Q. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt negative about myself. How does that happen?

A. Some studies suggest that your initial level of self-esteem is in place by the age of three. It develops largely on the basis of:

  • How you were treated
  • What you heard people say about you

If your care providers said affirming things to you (e.g., you are a valuable person, I am so glad you are part of this family, you are worth my time and money, I like to spend time with you), you likely developed an appropriate level of self-worth. If the opposite was true, you may struggle with issues of low self-esteem.

If you heard grandiose of magical-thinking comments (e.g., you are the most wonderful person in the world, you can do absolutely anything you want in life, you are more important to me that anyone else on this planet, people need to give you special recognition since you are so special), you may have developed an overinflated opinion of yourself.)

This is a good opportunity for you to do some family-of-origin work and discover contributors to your present opinion about yourself. It requires hard work to recraft your sense of self-worth, to develop a balanced and optimum level of self-esteem. It can be done, however, and it’s worth the work.