Fixing Low Self-esteem from Childhood Sexual Abuse

It’s my experience that building self-esteem as an adult can prove challenging. Without first tackling the underlying reasons for why we suffer with poor self-esteem, this challenge is something we will need to keep coming back to, time and time again. And so with this in mind, how refreshing is it, to finally understand the cause and consequences of low self-esteem, so we may reap the benefits of raising it?

Read the following and ensure that, if you find the issues raised particularly relevant, you seek professional assistance 

When young we are powerless in the face of powerful adults. If these adults, who we were led to believe loved us, failed in their duty of care we can become damaged. If they abused us a sense of powerlessness becomes entrenched within our psyche. More often than not, the damage caused by abuse, hampers our development and follows us into adult life. Childhood abuse is a common cause for low self-esteem.

The reasons for this can, on the surface, seem complicated. Even so, when we’re able to break through the layers of confusion that have been built up over time, it is possible for us to unscramble what initially seemed complicated. Let’s look specifically at sexual abuse.

The conflict sexual abuse creates in the child-mind is extraordinary. On one level we may feel special that we’ve been picked out for the kind of treatment we experienced. For example, I’ve heard siblings ask (when it was a sister and not them who experienced sexual abuse) was I not good enough or something? On another level the abuse itself may have felt repulsive and yet nice in equal measure. The end result is confusion, conflict, and guilt. The boundaries that were shattered at that time will need to be rebuilt in a healthy fashion from this point onward. 

In terms of damaging self-esteem, as time passes, the experience of abuse forms some very conflicting and confusing beliefs 

Sexual relationships in adulthood often become abusive in that they replicate the powerlessness felt whilst abused as a child. We form the beliefs that we are in some way secondary and an object to be used simply for the pleasure of others. We may become people pleasers with our needs always placed at the bottom of the list. Sexual deviance is common amongst those who have experienced this during childhood. We may have learnt that sex is a means to manipulate and as such find constant difficulties and confusion in our sexual relationships.

Acknowledging the damage inflicted on us during childhood is an early first step to building self-esteem. When we’re able to clearly see the vulnerability of the child we once were, we’re able to understand how this vulnerability has followed us, into adulthood. Whilst we remain ignorant to the damage inflicted in childhood, we remain ignorant, to the nature of our unconscious beliefs. 

We know that some days we can feel confident and on top of the world and we also know that on other days we feel the opposite. This is the consequence of conflict within the mind. Understanding cause and effect helps us to break free from a damaging past. When we understand the consequences of abuse, we empower ourselves, to remove much of the guilt surrounding it. One thing to consider now is how our guilt has caused us to turn anger and frustration inward and how this also damages self-esteem.

Those who decide to seek assistance, with unfinished business from childhood, often become very angry. Focusing anger outward can be extremely liberating 

It may seem strange to say that children blame themselves for their abusive past and yet it is true. How do we build self-esteem if all we do is blame ourselves for the failings of those around us? It will always feel like your fault and your responsibility if you hold guilt at the unconscious level. 

When we can acknowledge, at a deep level, how our power was taken from us when young, we can start the process of learning to love ourselves from the inside. Power from within comes from love. Love yourself sufficiently and building self-esteem becomes a surmountable challenge.   

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