How to Build Self-Esteem After Childhood Trauma


Self-esteem, the regard or respect that a person has for oneself, is a crucial component of personal development and mental health.

It serves as the foundation of our self-worth, influencing how we perceive ourselves, interact with others, and navigate life's challenges.

However, experiences from our past, particularly childhood trauma, can significantly impact our self-esteem.

Childhood trauma, whether it's emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, can leave deep imprints on our psyche.

These traumatic experiences can distort our self-perception, leading to low self-esteem and issues such as anxiety, depression, or relationship problems in adulthood.

Thus, understanding the connection between childhood trauma and self-esteem is vital for healing and rebuilding one's sense of self-worth.

Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Kelsey Motley, LPCC

Kelsey Motley, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Joseph Anders, LPCC

Joseph Anders, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

(719) 696-3439
Susan Taylor, LPCC

Susan Taylor, LPCC

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Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC, NCC, EMDR-Trained

Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC, NCC, EMDR-Trained

(719) 345-2424
Katherine Miller, LPCC

Katherine Miller, LPCC

(720) 449-4121
Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Derek Bonds, LPC

Derek Bonds, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Laura Hunt, LPC

Laura Hunt, LPC

(719) 452-4374

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Steps to Building Self-Esteem After Childhood Trauma

A. Acknowledgment and Acceptance

Acknowledging the trauma means permitting yourself to recognize that you were hurt as a child and that this pain has deeply affected your life.

This step enshrouds the dark corners of your past, casting light on the experiences that have chiseled away at your self-esteem.

It is in this courageous act of acknowledgment that you validate your experiences, give substance to your emotions, and start making sense of your current struggles with self-esteem.

Acceptance, the second compass point, isn't about approving the trauma or forgetting it.

It's an understanding that the past, while it is part of your life's tapestry, does not have to be the pattern that defines the whole.

Acceptance involves therapy, where a mental health professional can provide a safe space for you to work through your feelings. It involves self-reflection, perhaps through journaling, where you articulate your thoughts and emotions, fostering deeper understanding.

It includes mindfulness practices, like meditation or yoga, keeping you anchored in the present rather than adrift in the past.

And importantly, it's about self-compassion, allowing yourself room for pain, mistakes, and growth.

Acceptance is the compass point that guides you towards a future where your past informs but does not control your identity. 

B. Seeking Professional Help

In the journey of healing from past trauma, seeking professional help is an important step.

Various therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be beneficial. CBT helps you understand and modify thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviors or beliefs, while EMDR is a specialized therapy particularly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

A therapist or counselor plays a pivotal role in this process, providing a safe space for expression, guiding you through therapeutic techniques, and helping you develop coping strategies.

When choosing a therapist, consider their specialization, approach to therapy, and whether they create a comfortable environment for you.

It's essential to find a therapist with whom you feel a sense of trust and rapport, as this relationship forms the foundation of your healing journey.

C. Self-Care Practices

Self-care practices play a vital role in nurturing self-esteem, as they reflect an active commitment to one's well-being.

Physical self-care, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, can significantly impact your mood and energy levels, consequently boosting your self-perception.

Mindful activities like yoga and meditation are mental self-care practices that help reduce stress and foster a deeper connection with oneself.

Emotional self-care might involve journaling or expressive arts to process emotions, while social self-care could mean spending time with loved ones or seeking support from a trusted community.

For instance, taking a relaxing bath after a stressful day is a form of physical self-care.

Engaging in a mindfulness meditation session to clear your mind represents mental self-care.

Journaling about your feelings after a challenging situation is an emotional self-care practice, and having a video call with a friend is a form of social self-care.

By regularly engaging in these varied self-care practices, you can cultivate a stronger sense of self-worth and resilience.

E. Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are powerful tools that can help reprogram your subconscious mind, replacing negative thought patterns with positive self-beliefs.

These are short, empowering statements that you say to yourself regularly, reinforcing a positive self-image and boosting self-esteem.

Affirmations work best when they are personal, positive, present tense, and precise. Repeat them regularly—upon waking, before sleeping, or during moments of stress or self-doubt.

Visualizing the affirmation as already true and speaking it with conviction enhances its impact. Here are some affirmations to get you started:

  • I am worthy of love and respect.
  • Every day, in every way, I am becoming stronger.
  • I have the power to change my story.
  • I am more than my past; I am my potential.
  • I accept myself unconditionally.
  • My strength is greater than any struggle.
  • I am proud of who I am becoming.
  • I choose to be kind to myself today.
  • I am capable of achieving my goals.
  • I am deserving of happiness, success, and fulfillment.

F. Setting and Achieving Goals

Setting and achieving personal goals is a powerful tool for rebuilding self-esteem after trauma.

Having clear, measurable goals can provide a sense of purpose, direction, and a tangible measure of progress on your healing journey.

It allows you to celebrate small victories along the way, reinforcing your belief in your abilities.

When setting goals, it's important to make them SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Start with small, manageable goals and gradually build up to larger ones. This helps to create momentum and prevent overwhelm.

Regularly review and adjust your goals as needed and remember, that setbacks are part of the process.

They provide learning opportunities and do not diminish your worth or capability. Ultimately, the act of goal setting and achievement fosters a sense of control, competence, and confidence, all vital components in rebuilding self-esteem.

Maintaining Self-Esteem

Maintaining high self-esteem is a continuous process that requires consistency, patience, and self-compassion.

It's about continually reinforcing positive self-beliefs, even in the face of challenges or setbacks.

Regularly practicing self-care, setting and achieving personal goals, and using positive affirmations can all contribute to maintaining high self-esteem.

It's also important to surround yourself with positive influences - people who uplift you, activities that bring you joy, and environments that inspire positivity.

Practice self-compassion by understanding that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it's okay to make mistakes – they are opportunities for learning and growth.

Be patient with yourself; rebuilding self-esteem doesn't happen overnight.

Consistency is key – the steady practice of self-esteem-boosting habits can lead to lasting change.

In time, you'll notice that your self-esteem isn't as easily shaken by external events, and you're more resilient in the face of adversity. This resilience is the ultimate testament to your high self-esteem.

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Building self-esteem after childhood trauma is a journey of healing, self-discovery, and empowerment.

We've touched upon understanding the impact of childhood trauma on self-esteem, the role of therapy, the use of positive affirmations, the importance of self-care practices, and strategies for maintaining high self-esteem over time.

It's crucial to be patient and consistent in this process, as true change takes time. If you're on this path, know that you're incredibly brave.

Every step you take, every day you choose to face your pain and work towards healing, you're getting stronger. You are more than your past, and you have the power to define your future.

Keep going, keep growing, and remember: you are worthy of love, respect, and all the great things life has to offer.


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July 14th, 2024

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