Have You Passed on Low Self Esteem to Your Children?

I have struggled my whole life with low self-esteem. For as far back as I can remember, I have struggled with it in all aspects that you can think of.

I was my mom’s middle child. I grew up in a blended family, a yours, mine and ours family. I use the term blended loosely here, for as long as we were a ‘family’, we never really blended at all.  My stepfather and I just never got along and he would not hesitate to cut me down and make sure that my self esteem just never developed in a positive way.  I remember once he commented that I didn’t have boys interested in me like my step sister because ‘boys liked little girls’. Meaning thin, small, skinny. Which I wasn’t.  I was not heavy, but tall and not skinny like he meant.  This has always affected me.  My younger sister has always been called the pretty one, told she was beautiful.  I remember a counselor in high school commenting she couldn’t be one of us, she was too little.  Meaning thinner that her older two sisters.

I liked art. But wasn’t as good as my older sister.  I got good grades, but not straight A’s. I cried easily, so I got ridiculed about that. I spent my childhood ‘babysitting’ my siblings, so I really never hung out much with friends, didn’t have too many.

My weight through the years has gone up and down and up and down.  I have stressed about it, worked on it, been frustrated by it.

And complained about it. Like many, I have called myself fat. Whether I am or not. It comes from a lifetime of never being good enough. No matter how many times I tell myself I am fine, or other people tell me it, I can’t seem to stop calling myself fat.  I can’t seem to feel I am good enough.

The other day I read an article about a mom calling herself fat in front of her daughter and the message it gave her.  It took my breath away.  I felt TERRIBLE.  i have a beautiful, smart, talented daughter. And guess what, when you tell her that, she doesn’t feel it or believe it. I blame myself. I decided after reading that, that I had a lot to work on. That I need to stop saying that, even if I still don’t feel good enough. It is not something to verbalize in front of my children. How can they ever feel good about themselves, if their mother STILL doesn’t feel good enough about herself?? Hopefully, in this change, I can also finally accept me as I am. I can finally feel good enough!

Just a couple days ago, I was in the car with my daughter and this very subject came up.  I was glad she told me how she felt. I found it ironic that it was just after I had read that article, we were talking about it. She did not know I read it, but I told her about it then. I shed a few tears. I explained why I was that way. But most of all, I apologized. I never ever meant for my insecurities to affect my children. Even though I have talked mostly about my daughter here, I know it can affect our sons, too. I know that at least one of mine also does not feel good enough in what he does. He has doubts about his abilities and does not believe it when people tell him he is handsome.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I also did some good for them, too! I have always supported them, told them I am proud. Told them they are loved.  They are smart and talented and most of all, compassionate human beings.

But even with that said, they also learn by example.  They listen.  And if their mom doesn’t feel good enough about herself and verbalizes it often, they how do we expect them to feel good about themselves?  Be careful with what you say and do. Your kids are listening and paying attention, even if you think they aren’t!



  1. Great post! We pass so much baggage on to our kids. My sole goal when my kids were little was to just not be like my mother. Negative goals aren’t very productive. Now those kids are nearing 40 ans I see so much of myself (ok my baggage) in them.

  2. Thanks Joy. What is it that “they” say? It takes 10 compliments to counteract one criticism? I think it’s also very important to let our kids know they are so much more than what they look like on the outside. The barrage of media images does that to them enough. We need to tell our girls (and boys) that they are smart, caring, and capable.

  3. The dreaded weight issue has been a family topic for us forever. I have never, ever told my daughter she looked fat, but when she needed help managing her weight I have always been supportive. Children learn what they live.

  4. I think if they rang a bell or gave us an electric shock every time we indulged in fat-hate-talk, most of us would be hearing bells or getting shocked all day long.

    While to be honest, I am not thrilled with my current weight or shape, I have come to realize that I cannot become fit/thinner as long as I am hating on myself. So I have set as a current goal 1) Engage in healthy exercise as much as possible; 2) STOP the fat-hate-talk/think. Once I have those two down, then I can begin taking a closer look at my diet and where else I want to be.

  5. Yes, I know I did some damage :(. Like you though, I also know I did some positive things as a mother :0).
    When I heard my daughter {who is 41′ 11″ weighing in at 103 pounds!!!} named her thighs “Gord and Gordy” I was so saddened. We had a long talk about it. Her issues are def from hearing my negative comments abiut myself but also, she says, from society, media, etc. We encouraged one another to love ourselves and I pray for her that if she becomes a mother to a little girl, she will be sure to be aware of her body image comments.

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