Trauma and Low Self Esteem

Do you feel like you spend a lot of your time worrying about how you are perceived by others? Do you often feel “less than”, or over-analyse each of your words and actions once you have left a situation? If you feel like this, it’s very possible that you are suffering from low self esteem that could be attributed to your trauma. A study done in 2018 which looked at the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and self-esteem found that the “higher the tendency for PTSD, the lower the self-esteem”. According to the study, “the onset of PTSD causes a decline in memory ability and attentional function, which interferes with one’s life and leads to self-denial, resulting in a decline in self-esteem”. 

Examples of trauma related low self esteem:

  • Seeing people whispering and laughing and immediately thinking that they are talking or laughing about you.
  • When someone you consider to be an authority figure (parent, teacher, policeman, boss) asks you to talk to them, always feeling guilty and as though you’ve done something wrong, even when you haven’t. 
  • Focusing on one negative comment when you may have received 5 positive ones. 
  • Believing that people don’t want to spend time with you.
  • Not understanding why friends or partners would care about you, or love you. 

Guide for improving your self esteem: 

Be aware of negative thinking – It can be difficult to identify negative thinking patterns, however try to take the time to examine your thought processes. Slow yourself down and monitor what you think. In doing this you will be able to get an increased awareness of your thoughts and eventually you will see how they impact your mood and behaviours. 

Slow the negative thoughts down:

It would be unrealistic to believe that you could completely switch off all negative thoughts. Often we are so used to telling ourselves negative things about ourselves, or catastrophising about our futures, that completely getting away from them would be near impossible. You may find that more you try to expel them from your consciousness, the stronger they get. Because of this, it is important that you learn ways to be able to distract yourself from these thoughts. There are many techniques that you can use such as mindfulness, deep breathing and yoga or other forms of exercise. It’s important to understand that distraction is not about avoidance and these methods won’t necessarily make these thoughts disappear. However, they may enable you to take a moment to reassess, give yourself some distance from the thoughts and slow them down which may make them easier to cope with. 

Challenge your thought patterns:

If you have managed to slow your thoughts down and taken that step back, see if you can, with the distance you’ve put between yourself and the negative thoughts, challenge them. Normally you will find that you just accept your thoughts, without questioning their validity. When dealing with negative thought patterns, it can sometimes be really useful to ask yourself a few key questions about the thought, such as:

  • What is the evidence that proves this thought is the reality?
  • How are you feeling right now whilst you are having this thought? 
  • Would you still have this thought if you felt differently, i.e. were happier, less stressed etc? 
  • What would you tell someone you cared about to do if they told you they were having the same thought? 
  • What might be a different explanation for the one you have in your head right now? 

Positive affirmations:

At first positive affirmations can feel silly and awkward to do, but the more you practice them the easier they will become and the better you will start to feel about yourself. When you notice yourself slipping into the familiar negative thought patterns, try to counter them by telling yourself something positive about yourself and your life. List your accomplishments or the qualities you value in yourself, or if that’s too hard, the qualities you know others value in you. If it’s too hard at first to list how wonderful you are, focus on your life and the great things you have already done and what you have to look forward to in the future. Perhaps a walk or a coffee with friends in the next few days, or a trip you might be taking somewhere. You don’t only need to use positive affirmations when you are feeling really negative. In fact, it’s a great idea to practice them daily so you get used to talking to yourself in that way. Another tip is to write some down on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet, so you can remind yourself when you are stuck. 

Try not to get discouraged if you are struggling with any of these methods. Remember, not all coping strategies will work all the time. Some may work in a particular situation, and not in others. In fact, some listed here may never work for you. The key is to try them all until you find the ones that suit you.

Stop the cycle of merry-go-round treatment and find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron House helps you find the path you need toward health and wellness in recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).