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What Led to — and What Helped Me Come Back From — My Low Self-Esteem

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Self-esteem. Everyone has it. Some people have high self-esteem, and others, including myself, may have low self-esteem. You may not even recognize a person with low self-esteem, because we often try to hide it. But for many of us, it may not have always been this way.

I have Tourette syndrome with accompanying ADHD and learning difficulties, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 15. At primary school, I struggled to write and learn mathematics. I left at age 8 to attend middle school, but they didn’t help me catch up, so I fell further and further behind. I had severe anxiety about getting told off for not completing my work on time. My exercise books were filled with red pen, telling me off for not “trying.” That was self-esteem blow number 1.

young girl looking ahead

At that age, I was proud of my artistic ability. I taught myself to draw 3d houses when I was only 9. Aside from my “cities,” I struggled with drawing because my wrist would ache so much. In art class we were given famous paintings and told to copy them. I started to draw mine, a complicated figure of a monster, and was halfway through when
the teacher approached…

“That’s rubbish. Start again,” she barked.

At that moment, I stopped liking art, my favorite thing, because I drew “rubbish” pictures. Self-esteem blow number 2.

The same year, I had a severe panic attack on school photo day. I was really upset that I had “lost it” in front of all my peers. Self-esteem blow number 3.

By that point I was refusing to go to school due to the panic attacks. Eventually this resolved, but by then my self-esteem was already at rock bottom. How does it feel to have low self-esteem? I can tell you. You can stop caring about yourself and others. You can no longer want to try for fear of failing. You may figure that acting out or avoiding situations is easier than trying hard. Basically, you may totally give up.

Then people may wonder why. Why is my kid who was once so happy now so moody, angry, hateful and refusing to live up to his/her ability? Why doesn’t he/she do anything I ask anymore? They can’t see your self-esteem level, so they may decide upon other reasons for your behavior. Bad. Mad. Disruptive. Naughty. The list of labels could go on forever.

I believe there is something that can be done to help children (and adults) with low self-esteem. Avoid constant negativity. I hear so much about schools telling my friends’ kids off for behaviors — some of which they can’t control — but so little about praise. I’m not saying give them constant praise, but praise them when it is warranted. With time, you might start to see your old child come back, as my mom did with me.

Follow this journey on A Lifetime of Labels.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: March 17, 2016
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