Self Esteem Within Families
Do you live with a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty? Is it hard for you to trust? Do you ever find yourself to be more concerned with what other people, such as your spouse or children, feel about you, and prioritise this over how you feel about yourself?
A lack of self confidence and low self esteem can contribute to a range of unhealthy family dynamics and can result in crippling your individuality and autonomy.
The symptoms of low self esteem can vary in extremities, but can include
- Setting high hopes in expectations of others, but being prepared for disappointment
- A lack of trust in others
- A feeling that you have nothing to give, and therefore an assumption that nobody would expect anything from you
- A strong dependence on others
- Angry or intense reactions to family disagreements or difficulties
How you choose to cope in a world that has constant pressures and changes often relates to your level of self-esteem. With low self esteem, you may think some “cause” determines your reaction. You could believe that it is specific events that make you angry, such as a sudden decision your partner has made, or some money they have spent without discussing it with you. These conflicts can quickly spiral, leading to a general inability for the family to cope. Poor communication can lead to further poor self esteem, and so the cycle continues.
In fact, your choices of reaction can range from heavily dysfunctional to optimally functional depending on how you decide to handle the situation.
When you think about it, “causes” do not determine your reactions. You have the power to take charge of how you respond, forming your own context. This behaviour, once cultivated, enables you to make a major life shift from being the victim of your own poor self esteem, to becoming empowered enough to take ownership and responsibility. Not only will you feel the benefits, but your family will too.
Communication within families plays a vital role in making this happen. Self-esteem impacts on communication and will inevitably play a significant role in family dynamics and behaviour.
“I’ll do absolutely anything to please you as long as you don’t reject me”. Does this inner-monologue sound familiar? So often with low self esteem, this can be the subtext of communication. It feeds into dysfunctional dependence, lack of trust and fear. It can take time to re-learn this pattern in a different way, by shifting the communication to include you as a priority, and of equal importance to the family around you.
Within a nurturing environment, families must respond to each other in a way that nourishes and enhances one-another’s self esteem. By taking ownership of your reactions and expectations, as well as adjusting your language (which in turn will alter it's subtext and general reception), you can begin to take helpful steps towards a healthier, happier family dynamic, where your ‘self’ is recognised as an important, positive and welcome influence.
Written by David Crispin, HKICC member.