impact of these wounds on your reactions in relationships. Scar tissue is more sensitive than the surrounding skin. Likewise, a self-esteem wound makes us more sensitive in that particular area.

Person wounds make us much more sensitive to incidents of rejection, disengagement or distance by others. When we are left out, we feel it more deeply. We hurt more intensely. Our reactions to perceived rejection are more intense or pronounced. Our partners may be confused and feel that we are overreacting. Conflicts may develop.

Performance wounds are similar. They make us more sensitive to incidents of criticism or judgment. We experience a deeper hurt when we feel criticized or judged. Our reactions may be anger and defensiveness or shutting down and distancing, but they are intense. Our partners may be not understand why we felt criticized or feel that we are overeating. Again, conflicts may ensue.

Our Perceptions:

Perception is the brain’s attempt to make sense of the world. Our senses send patterns of electrical signals to the brain. The brain then has to put those signals together in a way that makes sense and has meaning. For example, when you look at a flower, your eye sends patterns of electrical signals to your brain. It doesn’t send a picture of a flower. Your brain has to interpret those signals, based on prior experience, and identify those signals as a flower. This works perfectly most of the time, but perception can be distorted at times. We see examples of this when we look at optical illusions.

Perceptions of social or relationship events work in much the same way. We observe a person’s words, facial expressions, body position and behaviors and have to make sense of the information. Our brain puts the data together in a way that makes sense to us. We “read between the lines” and conclude more than we actually know. We assume what the other person is thinking or feeling, based on an interpretation of their tone of voice or facial expression. Like the flower example, our brains interpret the information based on prior experience. If we have experienced rejection in the past, we anticipate rejection and often perceive rejection, when it really isn’t there. Likewise, prior experiences of criticism or judgment cause us to perceive that others are criticizing us even when they aren’t doing so.

We don’t react to other’s actual intensions or feelings, because we can’t know those. We react to our perceptions of their intension or feelings. When we misperceive, problems occur. Conflicts and confusion follow.

Our Choices:

This issue is a bit complicated, but here goes. Our self-esteem wounds often have an impact on our choices of partners. We tend to find ourselves in relationships with people who frequently touch our wounds. Those with performance wounds (who are sensitive to criticism and judgment) tend to feel more attracted to people who seem critical or judgmental; people who seem hard to please. Those with person wounds (who are sensitive to rejection) of more attracted to people who seem distant or uncaring.

The pattern can be even more extreme. We often see the son of the alcoholic parent later marry the woman with alcohol or drug problems. Or we see the daughter of the abusive parent in an abusive marriage. Of course, this is not always true, but it often occurs.

It is important to note here that the partner rarely exhibits those behaviors in the beginning of the relationship. He or she isn’t critical, distant or abusive in the early stages of the relationship. Those behaviors don’t start until the relationship is firmly established.

Also, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in a relationship with the wrong person. It means that you have to work through how you react to those behaviors. Successful relationships can develop if we react to the other’s criticism or distance with vulnerable assertiveness. Being assertive, while sharing our hurts (not anger), can often bring relationship healing. Of course, we have to protect ourselves from abuse.

As I said, this issue is complicated. You can read more in “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.


Question: Have you seen the impact of self-esteem wounds on your relationships? What steps have you found helpful in addressing such issues?

The Impact of Self-Esteem Wounds on Mental Health

This is the second in my series on the impact of self-esteem wounds. Today we’ll look at the wound’s impact on thedepressed_man_001 individual’s emotional health, mood and general quality of life.

I’ve practiced outpatient psychotherapy for over 32 years and I have seen so many people who were experiencing depression that was fueled by self-esteem wounds (negative beliefs about self and negative self-talk). Now, I want to point out that depression can be caused by multiple factors including chemical imbalances, genetics and physical disorders, and should be evaluated and treated by a professional. The evaluation can begin with your primary care physician, a psychologist, counselor, social worker or psychiatrist.

So, not all cases of depression are caused by self-esteem wounds, but such wounds are often a major contributor. I will first talk to my new client about his symptoms, which can include sad mood, crying spells, decreased energy and motivation, difficulty making decisions, sleep and appetite changes, and sometimes suicidal thinking. I then try to gather information about the factors that may be driving those depressive symptoms.

The client will often share a history of negative experiences in childhood, negative beliefs about herself and hurtful relationships in adulthood. She will often blame herself for negative life events, poor choices and perceived failures. She will interpret events in the most negative way possible. She will often be angry at herself for her perceived faults.

Her negative thinking seems to be a constant companion. She says things to herself that she would never say to another human being. She abuses herself in her mind. She never even notices it, because she has done it so long.

This kind of thinking drains her mood, impacts her choices and steals any pleasure or enjoyment. One client said that her depression took the color out of her life, and that everything seemed to be black and white.

The negative impact of self-esteem wounds isn’t limited to those with clinical depression. Most people, with self-esteem wounds, are functioning quite well. They don’t look depressed. They don’t act depressed. They work beside you, attend your church, and perhaps even live in your house.

Their lives may not be severely limited by such wounds, but they suffer nonetheless. They keep their pain to themselves. You would never guess that their minds are filled with self-critical thoughts and self-doubt, but they are.

Comment:  Knowing the pain of self-esteem wounds and the prevalence of those wounds keeps me motivated to share tools for healing. Help me share this message. Share this post and share a comment on the world’s need for healing of self-esteem wounds.