There’s Too Much at Stake

In my thirty-four years of outpatient practice, I have seen so many people who suffer from self-esteem wounds; teacher_and_studentwounds that were undeserved and unnecessary. When children experience harsh criticism, they learn to see themselves as inadequate or not good enough. When they experience neglect or rejection, they learn to believe that they are unlovable or unimportant. When they are abused, they tend to see themselves as bad or defective, and feel shame.

In each case, their negative beliefs impact their thinking, their choices and their relationships. Frequent self-critical thoughts can beat the person down, creating depression, anxiety and helplessness. Poor life choices place the person in situations where their self-esteem wounds are deepened. Relationships are often damaged by negative assumptions and reactions created by self-esteem wounds.

We know that these wounds exist. Teachers see them every day in the classroom; the boy who bullies others to feel better about himself, the girl who thinks she’s ugly, or the boy who proclaims that he doesn’t care about grades, but really thinks he can’t succeed.

When they grow up, they get better at hiding self-doubts or insecurities, but they are impacted nonetheless; choosing a lesser job because they doubt their ability to do their dream job, avoiding others because they assume they don’t fit in, or staying with the abusing partner, while blaming themselves for the abuse.

We know that these wounds exist. So why don’t we do something about it? Why don’t we address the problem? What can we do?

Imagine the possibility of a comprehensive self-esteem education program in every school, where students learned to question their negative self-beliefs and fight their negative thinking. Could such a program help an abandoned child realize that she wasn’t at fault? Could it help the harshly criticized boy see his true abilities and potential? In such a program, could a child learn that bullying behavior really comes from a low self-esteem, and that no child deserves to be sexually abused? Even if it didn’t help everyone, it could help some.

I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I believe we should at least be asking the questions. What should we do? What can we do? We must do something. There’s too much at stake.


Comments: Please share your thoughts about ways that self-esteem education could be implemented in the schools, and other places, to address self-esteem wounds.

When Bad Things Happen

Here are five truths that can help you when you are going through life's valleys.

Certain realities in life can only be seen through eyes cleansed by tears.

                                                                         Pope Francis


Why do bad things happen? A national survey asked people what they would ask God, if they could ask him only onewhen bad things happen question. The number one question posed was, “Why is there suffering in the world?”

The only accurate answer to that question is, “I don’t know.” We may speculate. We may have our theories, but there will always be events in this life that are beyond comprehension.

For what it’s worth, I’ll briefly share my personal thoughts on the question, noting that others have voiced similar opinions. First, I don’t believe that God causes bad events. I believe God suffers along with us when we suffer, because He loves us. I also believe that God can, and does, use bad events for good. I believe we experience pain and suffering in this life, because we live in a sinful and broken world. Much suffering is directly caused by sinful behavior, our own or someone else’s. Other times, bad things happen where no sin was involved, such as physical illness or natural disasters. In these cases, it makes sense to me that such events occur simply because we live in a broken world.

So, we’re left with the reality that bad things do happen. Since we can’t change this reality, we need to look at how we can best respond to it. There are several truths that can help us with our response.

  1. Bad things happen to everyone. We are not alone or unique in our suffering. We may perceive that life is easy for some, but we would be wrong. Others may hide their dark days or seem to handle them well, but they still occur. Understanding that life is difficult for everyone helps us accept our difficulties with more grace.
  2. We don’t have to feel alone. When bad things happen, we need to lean on others. We need other’s support. If you are a believer, you know that you need to lean on God during these times. I know that my spiritual growth accelerates during my difficult times. During such times, I am reminded that I need to depend on something greater than myself.
  3. Others don’t have to feel alone. We naturally reach out during the bad times. We want to help, to support, and to encourage. We are blessed when we reach out to bless others. Bad times spur us to do this.
  4. We see life more clearly. Bad events help us see what is really important. Issues that once seemed so important, fade into the background. Our bad times work like a miner’s sifting pan, allowing the unimportant and trivial to fall back into the river, while highlighting the true gold in life.
  5. We reorganize our priorities. I have worked with many people who have altered their life’s direction following a negative life event. Some have come to a place of gratitude for the bad event, as a needed turning point.

So, we are left with the reality that bad things happen to everyone. We can’t avoid them. We may not be able to understand them. But, we can work on how we respond to them, and that can make all the difference.


Comments: Please share the steps you have found helpful during the bad times in life.

Who Do You Trust?

Self-esteem wounds can often make us trust the wrong people.

Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. When we trust, we have Who Do You Trustconfidence in that person or thing. We trust people when we believe that they will be honest and treat us well.

So how do we choose who to trust? Why do we trust one person more or less than another? Is our decision always rational or reasonable? The answer is no.

Of course, we do trust some people because their past behaviors have proven them to be trustworthy. Each time we interacted with them, they behaved in a reliable or truthful manner, and so gained trust in our eyes. They earned it.

This kind of trust is fairly rational. We are rarely let down by such earned trust, but sometimes we are. We’ve all had the experience of someone letting us down for that first time. They had been trustworthy in the past, but this time they weren’t. It’s painful isn’t it?

When trust is broken it hurts. We begin to doubt what we thought we knew about the person. We even doubt our past experiences with the person. Were we being fooled in the past? Were they who we thought they were? Was the whole thing a lie? And we all know that it takes much longer to build back trust than it took to lose it.

But our decision to trust is sometimes not rational. Sometimes we trust when we shouldn’t have. Sometimes we trust despite warning signs that we shouldn’t trust. Why is that?

I have found that such misplaced trust often occurs when we have self-esteem wounds. When we don’t value ourselves, we tend to blame ourselves when we are treated badly. We perceive that their negative treatment of us is somehow our fault. Our tendency to self-blame keeps us from seeing their negative characteristics. We make excuses for them.

Our friends and family often see the negative traits of the other person. They try to warn us and urge us to leave the situation, but we don’t listen. We continue making excuses for the hurtful person and blaming ourselves. We fail to see the truth.

Do you find yourself in a relationship with a hurtful person? Do you keep trying to be good enough to please them? Have you ignored warnings from friends and family? Take a long, hard look at the relationship. Would you want a loved one to be in the same relationship? If it wouldn’t be good enough for them, why is it good enough for you?