8 signs your low self-esteem can be traced back to your childhood

Do you know what your problem is?

No, it’s not your low self-esteem.

In fact, I’ve found time and time again that it’s the lack of knowing why you are the way you are that holds you back from experiencing true healing and living the life of your dreams. 

After all, we all have our pasts and our shadows. 

It’s the parts of us that the mind buried in our subconscious in an attempt to keep us safe.

But time has a way of reminding us of our unhealed wounds.

So in this article, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to uncover the subtle connections between your childhood and your self-esteem struggles today.

And if you’re the type who doesn’t believe that your earlier experiences can have a lasting impact on your self-worth, here are the eight signs that might prove otherwise.

1) You have a deeply seated belief that doing more is contingent on being loved

You might have grown up in a home where you didn’t feel emotionally safe to be yourself because you always had to prove something. 

You might have felt that your parents’ or your family’s love is conditional. 

As a child, you were often told that:

“You’re so mature for your age.”

“You have to be the best.”

“If you fail, it reflects poorly on us as parents.”

So as an adult, you fear that who you are at your core will never be enough

Which is why you always need to go the extra mile in whatever you do. 

You also play too many roles just to meet other people’s needs, to the extent that you sacrifice your authenticity. 

So even if you know that you’ve done great and deserve praise…

2) You have difficulty accepting compliments

When you rarely heard praise or appreciation as a child, it’s so easy to dismiss compliments as an adult. 

In fact, it’s easier to doubt people’s sincerity.

Compliments almost feel like a foreign concept to your nervous system, which is why your immediate response would mostly be awkwardness or avoiding eye contact.   

And instead of saying “thank you” or “I’m glad you think so, too,” you respond with:

“Oh, that was nothing.”

“I was just lucky.”

“Anyone could have done that.”

If these sound familiar, then you might struggle with accepting compliments due to your low self-esteem. You might also be scared of the spotlight or becoming the center of attention.

And sometimes, people mistake this kind of response for humility. 

What they didn’t know is that… 

3) You suffer from chronic self-doubt 

“I’m indecisive because I’m such a Libra!” 

Yes, that might be true. 

But it’s also possible that you have low self-esteem, which manifests as indecision and chronic self-doubt. 

I know because I’m also a Libra who can’t help but overthink and question everything several times before making a decision. 

But through my shadow work journey, I realized that my inner child got so overwhelmed and confused because my mother conditioned me to believe that the world wasn’t safe. 

I love my mom, but she unconsciously passed down a lot of her acquired limiting beliefs to me, that as an adult, I struggled with trusting my own intuition.

Honestly, I’m still in the process of unlearning some of these limiting beliefs, and there are days when I still second-guess my choices and feel anxious about them. 

So if this resonates with you, my advice is to always follow your gut. 

Remember that your intuition will be your perfect guide in situations where…

4) You struggle with saying “no”

If you have low self-esteem, it’s highly likely that you also have poor boundaries. 

Perhaps you were programmed to embody the “nice girl/boy” identity as a child. 

Or were raised in a home where you were constantly made to choose between what you wanted and what your parents wanted.

And this could be anything from choosing your degree in college, your career path, or even your significant other!

What most parents fail to realize is that by not respecting their children’s boundaries, they’re teaching them to always prioritize other people’s well-being over their own.

And that’s not how you live an authentic life; it’s a guaranteed path to misery.

Remember that emotionally mature adults can handle disappointments, so don’t worry about disappointing people from time to time. 

Always choose what’s best for you and express your truth, even if…

5) You’re scared of ruffling some feathers

8 signs your low self esteem can be traced back to your childhood 2 8 signs your low self-esteem can be traced back to your childhood

You might have struggled with controlling parents who didn’t respect your individuality.

Or maybe you grew up around people who shut you down every time you expressed your truth.

When you were raised in an unsupportive environment, you might develop visibility wounds.

This is when you’re so scared of being seen and triggering others that you’d rather play small, keep your mouth shut, or suppress your true desires. 

But here’s the thing:

You’re not responsible for your parents’ or anyone else’s emotions. 

You’re not here to wear a watered-down version of yourself and seek the approval of others.

You’re here to get to know your soul on a deeper level and live life on your own terms. 

And it’s essential that you learn this truth by heart, especially when…

6) You have a habit of comparing yourself to others

Did your mom or dad frequently compare you to your siblings or other kids? 

Did they make it clear that they have their favorites?

Because if they did, you might have grown up believing there was something wrong with you or lacking within you. 

In other words, you’re insecure

So as an adult, you start to view life as a competition, a never-ending race. 

You also compare your journey to others, fearing that you’re always behind in life.

As a result, your mind becomes so fixated on the future that you struggle to appreciate the present moment.

You also tend to chase people and opportunities, but when presented with what or who you want, you make up excuses, like:

“I’m busy.”

“I’m not ready.”

“I’m not qualified.”

When the reality is that you just don’t feel good enough.

It’s also the reason why…

7) You have the tendency to view every criticism as an attack

This is especially true if you have overly critical parents who shame you for your sensitivity, don’t know how to emotionally validate you, or can’t tell the difference between constant criticism and encouragement

You might have heard these phrases most of your childhood:

“You’re so sensitive.”

“I can’t believe you’re upset about this.”

“I’m the parent; I know better.”

You might have also been brought up in a home where your supposed role models didn’t make room for failure or allow you to make your own decisions. 

This kind of upbringing can turn you into a defensive adult who has low self-esteem and always takes things personally.

In reality, you just have a hard time accepting your shadows. 

But true healing can only take place when you treat yourself with compassion and allow yourself to listen.

Yet this is often hindered when… 

8) You actively avoid challenges

I know that life is hard enough. 

And most days, you just want to do your job, go home, relax, and take your mind off things.

We all crave a carefree life. 

But if you’re someone who actively avoids challenges and prefers to stay in your comfort zone, then you might struggle with low self-esteem

This can be a result of a childhood where you were discouraged from exploring and experiencing new things and even meeting new people. 

Sometimes parents do this because they want to protect their children from getting hurt.  But they can’t keep their children safe forever. In fact, they’re not supposed to. 

You’re meant to experience the duality of life and welcome the full spectrum of human emotions

This includes both light emotions like joy, satisfaction, and excitement as well as dark emotions like disappointment, sadness, and grief. 

Also, don’t be afraid of the changes in your life. 

As George Addair once said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.”

Final thoughts

I realized that until you become aware of your childhood upbringing, parental conditioning, and limiting beliefs,

You’ll always believe that there’s something wrong with you.

You’ll always play it safe and unconsciously disempower yourself by accommodating others and rejecting your truth.

You’ll always downplay your potential and feel stuck.

But here’s the truth: You’re not who you are today because you’re inherently flawed. 

While your past experiences undoubtedly have an impact on how you perceive yourself, they will never determine how your present and future are going to unfold. 

So it’s essential to realize that low self-esteem is not a permanent state

You can still strip away the shadow programming that you’ve acquired from your parents, media, culture, and society. 

You can still release the old beliefs that no longer support your expansion and instill new ones.

That’s the beauty of life

You’re constantly changing, forever evolving, and always capable of healing. 

Picture of Julienne Merza

Julienne Merza

Hey, I'm Julienne - a freelance writer with a passion for all things spiritual, wellness, and personal growth. I practice slow living in the countryside, where I have constant access to trees, wildflowers, and bodies of water. I love romanticizing the mundane and finding magic in life's simple moments. Through my work, I aspire to share my stories of healing and overcoming. If you feel aligned with my energy, please say hi to me on Instagram: @irishjulienne

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