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21 Things You Do as an Adult When You Grew Up With Low Self-Esteem

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Growing up, most of us aren’t taught about feelings and mental health. So if you are a kid struggling with low self-esteem, it’s easy to think there’s just something wrong with you.

That’s why we want anyone who grew up with low self-esteem to know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, and you’re not alone.

Maybe you grew up in an abusive household, and you constantly battle feelings of unworthiness. Maybe you were bullied as a kid, and are still dealing with the fallout of the things that were said and done to you. Or maybe you grew up with a mental illness and it affected your self-image.

Whatever the situation was for you, you’re not alone in it — even when it feels like it. To find out what people do now as adults because of a childhood struggle with self-esteem, we turned to our Mighty community to share their experiences with us. 

If you grew up with low self-esteem, we are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.

Here’s what our community told us:

  1. I automatically assume a compliment is either a lie or they need something from me so they’re building up to ask it.” — Brittany S.
  2. “As an adult, having low self-esteem means I have to ask people’s opinions on how to complete even the simplest of tasks as I don’t believe my own solution is good enough, or the correct way.” — Anna B.
  3. “Constantly looking for validation from others… and not knowing how to say ‘no.’” — Jenna E.
  4. “Anytime somebody makes a negative comment about me, I think about it for months.” — Janet B.
  5. “I am super insecure in relationships. I know I’m not good enough or they can do better so I’m constantly needing attention and validation.” — Danielle H.
  6. “With my low self-esteem I constantly wear long baggy clothes. I find no point in putting work into my makeup or hair since I feel that no one would notice/care even if I did.” — Cassandra P.
  7. “I won’t go into public very often, especially since gaining weight. Then when I walk past people I hold my breath and pray nobody starts laughing or whispering.” — Angie T.
  8. “I have to prove myself to everyone. My family, my friends, my co-workers, my job, my therapist, the lady checking out my groceries, my landlord, my gym trainer, my dog, the lady that watches my dog… you get it. It’s constant and exhausting.” — Holley L.
  9. “I have no idea how to take a compliment, and I’m way too embarrassed to talk in public.” — Justin L.
  10. “Eye contact scares me.” — Lucy G.
  11. “Sex! No confidence when it comes to my body or performance.” — Anastasia H.
  12. “I seek validation from other people on Facebook to the detriment of my mental well-being. So when my posts get ignored/no one ‘likes’ them, I assume I’m not liked/worthy.” — Faye E.
  13. “Job interviews are the worst. How do you explain what a great person you are when you don’t believe it?” — Kristi J.
  14. I’m so used to feeling less-than that I really have to psych myself up to do something minor like make a comment in a group, on or offline. Past criticism haunts me like I wish compliments would.” — Robin W.
  15. “My service in the military helped to pick my esteem back up. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. Now that I’m out I’m having a hard time being proud of anything I do. Feels like I lost direction. But it can only get better.” — John B.
  16. “Constantly changing my personality to those around me so I fit in and never stick out. I don’t know who I am.” — Nicole V.
  17. I constantly pick myself apart and notice all my flaws.” — Corinna H.
  18. “I rarely take pictures. I never believe any compliment. I think people feel sorry for me or want to use me. I have never looked at myself and felt attractive, I only see flaws.” — Charly B.
  19. “Dating has been horrible. I constantly second-guess and over-criticize myself. I’ve convinced myself a lot that I don’t deserve to be in a healthy, solid relationship, but I’ve finally started to let that go!” — Emily L.
  20. “I was told by a parent that I was worthless… and it has carried over into my adult life in the worst ways. I have a fear of being ignored by the people I love and have made myself into a doormat in so many ways just to make sure they never feel how I feel.” — Mikki I.
  21. “Not knowing who I am. I looked for affection and attention and validation for so long in everyone else that I’m not sure who I was. Or who I am. I’m spending my mid 30s getting back to who I am. And being confident that she’s an amazing person with all the love and kindness and her heart. And she’s smart too.” — Kristy G.

If you grew up with low self-esteem, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling right now, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to talk to people who get it.

Getty Images photo via Archv

Originally published: September 18, 2018
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