Child abuse is a horrific thing, whether it is verbal, emotional or physical. Parents who abuse their offspring often do so in all of these ways. Such abuse is hugely damaging to a child's self-esteem.
Sadly, even when the child grows up and gets away from the abusive parent, his or her self-esteem carries many scars from the past. If you were the victim of abuse during childhood, you can probably relate.
The abuse you suffered from your parents caused you to think very poorly of yourself. You doubted your self-worth. You did not believe you deserved to be loved. You felt like you were a failure and perhaps the cause of the abuse.
It is very hard to overcome such an upbringing, but you can learn to manage your self-esteem after abuse or neglect during childhood. You can overcome some of those negative voices, and learn to love and care for yourself.
You did not get to choose your parents, or the way they mistreated you. But, you can choose to work on your self-esteem as an adult. Below are some things you can do to improve how you see and talk to yourself.
1) Seek long-term therapy.
You will be wise to seek the help of a trained professional, especially one who specializes in abuse. Make it your job to find one who is a good fit for you and your needs.
You want to be comfortable opening up to this person about some very painful things. It will likely take some time for you and the therapist to develop a strong working relationship. As a result, you will need to be committed to seeking long-term therapy.
This decision will be one of the best things you can do for yourself. You were not at fault for the abuse you endured. But, you must not let it continue to hold you prisoner in your adult life and relationships, including your relationship with yourself.
2) Consider joining a support group.
Sometimes it really helps to find other people who can relate to your problems and issues. One great support group is Al-Anon. It helps children of alcoholics work through their relationship issues.
This group, or various other ones, can provide an incredibly supportive and safe environment for you to work through some of your self-esteem issues. You may make some very meaningful friendships there as well, and that will help further build your self-esteem.
3) Have faith that you can change.
You grew up in a world of fear, chaos, negativity and mistrust. Your self-esteem has probably taken a huge beating as a consequence of that abusive environment.
You need to dig down deep and embrace the idea that you can change. You absolutely can start to view yourself, and how you relate to others, in a more positive light. It may take some time, but it can happen.
4) Try to turn away from self-destructive behaviors.
Victims of abuse often turn to drugs, alcohol and other substances to escape their thoughts and lives. It is a very common thing.
If you want to reconstruct your life, though, and strengthen your self-esteem, then try to turn away from such self-destructive behaviors. They will only harm you more, and that is the last thing you need.
If you need some help with substance abuse, there are countless 12-step groups. These are outstanding programs, and they can help you completely change your life.
5) Try to forgive.
As a child, you were mistreated. You did not deserve that. It's natural for you to feel hatred for those who inflicted abuse on you.
However, one of the keys to being free of this abuse is to try to forgive. If you do not believe that, read the stories of some who have overcome abuse.
Forgiveness is something that you will primarily do for yourself. It is the one thing that can free you the most from the chains the abuser still binds you with. By letting go and forgiving, you are allowing yourself to move on, and to be open to healthy relationships.
Forgiving does not mean you have to spend time with your former abuser, or to be close to them. What it does mean, though, is that you have let go of your anger and hatred. You have accepted them for who they are, and you will try not to let their actions continue to haunt you.
These are but a few things you can do to manage your self-esteem, if you were the victim of abuse as a child. They will require great courage, but you are totally worth it. And, you will find over time that you are worthy of taking the steps necessary to overcome your past.