Self Worth; Where does it Come From?


Self worth, self esteem,

There are little messages that we get when we live in an abusive or dysfunctional environment, or even if our home environment is not abusive, but we are being devalued or mistreated in any way somewhere outside of that environment. Remember that all abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse is all equally destructive to self esteem and self worth.

Our self esteem suffers so much when we are being abused or mistreated and it is extremely confusing to a child. Other messages factor in to complete and to complicate the picture. So a lesser message piggy backs on an already seriously damaging message and confirms the suspicion I already have; I just wasn’t worthy.

My parents divorced when I was 13. My mother constantly said she didn’t have enough money to live on. I don’t know if that is true, I didn’t have access to the books, but as a child we can only base our judgements on what we see and what we hear. We base our conclusions on what we believe to be the proof.

My mother said that she didn’t have enough money to raise us kids and that our father didn’t give her enough child support. She constantly complained about the power bill; we were not allowed to have heat in our bedrooms and she complained about groceries. To this day her voice rings in my head “I never wanted to be a single mother” This was a statement that she made as an excuse for everything. As a child the message that I heard is that she didn’t want me and that her love for me was conditional and the condition was that unless she had someone to help her raise children, she didn’t want children. By the time I was 15 years old, when she said that she never wanted to be a single mother, my mind replied “ oh that is why you are not a mother at all”

My father acted like he paid child support so that was all he had to do. I remember when I got my first period, I was 13 and I had to go to my father’s for the weekend after school. I needed money for sanitary napkins. When I asked him for some money, he would NOT give it to me unless I told him why I wanted it. What a nightmare that was. As an adult I told myself that it was his right to know why I wanted a couple of dollars. But the problem was the belief that developed when I was just a young teenager who didn’t want to tell her father that she needed pads, complicated by the fact that I believed he didn’t trust me with two freaking dollars to go to the drug store. And so the conclusion that I drew was that he didn’t have to, or want to give me anything extra then what he paid my mother for child support, that I wasn’t worthy OR trustworthy.   

I stole my clothes when I was in grades 7, 8 and 9; not because I was a bad kid but because my mother didn’t buy them for me. I didn’t steal tons, just what I needed.

Remember I am talking about my belief system and how it formed. So here was the conflict.  My mother had an amazing wardrobe both for work and for social. She has several full length evening gowns and shoes which she wore every weekend to attend the singles dances she liked to go to. She had money for her, but not for me. My mother had a diamond dinner ring made for herself from the diamonds out of the wedding set my father bought her. I knew that it cost her about 750.00 to get that ring made. Jeans were $20.00. How come she didn’t have enough money for me, but she had enough for her?

I learned my “worth” by the messages that I received. I was not as important as her dresses, her diamonds, her boyfriends, her girlfriends. I was in her way and I cost money, precious money that could have been put to better use and spent on herself.

And my father washed his hands of me the day that he left.

Those are the messages that I got, right or wrong and when I write about this stuff, it isn’t for the purpose of exposing my mother and father, but exposing MY belief system. (I don’t have any resentment anymore.) Those were the conclusions that I drew from the decisions that they made, from the things that they did and said. And from those messages, I drew the conclusions that I did about myself, my value, my worth and lack of it.

What are the conclusions that you drew about your worth or lack of it? Can you link it to a message you got that caused you to draw that conclusion?

Exposing Truth ~ One snapshot at a time.

Darlene Ouimet

There are many posts on this blog related to the belief system development, self esteem and self worth. Please use the Category buttons to access other posts for further snapshots.

24 response to "Self Worth; Where does it Come From?"

  1. By: Pam Posted: 16th October

    I realize that this is an older post but, I had to reply because it has really hit home with me. My father left (ran for his sanity) when I was 11. Thus started my mothers lamenting about how she never wanted to be a single mom. Opposite of your life however, I know my father paid support….$100.00 a week for me and that was back in the 60’s! He had to pay all medical bills, all school related bills, a $500.00 year clothing allowance plus…he made the house payments on the house we lived in and bought my mother a new car 3 years after the divorce!!! But all I ever heard from my mother was what a burden I was and she didn’t know how she was going to afford her new outfit for a party she was going to or a new date. However, it seemed that she always had new clothes, hair done every week, expensive make up and jewelry and the most fabulous lingerie I have ever seen to this day. That was where all the support money went to. Oh and my clothing allowance. She would take the money and buy me a few cheap clothes and shoes…she took all the rest for herself. When I would need shoes because mine had wore out I would have to go back to my dad and beg for money because mom had spent all the money! That lasted till I was age 15 and went to my dad and demanded that he give me the money instead. Boy, did I pay for that with my mom! The ring also really struck home with me….she had 2 diamond dinner rings she bought her self cause she deserved it having to live with such an ungrateful child as me. (my sister on the other hand was perfect!) No wonder I never told her that her boyfriend molested me…she would have pitched a fit and made it all my fault. To this day she is still as selfish and narcissistic a person as I have ever seen. I just finally have learned to walk away. I gave her way to many chances.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 16th October

      Hi Pam
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      I think that was where a lot of the money my mom got to support us went too… and like you are saying here, it is the message that all of this communicated to me that was the problem. My mother said “she deserved” things too! I think that communicated to me somehow that I didn’t deserve.
      Thank you for sharing. I totally understand about not telling her that her boyfriend molested you! My aunt walked in and stopped my mothers boyfriend and that is the only reason my mom found out. She still didn’t believe it or validate it.
      Glad you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Kathy Posted: 18th October

    I never had to steal clothes but my mother absolutely hated me. I could not tell her anything without getting a slap in the face so I learned to keep my mouth shut. When I started my period I was much older 16…I was a ballet dancer and I would steal tampon’s from the dancer’s and from friend’s houses so I would never have to tell my mom and being humiliated. I learned as a child that I was worthless, a mistake and felt that my purpose of life was to be everyon’s toy/punching bag. I’ve carried these feelings into my adult hood and I’m beginning to release them and regain my value. I have to love myself in order to teach my two small girls the same as they look up to me. It’s not easy, I know I’m a good mother, but when I really sit with what I was taught and believed for so many years it aches my heart. So, that’s why I’m putting it here. When I hit submit comment that is release for me!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th October

      Hi Kathy,
      It is amazing what we have survived. My heart aches too. I love how you have stated that hitting the submit button is a release for you! (Sometimes I feel that way when I hit the publish button too! )
      My motivation to recover had a lot to do with my kids, just as you have stated here.. but one day I realized that it was also a big key to my own happiness and that doing this work for myself was such a powerful example to my children. Showing them that we can overcome. This is how the world changes, one example of healing at a time !
      Thanks so much for sharing Kathy and for being willing to break that cycle!
      Love Darlene

  3. By: G. H. Larrivee Jr. Posted: 17th October

    This was a profound posting!

    It exposes many of the truths those of us growing up in families where we (for whatever reason) felt disconnected from our parents feel. I think that you hit the nose right on the head.

    While my struggle was not identical to yours, I feel the same pain from you that I experienced coming up. Then, when I had my son, the generational curse (which I talk about in my book) started to repeat itself. It is truly inspirational to read about your childhood and how you viewed the world. I’m subscribing to your blog. 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 18th October

      Hello G.H. Welcome to my blog!
      One of my goals is to in someway contribute to breaking the cycle of that “generational curse” that you mentioned here and that is a big reason that I write the way that I do. It is hard NOT to pass on our belief systems to our own children ~ and the only way not to do that is to change our own belief systems, but the HOW part is really tricky because so often we don’t even know what they are.
      Thanks for being here. I look forward to your thoughts in the future!

  4. By: pattygalloway Posted: 17th October

    awe jeez, I jsut want to clarify my last post…both daughters where in their teenage years when all that took place…Sorry I got waay off topic here..

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Don’t worry about getting off topic. This blog has a way of motivating people to share whatever they need to share… and that is okay with me as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
      hugs, Darlene

  5. By: pattygalloway Posted: 17th October

    yes, I know your right Darlene. thanks for looking out 😉

  6. By: pattygalloway Posted: 17th October

    I cant say I never hit my daughters, for there were a couple of instances where both of them challenged me…One was my youngest daughter age 15…She was having a tantrum and hit me, being from my background it probably wasnt the smartest thing for her to do…I instantly gave her a few good wacks, and told her if she ever put her hands on me again that would be the end of her…Yes, I am ashamed of it, I felt so guilty, the thoughts of them moments, how that rage come over me, and my whole body was shaking, I saw my mother in me…I hated that image..the thoughts that I was thinking & seeing, I should be shot for..I felt realy unstable but somehow stopped myself but if she took it a step further I cant say what would’ve happened..Same for the older tried it, too…it was so unexpected but I let her feel that Im not one to be messing with..No-one suffered injuries or bruising….I then started to use the police for when they got outta control for they were fighting each other alot at one point, the oldest was realy outta control, I was scared to get in the middle and get hit cause I knew what it might do to me..not to mention there was a baby in the house too! glasses would be flying, gallon jugs of water…Omg wat chaos..Finally one was arrested and I got b4 a judge and got the help..the oldest went to juvi for a couple weeks followed by counseling, the youngest in anger management..Whew! that was a very scary time period for me..

  7. By: MZC Posted: 17th October

    Yes, my mother also resented my existence and though not using those words, through her rage attacks and humiliations and physical abuse and not allowing me any feelings and suchlike, made it clear that it would be better that I was a burden on her. In fact, two years ago she told me how she, unlike the other mothers, hated seeing the yellow school busses because it meant that she had to stay up after her third shift job to get me ready for school instead of being able to go to bed right away.

    This plus the sexual abuse led to a lifetime of depressions that I eventually discovered were disguised anger, but not until after years of suicidal thinking and a couple of attempts.

    And I was so afraid of passing her bad traits to my own children that I planned to have a fatal accident. That was prevented by the providence of God (an interesting story) and I started talking to someone who was in a graduate counseling program and she helped me see that my mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which means that her focus is entirely on herself. Through the years, she’s learned to give the socially correct response when she wants to impress someone, but occasionally the first selfish impulse comes out of her mouth.

    Would she have noticed the sick relationship between me and her boyfriend if she had been able to focus on something besides herself? I’ll never know, but I think maybe she would have wondered about where the bladder infection came from and the premature sexuality.

    I also learned that though my kids were probably damaged in some way, they are essentially normal, and I am so happy.

    It’s been difficult to change my view of self after so many years of believing I was worthless, but it’s happening, and I think other people are noticing.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi MZC
      My mother didn’t always use “words” either ~ the thing is that we do get the message.
      Your last line says it all! you wrote ” It’s been difficult to change my view of self after so many years of believing I was worthless, but it’s happening, and I think other people are noticing’ and that is what it is all about! changing our view of self!
      Thanks for sharing.
      p.s. I was also afraid to pass any of this on to my own children; so afraid that just before I tried one more therapist, I was going to leave.. but I tried one more therapist and finally made a really new beginning! (I hope that I get to your story about how your plan to have a fatal accident was prevent one of these days!)
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: pattygalloway Posted: 17th October

    sometimes I do feel that Im worthy, but I know deep down I dont feel it…I was told that I was a worthless piece of shit from such a young age..There was far too much abuse for me to not feel worthless..Not just by the severe physical abuse,early in age we were left home alone alot, many x’s no food ect..remember clearly climbing counter tops searching empty cabinets biting into an onion, playing w/roaches…,,My older years many things were kept from me,for ex. family gatherings etc..Confined to my room or bathroom when people came over the house,socialy unexcepted by my mother., My kids never when w/out food ect..NEVER, nor things like underwear ect..I have issues w/over buying food/underwear etc.. I was both mom & dad to them..stress’d out to the max trying to cope w/it all!!. normaly wat I say goes, bottom line..I would let so much build up and then off on yelling and cussing at them..My mouth was awful!!….They sure share w/me more than I would ever be willing to share w/my mom, but sometimes feel, that they cross a line of respect w/me…They can be inappropriate and disrespectful and I will adress it,..There has to be a line drawn somewhere! some kids 2day have no respect at all, are clueless, never taught to be responsible, accountable, or consquences..I want them to have that..but not by beating it into them!..I never beat them nor let anyone eles beat them either…but one thing I do notice..I am paranoid, that they are out to get me..weird! guess I relate it to how my family is…Im the black sheep amonst the wolves when surrounded by them

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi Fi,
      Ya, I carried shame from stealing too. I knew it was wrong. Even then I told myself that I would tell the police that I my mother wouldn’t buy me clothing and I had no choice… but I still felt “wrong”. I think I always felt wrong and that was just one more thing, only that “thing” proved to me that I really was wrong.. and bad. It was like the other post that I wrote, the one about telling the lie about the nightmare; I did a few things that were “bad” and I convinced myself because of them that ALL of me was bad just like they said. They didn’t love me because I was “bad”. This is all part of the sorting out process ~ realizing the true from the false, and correcting the false. I try to let go of the rest.
      I want to admit things from both perspectives on this blog. That I was not a perfect child, but that I also didn’t have a chance to start with, because we all have these “things” about ourselves that we harbor as the “truth and the proof” that we deserved what we got in the end. And in order to “undo” that we have to look at the whole picture, often for the very first time ever.
      Thanks so much for adding your own stories Fi, I really appreciate you!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Patty,
      Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a wicked childhood too. When I started to look at the truth about my childhood, and where my self worth ideas came from, I was able to sort it out. It was important for me to sort out that foundational stuff before I worried too much about what I had done with my own kids. For me it was important to go one step and stage at a time. I could spin out of control on some other subject that was better off being thought and sorted out in the future. I found that I could use the spin of “other problems” to distract me from what I was working on. I am not saying that you are doing that, I guess that I just see so much of how I was in your post, that I want to caution you to be gentle with yourself. =) You brought up a lot of stuff.
      Thanks for being here, and welcome to the blog part of EFB!
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 17th October

    I can so relate to the stealing of clothes – I remember having to steal clothes, food and drink many times between the ages of 9 and 18. I had to steal clothes because the only clothes provided for me was my school uniform. They never asked where my clothes came from, maybe they assumed I got clothes from friends or something.

    I was often turfed out on the streets and had to steal food and drink because my stomach was empty and I was thirsty because I had no money. There was no such thing as pocket money for me.

    I had to steal sanitory pads too because I had to go to my mother for supplies and often she refused me. Other times I was on the streets and had no money but had my period. I was lucky that when I was a kid there was very little security in shops unlike now. I remember mirrors being introduced and then I had to be more careful.

    I’ve carried a lot of shame deep inside because of all the stealing from shops I did. It was so awful having to live like that because I’m a very honest person.

    Thanks for giving me permission to talk about it!!

  10. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 17th October

    Hi Darlene, another great issue to raise.

    I know my belief system that I was worthless and have nothing of any value to say from various sources.

    Initially my mother’s total rejection of me as a person and as a girl from birth and her making sure I knew in uncertain terms exactly how awful she perceived me to be.

    As I grew up she deliberately and systematically destroyed my self worth by telling me over and over that I was stupid, worthless, trouble, evil, bad and deserved everything done to me because I was so bad and evil AND I was to never think of myself in any other way.

    So not only did she persistently and deliberately undermine me but forbid me from ever thinking of myself differently. It was as if she was deliberately programming my mind.

    That has made it so hard for me to make any changes to my belief system.

    Alongside that I was abused by every single male and female relative which installed in my belief system that I deserved only bad things and wasn’t worth any good things, nor could I do any good.

    I’m having to work very hard to ignore her programming and try to reprogramme my mind to accept that I do have worth, that I deserve good things and did not deserve all those bad things. The issue of being bad and getting what I deserved is very hard to reverse.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi Fi,
      Yes this is very hard work. This is hard work for anyone, because so many other things factor in. We hear the messages from the past at every turn. We hear unworthy, not good enough, useless, and worthless. I used my knowledge of the real truth, the events that I had finally admitted to and connected to (that they happened to me ~ not some “other part of me that I was disconnected from” to reassure myself that these things I heard in my head that contributed to me doubting myself, were lies. It was a process of building myself back up according to the real truth.
      Thanks for sharing your journey here Fi. Your honesty about all things is such a major contribution to the content here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  11. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 17th October

    I hurt for the little girls that we were.

    In 12-Step programs that I started back in 1989, I was told that any unresolved issues in us got passed on to our children. I did a lot of really hard work really fast because I didn’t want to pass my incest issues on to my children. Today, my children are 31 and 33. I see in them the fears that I had when they were children. My son is so burdened by fear that he has panic attacks.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      I hurt for the little girls that we were too. I try to remember when it comes to my own kids that I have faced and continue to face what held me back. I have made amends and I am making a living amend.. I continue to try my hardest to see them each as the individual that they are, to empower them to be who they are and pursue truth and passion. I have made mistakes, (and will make more) and I have admitted the ones that I am aware of. My kids are more comfortable with me today. They don’t hesitate to tell me things, they don’t resist the relationship. Things are getting much better. (my kids are still teenagers with the oldest being 19)

  12. By: DragonHeartSong Posted: 17th October

    Darlene, I can ~so~ relate to your story, especially your relationship with your mother. My mother actually paid me to disappear. She bribed me with $20 twice a month, with the proviso that she never wanted to see or hear me when she was home. I had to be in my room with the door closed, out walking (rain or shine), or over at a friend’s house – hell, I could be anywhere, as long as my mother didn’t have to deal with me.

    I have done a great deal of healing work around this issue, and I’ve come to the realization that my mother was projecting her own compromised self-worth onto me.

    Mom’s death earlier this year has been a powerful catalyst for spiritual growth and emotional healing. It’s not that Mom’s death was in and of itself a “good thing;” rather, I will not let her death be pointless.

    The Magnum Opus that I’ve been waiting all my life to write is nearing completion – 100,000 words that tell my tale, and which have been written in the last two-and-a-half months. Soon, I’ll be shopping for a literary agency and/or publisher.

    I believe strongly that the Universe craves balance – every challenge comes with a gift of some kind. In my case, Mom’s death has freed me from concerns that telling my whole truth would offend and anger her.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi Shary! Welcome!
      When I wrote this post I hadn’t thought about it that way (that people might wonder what the implications with their own kids would be~ but since I learned all this stuff I have been so much more aware of how I communicate to my kids. I have noticed a positive difference in the relationships that I have with them too! We do pass stuff on, no one is perfect or does relationship perfectly, but I noticed that my kids did well as long as I was trying to show them equal value to myself. (that doesn’t mean equal authority)

      I have written a lot about how I felt sorry for my mother for years, and let her treat me like crap because of that. It was like I gave her the excuse, and even permission. The bottom line for me was that I STILL feel sorry for my mother, but she can’t treat me like crap anymore. One has nothing to do with the other. THAT was the hardest part for me to understand. With my own kids I had to really start looking at my belief system in different ways ~ did I believe they were “less” than me? did I think that I had a right to talk “down” to them. did I always in love, or was I acting for a desire for control? I almost went back into a depression worrying about what I might have done wrong with my kids!!! AND I event thought (many times) about quitting therapy because facing the whole thing was just too freaking hard! That would have been a disaster! SO, we do what we can, change what we can, and go forward when we can.

      Thanks so much for being here and for raising this great point! Hugs, Darlene

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th October

      Hi DragonHeart
      Your mom paid you to be away from her?! That is a first for me!
      I am thrilled to hear that you have compiled your life story and truth into a soon to be completed book! Congratulations on that milestone. There is a huge concern amongst survivors about telling our stories and offending our parents. I struggle with this every time I write a post about mine, not because I am concerned about them anymore; I am not altering any truth, nor do I have any wrong motives for writing, but I struggle with how much others want to cover up for their parents at the expense of their own mental health. Even my mother had a mother and father that totally devalued and mistreated her ~ and she did not have any example of love or parenting ~ she had all these same problems that I had and then she had kids ~ and she also did not want to stand up to her mother, (her father disappeared when she was a teenager) and my mother never did stand up to her mother; I would like nothing more then for my mother to do her own healing work. It breaks my heart how hard this is for us to do our healing work, based on the truth of what happened and what we believe about ourselves because of it.
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Shary Posted: 16th October

    What a challenge on how we treat our own kids. Yes I was hurt and may have bad beliefs but am I passing them on?

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