Self esteem – streaming down the generations


8 ways my unhealthy self esteem can reveal itself and the impact it can have on others.

We believe in taking responsibility for our emotional health. By doing so we impact ourselves and we impact others. Those of us that are lucky enough to be parents have a special responsibility because a great deal of what and how our children learn is a reflection of the role modelling they receive from us. While this impacts across all 7 areas in which we support growth there is one where it becomes the most obvious and impactful – that being our self esteem.

Remember, self esteem is about how highly we value ourselves and issues with it are often revealed by our need for external validation.

The ways we role model self esteem to the younger generation

Below are 8 ways in which our children will develop healthy or unhealthy self esteem as a result of our example.

Of course, self esteem is not the exclusive issue that is underlying all of these behaviours but it will be a substantial factor.

1. Crisis management: It’s all about me

It is rare for anything to go perfectly every time. It is unusual for our plans to fall perfectly into place. If we work in areas that rely upon others for success then chances of delays, misunderstandings and issues arising are increased dramatically. Having healthy self esteem can be the difference between an issue being seen as a challenge and a drama. It can be the difference between the rational adult seeking a solution and the child-like drama addict turning it into a crisis.

2. Rising to the challenge: It’s ok to fail

Life is about challenges and if we never step outside of our comfort zone then we will not grow and start to understand our potential. Those who have a healthy sense of self worth will find that they are able to set themselves challenges and deal with failure better than those that don’t.

Those of us with unhealthy levels of self esteem may experience these issues in a couple of ways:

– When faced with a challenge, we may not give one hundred percent effort to it. This is our psyche taking out an insurance policy so that if anything goes wrong we can claim on the policy by saying “I wasn’t really trying anyway.” This is, of course, potentially the ultimate self fulfilling prophecy since by not giving one hundred percent effort and concentration I am setting myself up for failure anyway.

– The other way we may experience this is by setting ourselves up for failure or setting unachievable goals. We don’t do this consciously but deep down a little voice tells us the lie that if we can just achieve that almost unattainable goal (winning The X Factor for example) then everything will be ok and everyone will see me for the amazing, brilliant person that I really am.

In other words our self esteem can cause us to set ourselves up for failure either by setting the bar way too high or by not committing enough to the goal.

3. My negative beliefs: Taking things personally

The less we value ourselves the more we think others do not value us either. We carry around with us deeply held negative beliefs that guide our reactions to perfectly innocent words or actions. The fact that we are taking it personally means that we are making it about us. The more we make it about us the more it reveals the little gaps we have in our self esteem armour.

The challenge with taking things personally is that it can lead us into conflict with others unnecessarily.

4. My rescuing: The world needs me…see?

The rescuer is the personality that, put simply, goes around rescuing people. This is the person that defines themselves by how helpful they are, how everyone relies upon them, and how many people would not be able to cope if they were not there to rescue them. They will leave themselves emotionally under-resourced in order to support others and will allow their need to help others undermine both their physical and emotional health. They take pride in putting everyone else before themselves.

Neediness – watch me, listen to me, love me

You know people who are constantly needing the attention of others. Those people that will do anything to get that attention and once they have it, they need more. That is an exaggerated personality, albeit real. There will, however be part of this in many of us and it can be seen in the following most common examples:

5. Conflict: If I get angry I win respect

What I am describing here is the conflict that is caused by one party feeling that they are not respected, listened to, valued, etc. Subconsciously they believe that being angry with you will cause you to feel differently about them. It won’t, but it doesn’t stop them behaving that way.

6. Perfectionism: If you think I am perfect you won’t see the real me

Those that think that if they present an image to the world of being completely perfect in everything they say and do then we will not find out the true story. Like a lot of these issues, what others think of us is a huge part of what we think of ourselves. This can be closely linked to body image issues and social media usage.

7. Social media: Chasing the likes because that’s how I measure my value

Social media has a lot to answer for but the reality of it is that it is about how we use it, and how we let it impact us. For those of us with unhealthy self esteem, getting a load of likes or drawing others into conversation on social media fulfills a need in us. The challenge we have is that the self esteem monster does not get satisfied by the initial boost of likes or the attention. In fact, it soon becomes hungrier and hungrier and needs more and more attention.

8. Working too hard: My job/career is the only thing that gives me value

Those of you who work with others may recognise this personality. It is the person in the office, team or organisation that gets in before everyone else and leaves after everyone else. They feel victimised by their own behaviour and give the impression that if they did not do what they do, the whole organisation would fall apart. Of course this is their way of trying to get the respect, acknowledgement, praise and anything else that it may bring.


As you read this it will not be surprising if you are coming to the conclusion that trying to sustain unhealthy self esteem through the variety of ways outlined above can be really quite tiring. It is. At its worst it is emotionally exhausting, yet many of us who do not know better continue down this road.

As stated at the beginning of the article, even if you are comfortable behaving this way would you want your children to be seen in this way?

Through focused effort, developing different healthier habits and behaviours and by taking one small step at a time, we can learn to value ourselves healthily, rely less on others for validation, and impact a whole generation of people who see what we do and unconsciously copy it.