Emotional Healing and the Causes of Low Self Esteem

psychological abuse
Let the Sunshine In

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” Khalil Gibran

I struggled and fought for some sort of “place” in the world for a very long time before I began to find my way out of that darkness that I talked about in my last post.  I felt as though I didn’t belong; as though I was different then everyone else; as though I was somehow on the wrong planet.  My healing began when I was able to face the causes.

That was where I found the answers to all my questions about why I had struggled so long with low self esteem, depressions, and dissociative disorders. It was scary to face the truth about my past, but looking back what was scary was that I thought “the truth” was going to confirm what everyone ELSE taught me about me. And what I had been taught about me was NOT the truth. I had been taught through actions, inaction, voice inflictions, direct statements and indirect statements, inference and intolerance, nurturing or lack of nurturing as well as rejection and that others WERE more important and therefore more valuable then me, all went into a big melting pot that became the collection of all the experiences that made up “my life” in order to form my belief systems.

The ways that I was treated and not treated, communicated to me that I was not really a valid person

And then on top of being defined as invalid, I had been taught, mostly in non verbal ways, that I was the only one that felt that way. That “my problem” was something that was wrong with MY thinking.

I was not seen as a person with value for so long, that I ceased to see myself as a person with value. “They” didn’t see me until I didn’t see me anymore either. As though I silently agreed that I really was not valid. Not part of the “we” anywhere.

And when I thought about friends of mine, I never saw them as valueless. I thought that this problem was only mine.  I could not understand the low self esteem of others, could not understand why they believed that they were not good enough, because I could certainly see their worth! But even when they expressed these same feelings, I didn’t think that they felt like I felt. I thought they were WRONG about themselves, but I didn’t consider that I was wrong about myself too.

The way that I had come to see it was that I “must have” exaggerated all of my “hurts” and in my own mind had made them far worse than they ever were.  I believed that I was not able to cope with “normal life” like a “normal person”. I did not realize that there were actual definitions of abuse and neglect that would confirm my feelings and suspicions. I never thought that I was valid enough to even look for them.  And the truth is that I didn’t know what “Normal Life” was! I didn’t know what was acceptable or what was unacceptable and as long as I wasn’t talking about it, I didn’t find out. I was afraid to talk about it because I knew that I would not be believed. I wasn’t even sure that I believed me anymore! I was afraid to find out that “the truth” was going to be that they were right about me so I was afraid to look to closely at the past. Add to the bubbling melting pot, all the instructions that I had received for so many years AFTER I had already accepted that I was not worthy:

I was told “The past is the past, just put it behind you”

I was told “You can’t change it, just accept it ~ grow up ~ get over it”

I was told “Acceptance is the answer” ~ and I tried to accept the wrong things 

I was told ~ “You are too sensitive”. “You are so dramatic.”

And “I heard” ~ “you are not enough, you are wrong, you are not worthy of your feelings, you don’t know what you are talking about, you are unlovable”, and I believed it.

It was always about ME… I was always the one who was defective. ME.  They made sure that my focus was always on blaming myself and on improving me.   

All the while I was searching for the illusive key that would make everyone see me as good enough. I thought that there had to be SOMETHING that would finally prove my worth.

And I could never seem to catch even a glimpse of that key to freedom, until I took a real look at the causes of how I had come to that point in my life. What had happened to me? Why did I think I was so unimportant?  I took that chance that it might hurt. I faced the fear of what I might find. I had nothing to lose!  Looking back today I wonder if it dawned on me that I was already in SO much pain that even if it caused me more pain, it was worth taking the chance that it might also relieve the pain.  I embraced the hope for complete healing when I had my first break through in the first week of looking at the causes.

My worth was there all along, hiding inside me, covered by layers and layers of the damage that came from mistreatment, lies, psychological abuse and all other forms of abuse and emotional neglect. As I pulled those layers off, dispelling the lies and exposing the truth about what really happened to me, I was able to embrace the child that I once was and begin to see just how blameless and powerless I had in fact been. 

By taking a look at the causes, and exposing all the lies that were attached to them, I began the process of emotional healing, and the darkness began to lift. 

Please share your own discoveries and feelings. Don’t forget to subscribe to the comments or check back as we always have great discussions here.

Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet 

Are you aware my of my e-book “Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing”? If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you and you would like to find out “HOW” I broke out of the oppression I lived in, this 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to busting out of the fog and to healing. I’ve received hundreds of thank you notes from people that have bought my book. Get yours here for 9.97 through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

63 response to "Emotional Healing and the Causes of Low Self Esteem"

  1. By: Lindsay Posted: 28th April

    Yes. I definitely felt exactly like this:

    “I felt as though I didn’t belong; as though I was different then everyone else; as though I was somehow on the wrong planet.”

  2. By: V. M. D. Posted: 1st May

    Thank you for these posts. I am stronger. I am ready for a change, to walk away. I have struggled, my entire family shames me for saying what my former step father did. Said he was an alcoholic and didn’t know any better. Told me they would never choose me over him. I’ve been with my husband since I was 14; he is a diagnosed narcissistic personality with sociopathic tendencies. Now at 42, I am done, tired and broken. I just need to feel like I’m allowed to go if I want to. So close. Thank you again for sharing.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th May

      Hi V.M.D.
      Welcome to EFB ~ Sounds like you have a pretty clear idea of how wrong this is and how unfair and horrible this is to YOU on all counts.
      I am glad you are here! Thank you for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Carlos Posted: 29th February

    For everytime my Dad called me stupid, my self-esteem declined dramatically. As a result, I could hardly believe it when classmates and teachers at school could see my potential, to the point that some of my teachers even said: “Why do you doubt yourself so much?” or “Your work is great, I see nothing wrong with it.” (Funnily enough my “loving” father also through me these questions along with a 5million yr lecture on positivity.

    I also became a perfectionist in the sense that nothing was ever good enough for me to show to my teachers or to my fellow students who needed my assistance, for I was in fear that I will severely compromise them.

    Furthermore, I became scared of asking people for help whenever I had problems, for I pre-determined that their reactions will be similar to that of my father. Ever since the abuse, I slowly started to find ways on how to solve my problems, so I no longer have to be a “burden.” I guess the people in my culture (Filipino) could say that I have consumed a lot of “pride” chicken due to my inability to ask for assistance in any kind of situation I encounter haha

    In my journey of healing, not only do I intend to change all of the lies about me, but I also to build some self-confidence within me. The healthy kind and not the “Me, myself and I” or “The party don’t start till I walk in” kind of confidence, if that makes any sense.

  4. By: Bushra Posted: 12th October

    Dear Darelne, if it was not for your post of this, I would have not found the reason of my suffering until now. Being systematically insulted, criticized, and bullied by your younger ones, parents, friends, and even siblings’ friends- Imagine what a torture! Since it was never my way to fight or win by back answering or going with tit-for-tat techniques, I just continued to take in the dirt (often not realizing it was), until now when it really hit me hard on the face, that its not ‘ME’ who isn’t valuable, but I have been shown what I was hiding deep inside me…

    Im glad I stepped on all the dirt I was thrown at, to rise up and get out of the well, I was intended to be buried in! What a relief!

  5. By: DXS (JJ) Posted: 7th June

    [quote]I was told “The past is the past, just put it behind you”

    I was told “You can’t change it, just accept it ~ grow up ~ get over it”

    I was told ~ “You are too sensitive”. “You are so dramatic.” [quote]

    My experience has been that when someone says, “Leave the past alone” that they are trying to hide some deep dark secret, or that they are trying to save face from something.

    I also got the “you’re too sensitive and too serious” crap. IS IT A FREAKING CRIME TO BE SENSITIVE AND SERIOUS? I found my sensitivity to be a gift. But my mom tried to beat this gift out of me, probably so I would not be able to “catch her in her crap.” One of my ex boyfriends had this same “sensitivity” gift. He didn’t teach it to me, I learned from him that I had the gift, I should use it. It took me years to fully develop this gift. Which is why I am now seeing the truth!

  6. By: Lynn Posted: 14th October

    Thank you Darlene:)

  7. By: Aurele Posted: 14th October

    Sorry, I would like to say “when he saw me in the house”

  8. By: Aurele Posted: 14th October

    I am in trouble now. My mother contact me to go to restaurant this day with my sister and grandmother. But I refused the offer explaining that it was too painful for me and that bring me back bad memories.
    But I also justified myself telling that I feel totally misunderstood.
    They see me as the one who is oversenstive, overdramatic and rebellious.

    My mother answered “I have never closed the door” and “come to visit us”.(she included my sister).

    But the way I escaped my “home” at 19, was very tramatic for me and I can never forget that she did nothing for me.
    I finally found the courage to escape myself for one night. Then I returned one morning because it seems too dangerous for me to escape ; my father saw me and kicked me out of the house.
    He said horrible things to me (that I have to pray him down on my knees he forgave me and that I have to tell to my mother she must take me by the hair to the door otherwise he would threw her out of the house too) . When he was me in the house again, I was standing up on a chair and he took me and made me fall on the floor with all his strenght.

    And finally I left and never came back.
    But I have kept a huge terror in me, huge.

    My mother never called the police or do something. A few months later, my genitor threw her out of “his” house too and asked divorce.
    And until today I am so confused because my mother is also a victim but I can’t have pity for her because I remember another scenes where she clearly took aside with him and agressed me too.

    So fuck off mummy, I hate you too.
    The least she could do now, is to give her testimony to the police.
    I don’t know if the justice could condemn him, I could feel better.

    Thank you for reading, hugs.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th October

      Hi Aurele
      Just because my mother is a victim that does not cancel the damage she did to me. Healing for me has been about validating that damage with NO excuses for the abuser. I can feel sorry for my mom today but it took me a few years of healing before I could do that without excusing her! I don’t excuse her part in the abuse I suffered.
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Lynn Posted: 13th October

    Let me add this… I do feel verry badly for the woman in this picture. She has absolutely no idea of what is in store for her with this man. I wish I could stop her but that is not my job. We can only bring change and healing by our own choices. My heart breaks for her because after he sinks his claws in and hooks her..the abuse will step up and there can never be a mutual relationship or authentic communication with a controller and abuser. Sometimes we choose and are attracted to what we feel most comfortable in..and sometimes that is an abusive relationship, Those days are over for me.

  10. By: Lynn Posted: 13th October

    Hello there, Recently while looking over the past mixed in the now, I see many causes as Darlene mentioned for feeling not valued. Growing up with seven brothers and sisters being the oldest, also a twin, I felt ignored kind of like I was invisible except when I proved a valuble labor asset in taking care of children…feeling just like My mom would look through me not seeing me at all. It is so hard to peel the layers back and see all the damage. Just like you said Darlene It is facing the pain and acknowledging the damage is difficult too. But the greatest challenge for me was leaving an abusive relationship with little money,the most horrific thing was leaving my 16 yr old daughter with her father, who brainwashed her to believe horrible things about me, told her before he left on a deployment that I had a mental disorder which she blurted out after he was gone. I couldn’t believe my ears..It took me yeas to get the knowledge and courage to leave this abusive man. I had stayed thinking I was doing my daughter a favor…all the years listening to him discount and blame me telling me that our home was not mine and that he was giving me a place to live!!!! dealing with crazymaking behavior and his cycle of anger and abuse put me in a state of shock and conditioning. There was no pleasing him ever…he is a master of parental alienation, manipulation and control. I finally had to leave our beautiful historic home and my daughter who needed to stay in a good school district and familiar surroundings and not a one bedroom apt in the the slums..the only thing I could afford. the first two years I cried to no consoling on Mothers Day for my daughter whose perception of me was completely controlled by my husbands brainwashing…I was a stay at home mom for all those years doing everything to make sure she had everything and supporting her exta cur. activities. The pain is beyond description. I had her at age 39 after years of infertility with my loving first husband who died of cancer after 10 years of marriage. then I met the man who is my daughters father, Sir AbusesAlot….I could not take care of the huge home on my poverty salary and he made good money and used financial witholding for years …My daughter is in college now, still at home under his manipulative abusive ways… and we are still not divorced after 2 and half years….still going on. My daughter goes in and out of seeing me, she is always welcome at my apt and I supporrt every event she is involved in as always. I am hoping that one day she will have an adults perception of who I am and not all she has been manipulated to believe over the years from her father. I finally had to leave and protect myself from his unending verbal abuse and physical as well. My husband has always treated our daughter like a confidant and wife and me like a child… Last night I took my daughter to the symphony… we were in our historic home so she could change clothes…on the counter in front of me was a picture of his new woman who is thin which is what he always wanted…I gained alot of weight over the 20 year marriage to cope with the abuse, he constantly down graded fat people in front of me or anyone else,… as I stared at the photo at first I was so angry because he had flown her to Colorado… saw the mountains in backround… and then it hit me….as soon as I left him…his narcissistic supply was gone( i was the cook, gardner, lover maid etc) then my daughter filled in starting where I left off…conditional love…I will love you maybe maybe not if you do whatever…nothing pleased him…ever..AND NOW he has chosen the new narcisscistic supply in the form of SKINNY ENABLING FRESHLY DIVORCED WIFE OF AN ALCOHOLIC husband co dependent…. for real???? he is so not awakened and I am so glad I left his controlling shell of a man… he will never do the work to heal his raging pain that he is not even aware he has..OMG the picture a reminder that I took the first step toward wholeness and self respect the day I left him and his abuse. Every day I pray that my daughter will someday be completely away from his narcisscistic personality and begin her own healing and self awareness. He disregarded my needs and opinions, our marriage was about how I can serve him and so does everyone in his life. I am so happy to have made the difficult decision to leave because of the heavy opression I was under but those tearful days were my first steps toward freedom and the beginning of of my journey to see how validated I am and to no longer tolerate his false definition of love and my false beleif as well. i am taking back my life from those who stole it it…thank you Darlene soo much for all of your insights and unbelievable courage you have had personally and for this amazing emerging from broken site that has just made me smile to know others get what I am going through, support is a thing of beauty..just like the raindrops in Death Valley bringing back life to cracked parched souls..so grateful, so very grateful to you Lynn

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th October

      Hi Lynn
      I am really glad that you are here!
      Thanks for sharing your insights. You are not alone.
      Hugs, Darlene

  11. By: diane Posted: 23rd May

    It is amazing to me as I now read these articles and comments how much I see the truth for what it really always has been all along, but I couldnt face it! This article is right on about everything! I always used to believe that it was me who was the issue and problem and that I could never be normal or function normally in the real world. One thing that I am being hit with over and over now is how many many times my parents…and extended family…would behave these ways to me as a child and even as an adult. And all of the different ways that they expressed these messages…and what I truly suffered as a child. I feel so free now that it is like looking back and marveling that I even made it through! But I didnt understand how truly abusive and hateful and degrading it was….but now I remember more and more and it is disgusting because I cant even imagine treating my own daughter with any measure of disdain and dislike. I realized that my parents treat their cats BETTER than they ever treated me and especially my older brother. Wow! That is so weird to SEE that they treated animals better than they treated children! Literally! As I read everyone’s comments, that same thought hits me….the animals are treated better than the sweet little kids…and that is a horrific thought to me!

  12. By: Sam Posted: 29th April

    “I felt as though I didn’t belong; as though I was different then everyone else; as though I was somehow on the wrong planet.”
    Ooh I know that feeling very well. I always felt like I was “on the outside looking in”, not fully there somehow like there was a large pane of glass between me and other people. In the end I began to wonder if I had Aspergers
    “My worth was there all along, hiding inside me, covered by layers and layers of the damage that came from mistreatment, lies, psychological abuse and all other forms of abuse and emotional neglect.” Yep haven’t quite found my worth yet due to the layers and layers to work through but I think I am making decent progress. I don’t have a therapist just me working through these blogs with the support of a understanding clergyman. Darlene your blogs are life savers I wish I had come across them sooner!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th April

      Hi Sam
      Thanks for these comments Sam. I am honoured! And YAY for “decent progress”. Finding my worth was like digging for treasure that I wasn’t sure was even there ~ lots of work and that feeling of doubt… but it was there! I found it and it was a bigger gem than I ever imagined possible!
      Keep striving!
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Brenda Posted: 10th September

    Another great blog.

    RE: “It was always about ME… I was always the one who was defective. ME. They made sure that my focus was always on blaming myself and on improving me.”

    Someone very wise on another site I used to read/post on said it this way: “THEY try to make YOU WEAR….who THEY ARE!”

    With that in mind, I’d like to add this short, amazing video: (a picture is worth a thousand words):


    (You’ll note that the crab struggles but then finally emerges backwards and for a short time…in the dark before setting itself free.)

    RE: “My worth was there all along, hiding inside me, covered by layers and layers of the damage that came from mistreatment, lies, psychological abuse and all other forms of abuse and emotional neglect. As I pulled those layers off, dispelling the lies and exposing the truth about what really happened to me, I was able to embrace the child that I once was and begin to see just how blameless and powerless I had in fact been.:

    Yes. The worth and beauty had been there…all along, hiding beneath the surface until conditions were ripe to finally re-emerge.

    With this in mind, here is an article/blog about the transformation and bloom of death valley in 2005:

    This extraordinary example in nature never fails to choke me up!

    Perhaps the ‘rains’ (metaphorically speaking) are the compassionate tears which must finally be shed for that little child inside of you, inside of me, inside of all of us in order to finally ‘bloom’.

  14. By: joy Posted: 29th May


    Hearing so much negative addressed to you as a child is what caused you to feel unvaluable; It is what I believe what caused my low self worth. Nothing I ever did was congratulated or acknowledged. Even though I may have been always good in school or made things nice in school, never did I hear anything like “you did a nice job” or “how pretty” Never did any my coloring pictures go on the fridge or even when I sang did mom attend to hear.

    In her mind I was totally worthless, only words I ever heard were am ugly, am stupid, am clumsy, am her worst mistake. To this day, if ever anything comes from her way. .its to demean and remind me I was never meant to be..

    My low self worth comes from the one who gave me life but says she needed money or I wouldnt even be here.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th May

      Hi Joy,
      All of it, the words, the actions, the “looks of disapointment, disgust, or whatever”.. all of it communicates a message. The message is that YOU ARE NOT VALUABLE. so it isn’t that it causes me to feel unvaluable as much as it taught me that I wasn’t. (I know it is a small difference, but those small differences in the way that I realized what happened were really important. I am so sorry that that all happened to you. No one can decide if anothers life is important or not. No one can define someone else that way. They do it, but they are wrong. It is so very wrong.
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: whole Posted: 25th May

    To JefferyW,
    How perfectly Whole you actually are. I see the utility–perhaps the absolute necessity, of the presentation of the various selves, but I delight in the careful, wise, completely complete person you actually are. Funny, isn’t it?

  16. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 2nd May

    I was considered the family hero. I was the one who was responsible, got good grades, was teachers’ pet at school every year, did what my parents told me to without arguing, protected my mom’s feelings, was the sexual partner of my dad by his choice not mine, was confidant to both parents, did all the housework age 11 on, etc. With all of this, I was still never good enough for my parents, especially my dad. They used words like stupid and idiot; cuss words (country for curse words)and face slaps and spankings with belts and switches. Shouting was part of the discipline in my house, regretably I still haven’t completely broken this habit myself when I am angry or fearful of something. My dad was a dictator so I never learned how to make decisions or choices for myself until I had been an adult for a few years. Then I learned what worked by trial and error. None of this taught me to have self-worth as a child. I have self-worth today only because I worked really hard to build trust and honesty inside myself. Your sense of self-worth affects everything in your life, especially your relationships.

    Jeff, I can relate to a lot of what you said about what I did or said never being good enough for my parents.

  17. By: Elizabeth Posted: 2nd May

    Oh and its curious, something I have observed: People who want all attention to be focused on themselves will resent anything going on with you, that just might take the focus off of them. You will be ignored. IMHO that may be part of what is going on with my sister…who knows….and it just might be what is going on with some others I am acquainted with. Recovery has caused me to be come a more astute observer.

  18. By: artcathartic Posted: 2nd May

    Susa > Elizabeth:

    Sometimes, it feels as though we give 200%, only to get a mere crumb of caring back in return. For us, it is a boundary issue, and we are working non-stop on that. I can see where some who were in our life before have begun to fall away, sensing that we are starting to develop somewhat of a sense of worth from the inside. It is a tough journey…. lots of hills…

    Wishing you the best,

  19. By: Elizabeth Posted: 2nd May

    Pam, I meant to say thanks to you as well: I really resonate with your words. My sister and niece are capable of showing love; i’ve seen them do it.

    And I know of course, that a quick call, or a message – even if they dislike me, would have been a reasonable thing to do, under the extreme circumstances. I think I must have had some expectations- I feel like I’ve been ‘killed off’ by them in some symbolic way, after last week-As I said stranger were and are helping and being concerned about about others and I had family are more interested in Farmville than to see if we were ok. Go figure. lol.

    as I said- I am finding out who needs to be in my new family. People who expect AND get attention and emotional energy when they have a bad hair day are NOT in it…lol

  20. By: Elizabeth Posted: 2nd May

    artcathartic, thanks for saying that. I appreciate it. Yes, being ignored in such a major way finalized on a very visceral level that to my family of origin- my sister and my niece- all that’s left- conider me already dead. I am nonexistent to people I unfortunately still love. And there is no explanation for it-. It apparently just is what it is.

    That is what I was trying to say in my above comment: that if the situation I went through-my daughter and I- and we received not even a call to see if we are ok, then apparently we are already considered dead to them anyway. That is freeing in a way; but I feel sad. It feels final.

    Yes I am working on creating more family, and that is alot harder than being born into one..lol. I am finding out who is a friend of the heart and who are the ‘drama queens’. lol. oddly, the ‘drama queens’ and the emotional vampires seem the most popular!

    And thanks – yes we are ok. I feel very fortunate. I have seldom been as frightened as I was last week.

  21. By: artcathartic Posted: 2nd May

    Susa > Elizabeth

    I just wanted to say that I understand on a visceral level how you feel being invalidated by family the way you were. Sometimes, we have to create our own, new families when some branches of our familial tree become gnarled, and diseased, and are no longer healthy for us to associate with. I am so glad that you’re safe, and that you are here posting.


  22. By: Pam Posted: 2nd May


    I also wanted to say that I am sad for you and your daughter in having to deal with the new trauma of the tornado. I can’t imagine. My prayers are with you and with everyone who is having to deal with the devastation.

  23. By: Pam Posted: 2nd May


    “it is not just dysfunctional, it borders on hostile” rings so true. I was thinking the same thing last night and my term for the way they seem to feel toward me is ‘malignant love’. It is not love at all but it seems to be all they are capable of and it is poison to me. For them to feel loved by me requires that I live under their degradation and tend to all of their needs. I know they believe that this was the reason I was born.

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