Low Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is the individual's identification of positive aspects of themselves that they like and appreciate. It is based on self-perception, the beliefs and feelings that a person has about himself. If a person has healthy self-esteem, he feels self-confident and  capable and competent to do the things that life requires. This engenders a "can do" attitude. Self-esteem affects attitudes, motivation for behavior, and behaviors. It affects the person's ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and have positive social relationships.

Children develop self-esteem early in life, and, when they feel good about themselves, are better able to face challenges and do well. They develop a sense of mastery. However, when sexual abuse occurs, the child victim feels helpless and powerless, unable to have any level of mastery in this situation. The impact of this loss in self-esteem later impacts feelings of shame, relationship difficulties, and loneliness. 

Other factors of sexual abuse that affect the child's self-esteem:
  • Fear of being hurt - ongoing fear of perpetrator and bodily injury from abuse
  • Guilt and self-blame regarding sexual abuse
  • Shame - now perceiving self as "bad"
  • Disclosure and the fear of consequences occurring to family and perpetrator, feeling responsible for those consequences

The child may internalize the following negative effects of sexual abuse which affect self-esteem:



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