Everything Your Family Never Taught You About Self-Esteem

By Suzanne E. Harrill      

Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and is based on the things you believe about yourself, the things you say to yourself, and the images you have about yourself.  Consciously and unconsciously you send thoughts and opinions about yourself to yourself. These thoughts can be accurate and helpful or they can be false and damaging.

Many of the beliefs you have about yourself were planted in your mind when you were a child. As a young child you knew no boundaries, you were not separate from others in the family, so you absorbed, like a little sponge, all the ways of your family. You copied the spoken and unspoken beliefs and patterns modeled to you by parents and family. What was said, you believed was true. Many things you did not understand, and thus interpreted with a child’s mind.

As an adult, your self-talk and self-image are based on your early observations, interpretations, and experiences in the family. The false beliefs and patterns absorbed as a young child need to be examined as an adult to update and correct, especially if you determine you have self-esteem issues, and most of us do, by the way.

Let us look at a definition of high self-esteem and then look at 18 concepts related to self-esteem that you may have missed growing up. Included is the Harrill Self-Esteem Inventory to help you identify some of your beliefs about self-esteem.

            High self-esteem is a feeling of total acceptance and love for yourself as you are. It is respecting and valuing yourself as a worthwhile human being. It is honestly seeing your good and not-so-good points. And it is taking care of and nurturing yourself so you become all you are capable of being. High self-esteem is a quiet, comfortable place of enjoying and accepting who you are.


Concepts You May Have Missed Growing Up

  1. A high IQ, physical strength, beauty, or achievements do not insure emotional health.

  2. It is healthy to love and nurture yourself before saying yes to others’ wishes or needs.  Balance giving and receiving.

  3.  It is important to identify and to get your needs met before fulfilling your wants.

  4.  Set emotional boundaries that support you.  You have the right to say no.

  5. You are worthy of love and respect; it is not based upon what you do, but who you  are. 

  6.  You are of equal value to all other people, no more or less worthy.  Stop comparing yourself to others.

  7.  If you act bad or make a mistake, you are not a bad person.  Separate you from your behavior.

  8. To feel better about yourself or change unwanted behavioral patterns, look at the conscious and unconscious needs and guiding beliefs motivating you.

  9. Stop blaming, criticizing, or value-judging yourself and others.  Watch your “shoulds” and “oughts.”

  10. Be honest with yourself so that you can make choices that support you, using your heart and your head.

  11. You and only you are responsible for your life.  Only you can work through and forgive past hurts.

  12. Say positive, supportive, encouraging things to yourself with your self-talk. Correct limiting beliefs.

  13. Your attitude determines how well you manage your challenges.

  14. Self-awareness is important to help you change and grow.  Admitting what you do not like in yourself opens the door for healing.  You are capable of learning new things to help yourself.

  15. It empowers you to know your inner self.  Your true self can direct your life, enabling you to overcome your conditioning and help you live from a place of integrity, balance, and strength.

  16. Make amends when you have hurt another.  As you grow in loving and forgiving yourself, you cannot intentionally hurt another.

  17. Know and accept your strengths and talents.  Use them to grow into your full-potential self, living a life with meaning and purpose.

  18. When you love yourself, you are a mirror to help others love themselves.


Healing our self-esteem requires us to create new guiding beliefs, images of ourselves, and new self-talk to replace any that are damaging. After you take the following self-esteem inventory, consider writing on index cards, any statements you feel will help you rebuild your inner foundation. Each statement is an affirmation to build self-esteem.

The Harrill Self-Esteem Inventory

Rate yourself on each with a scale of 0 to 4 based upon your current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors:

0 = I never think, feel, or behave this way.  1 = I do less than half the time.  2 = I do 50% of the time.  3 = I do more than half the time.  4 = I always think, feel, or behave this way. 



_____1.  I like and accept myself right now, even as I grow and evolve.

_____2.  I am worthy simply for who I am, not what I do. I do not have to earn my worthiness.

_____3.  I get my needs met before meeting the wants of others. I balance my needs with those of my partner and family.

_____4.  I easily release negative feelings when other people blame or criticize me.

_____5.  I always tell myself the truth about what I am feeling.

_____6.  I am incomparable and stop comparing myself with other people.

_____7.  I feel of equal value to other people, regardless of my performance, looks, IQ, achievements, or  possessions (or lack of them).

_____8.  I take responsibility for my feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions. I do not give others credit or blame for how I feel, think, or what I do.

_____9.  I learn and grow from my mistakes rather than deny them or use them to confirm my unworthiness.

____10.  I nurture myself with kind, supportive self-talk.

____11.  I love, respect, and honor myself.

____12.  I accept other people as they are, even when they do not meet my expectations, or their behaviors and beliefs are not to my liking.

____13.  I am not responsible for anyone else’s actions, needs, thoughts, moods, or feelings, only for my own (exception, my own young children).

____14.  I feel my own feelings and think my own thoughts, even when those around me think or feel differently.

____15.  I am kind to myself and do not use “shoulds” and “oughts” to put myself down with value judgments.

____16.  I allow others to have their own interpretation and experience of me and realize I cannot control their perceptions and opinions of me.

____17.  I face my fears and insecurities, taking appropriate steps to heal and grow.

____18.  I forgive myself and others for making mistakes and being unaware.

____19.  I accept responsibility for my perceptions of others and for my response to them.

____20.  I do not dominate others or allow others to dominate me.

____21.  I am my own authority.  I make decisions with the intention of furthering my own and others’ best interests.

____22.  I find meaning and have purpose in my life.

____23.  I balance giving and receiving in my life. I have good boundaries with others.

____24.  I am responsible for changing what I do not like in my life.

____25.  I choose to love and respect all human beings regardless of their beliefs and actions. I can love others without having an active relationship with them.  

This is not a test or a precise measure of self-esteem. It identifies beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that affect low self-esteem.


Happiness, self-empowerment, satisfaction in work, good relationships, and success are all built on a foundation of healthy self-esteem. High self-esteem is characterized by congruence between inner states (beliefs, feelings, attitudes) and outer states (behaviors, relationships, health). A person with high self-esteem is self-aware, takes responsibility for life choices by being willing to pay consequences both good and bad, and is actualizing her/his potential. S/he also lives from a place of deep peace with the intention of honoring and respecting self and all others.





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