Tag Archives: Effects Of Low Self-esteem

Childhood Trauma Leading to Excessive Need for Approval.


If we did not receive approval from those close to us in childhood we may grow up to have an excessive need for it from others later in life as a kind of compensation and in order to raise our shattered self-esteem. This can make us vulnerable and excessively anxious to make everybody like us and admire us. Of course, this is impossible to achieve.

It is just not possible to interact fully in society without sometimes experiencing disapproval and rejection. Very often, such rejection and disapproval does not mean that there is anything particularly wrong with us.

Indeed, it could be much more to do with failings in the other person, obvious examples are prejudice, discrimination, biased and irrational thinking or misdirection of emotions which were not originally generated by us (eg ‘displacenment’ – the psychological term for when somebody takes something out on us which was not our fault; or ‘projection’ -the psychological term for constantly ‘seeing’ in other people the things we don’t like about ourselves and may have repressed).

Frequently, too, a person’s behaviour towards us might be due to distorted beliefs stemming from psychological wounds that have been inflicted upon them in the past (eg a woman who distrusts men because her husband used to beat her).

When we are (inevitably) sometimes rejected, a useful exercise is to calmly think about why we have been responded to in a negative manner and analyze if it really was something to do with us or to do with something else not really connected to us.

For example, perhaps the person who behaved in a negative way towards us was over-tired or under a great amount of stress. In such a case, the disapproval is likely to be ephemeral, in any event, and something we do not need to dwell upon or take personally.

Obviously, when someone rejects us it does not mean that we are of no value. Even if we have done something wrong, one action or set of actions does not define us as a person (either in the present or in the future). To become defined in such a way would be absurdly limiting and simplistic. Human beings are, after all, complex creatures (hence expressions like : ‘he’s the sum of his contradictions’).

Individuals who have an excessive need for approval often feel that it is imperative that EVERYBODY approves of them. I repeat, this is impossible, and, in my view, undesirable (often, history has shown us, the most enlightened and edifying views can meet with vicious opposition). We do not need the approval of everyone we meet in order to live a happy and meaningful life. Also, other people’s views of us should not be given equal weight (eg most of us would value the view someone we respected had of us more than the view a stranger had).

It is also important to point out that we can sometimes feel hurt and upset if someone criticizes us in a mannner which we do not feel is warranted – to avoid falling into such a trap we need to remind ourselves that we need not let our mood be affected adversely by something negative someone says about us if we know it not to be true.

Finally, it is worth saying how it might be helpful to react when someone disapproves of us when we HAVE done something we regret. A constructive response might be as follows:

a) we can learn from the criticism

b) just because we know we have done something wrong, it is illogical to overgeneralize from this and view ourselves as a wholly bad person

c) accept that we feel temporarily uncomfortable but to keep in mind, too, that this feeling will pass and that we are not necessarily being totally written off as a person by the individual we have upset, let alone by everybody else for evermore!



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

A Closer Examination of The Effects of Childhood Trauma. Part 2

In Part One I looked at how childhood trauma can adversely affect an individual’s ability to control his/her emotions and his/her ability to maintain relationships and interact socially.

In this post, Part 2, I wish to look at how 3 other areas of the individual’s functioning may be adversely affected by the experience of childhood trauma. These are:

– Behaviour
– Physical Health
– Cognitive Functioning (thinking skills).

Let’s look at how each of these 3 areas of functioning may be negatively affected now:

BEHAVIOUR – Because the effects of childhood trauma are so complex, it is not possible to fully articulate them; a demonstration of their effects, then, may frequently be ‘acted out’ through DISTURBED BEHAVIOUR. Some individuals may become withdrawn and emotionally ‘flat’, others may become disruptive, aggressive, hostile and attention seeking.

PHYSICAL HEALTH – Sometimes, a secondary effect of emotional distress may express itself physically – in other words, the individual may develop psychosomatic symptoms (the term ‘psychosomatic’ refers to the mind’s effects upon the body – chronic and severe stress, in other words, can create physical symptoms; it is important to point out here that, just because a physical symptom is psychosomatic, it does not make that symptom any less real or harmful than physical symptoms caused by non-psychological factors).

What sort of physical symptoms can occur as a result of protracted and intense stress? Examples can include changes in appetite, insomnia, headaches and stomach aches, although this list is not an exhaustive one.

COGNITIVE (THINKING) SKILLS – Severe and chronic stress can impair an individual’s ability to think clearly, concentrate and learn; these impairments mean that the individual will be unable to live up to his/her potential. This can result in difficulties maintaining employment; if this happens, self-esteem and self-confidence are often adversely affected.

CONCLUSION – It is important to point out that just because an individual does display symptoms like those described above, it does not mean for certain that the affected individual has suffered extreme childhood trauma. However, because the symptoms signal great distress, it is likely that if childhood trauma is not responsible, other serious stressors are at play.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you would like to.

New posts are added to this blog at least twice a week.

Best Wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: Identity Problems and How to Tackle Them.,


One outcome of childhood trauma can frequently be that the person who has suffered it is prone to develop IDENTITY PROBLEMS.

A person’s identity represents their attempt to pin down the essential elements s/he sees (rather than what others see) that make the individual who s/he are. One’s identity develops over time.

Our identity can be helpful to our psychological health (if we see ourselves in largely positive terms) or unhelpful to it (if we see ourselves in largely negative terms). People, especially if suffering from depression, lacking in confidence etc, extremely often view themselves FAR MORE NEGATIVELY THAN WOULD BE OBJECTIVELY WARRANTED; whereas many others (not suffering from mental illness, in many cases) may see themselves in far too glowing terms (this ‘over self-congratulatory’ view adopted by many is thought to have developed to confer evolutionary advantages on those who have it – appearing confident to potential mates, for example – provided, I suppose, it is not absurdly exaggerated).

Aspects of our lives which can affect our identities include:

– our values
– our physical appearance
– our mental/physical health
– our education
– our achievements (or lack, thereof)
– our work (Freud attributed especial importance to this, as he did to sexual fulfilment, the thwarting of which, he proposed, could lead to extreme neurosis)
– our relationships
– our age (please, don’t remind me)
– our financial situation
– our perception of our social status (or lack, again, thereof)

The identity which emerges from such factors is strongly related to our self-esteem and self-confidence.


This begins very early in our lives. Ages 4 years to 6 years are thought to be a critical time; TRAUMA during this period is LINKED to the DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY PROBLEMS IN LATER LIFE. From the ages of about 6 years to 12 years, the child normally develops the skills necessary to MANAGE EMOTIONS, a skill strongly linked to identity (eg ‘cool’ versus ‘volatile’); indeed, if TRAUMA INTERFERES WITH THIS PROCESS AN EXTREMELY TEMPESTUOUS ADOLESCENCE CAN FOLLOW).

In ‘normal’ development, adolescents may experiment with various identities and this process gradually leads to the stage in which there is a sense of the identity becoming crystallized. Again, however, individuals affected by trauma will often find this period exceptionally stressful and find that NO CLEAR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY EMERGES – THEIR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY CAN BE CONFUSED AND THEY MAY FEEL THAT THEY ‘DON’T KNOW WHO THEY REALLY ARE’.


By adulthood, then, those who have experienced childhood trauma will often find that their identity is UNSTABLE and FRAGILE – this will often mean that their attitudes, values and sense of who they are are all prone to wildly fluctuation; these changes are frequently dramatic (eg oscillating between feeling deep love and deep hatred towards the same person; or, sometimes, perhaps, feeling exceptionally important only to shift without warning or obvious trigger into a feeling of despair, self-loathing and worthlessness).


Identity problems in adulthood are often a symptom of BPD. BPD frequently occurs as a result of childhood trauma and much more about the condition can be discovered in the by clicking here to read my article about it.


How can people with identity problems make their sense of identity stronger? One possible place to start this process, which needs to be gradually worked on over time, is for the individual suffering from the crisis in identity to consider the things which are of most importance to him/her in life; identities are largely formed based on these considerations. Prorities in life which people choose to concentrate on, and, which, therefore, contribute to making up their identities include:

– friendships/relationships/family
– academic interests
– career
– creativity (eg painting, writing, acting)
– hobbies
– choice of entertainment (eg musical taste, taste in film/cinema/theatre, favourite kinds of books etc)
– material possessions
– spirituality/religion/atheism/agnosticism
– charity work (eg for homeless, rehabilitation of ex-prisoners, environment, hospice, Amnesty International)
– physical appearance
– financial situation

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list and there may well be other areas that can be added, depending on preferences.

A starting point might be to pick out 3 or 4 areas of interest (this, in itself, reflects identity, and, therefore, can be seen as providing foundational pieces of the jig-saw yet to emerge, as it were) and to concentrate on these at first (other elements can be added later; merely starting the process may lead to other ideas emerging at a later time).

For each of the factors selected, it can then prove of use to set some goals relating to how these areas may be incorporated, or, more fully incorporated, into one’s life (these goals need to be quite specific and achievable; there is little point starting with such challenging goals that they may prove impossible to meet and thus damage morale).

Here are some examples:

– because academic achievement is important to me, I will enrol in a night-school class (investigate and specify appropriate course) and complete the course
– because family and/or friends are important to me I will attend an anger management course
– because creativity is important to me I will set aside two hours a week to write poetry/novel
– because my mental health is important to me I will seek out appropriate counselling and complete the sessios recommended (provided the therapy proves of potential value, of course)

The more the individual is able to incorporate and develop areas such as those listed above, which reflect his/her true values, interests and priorities, the more AUTHENTIC and REWARDING the person’s life is likely to be; the more, too, will the individual’s true and stable sense of self continue to evolve.



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery