THE BLOG

How Low Self-Esteem Can Lead To Substance Abuse

08/29/2009 11:13 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Low self-esteem describes a substandard evaluation or disappointing appraisal of ones' own self worth. Development of our self-esteem begins at the early stages of childhood, and remains a part of our life forever, shaping us toward one direction or another. The parent or guardian who is the focal point for raising the youngster can literally have the power to either instill a sense of strong self-worth or one that is questionable or negative. In these early stages, everyone and everything can make an indelible impression.

I would like to believe that parents, guardians and teachers are circles of support for our children, yet many of us came from households that said "...you are so stupid, why can't you do anything right?", "you'll never amount to anything", or "why aren't you more like your brother/sister...look how well they are doing!"

These comments are thoughtless and cruel and produce so much negative energy that it could take substantially longer to "undo" the damage than it was to first chuck those slings and arrows. Such descriptive words forge indelible images and if not counteracted with loving, caring and thoughtful communication could create a foundation of uncertainty, insecurity and confusion; the perfect, fertile breeding ground for substance abuse.

If low self-esteem has been part of a teenager's upbringing, they may see themselves as less than everyone else, deficient in one way or another. They may consider their body or looks to be undesirable; they may doubt their ability to participate in sports; or they may tell themselves that their brain power is insufficient. In either child or adult, low self-esteem can result in feeling stuck, having little or no motivation or energy. Everything becomes drudgery and hence the potential for destructive behavior and escaping to a world where judgment is non-existent becomes a very powerful hook.

Since there is no special ability needed to participate in alcohol consumption or illegal substance and no one cares if you like yourself or not... why not go for it...what is left to lose? Here is an easy, effortless way to take your lack of self-esteem or own self worth and drink it away into blackout or smoke it, snort it, or shoot it into oblivion.

I believe some alcoholics are shy, introverted people. Chances are they suffer from low self-esteem issues, and have relied on the effects of alcohol to help them come out of theirs shells, be more gregarious and approachable. The drinker may say... "Yeah, I need a few drinks in me to loosen me up". One has to be mindful that a few can easily turn into 10 or 20.

Lack of confidence is different from from low self-esteem. For example; I have little or no confidence in my ability to be proficient on the computer, run a marathon or paint a landscape. Lack of confidence means that you might not be mentally up to the challenge or physically able to do a task, but so what, who cares?

Low self-esteem centers around the emotional and psychological belief that one will fail, be ridiculed or scorned no matter what the outcome, so therefore why try at all.

Answer? Obviously parents, guardians and teachers must instill a sense of positive self-esteem, reinforcement and self-worth to their child or student regardless of how small, or inconsequential. Berating, embarrassing or pitting one child against another will not spur the "less than" performer on to try harder or rise to the challenge, but instead spawn resentment and insecurity not only toward the parent, but the sibling or friend as well.

Work with your child to dispense negative self talk like "I can't, or I won't be able to..." If they truly can't accomplish the task, move on to something else. Not a big deal, just not that persons "cup of tea" or strong suit. Develop something special with your child/teen that they can call their own and you both can share in the pride of that personal growth and relationship. Young or old, a pat on the back for any effort feels good physically and helps strengthen an emotional bond between the one looking for approval and the one giving the approval.

Dispel mental replaying of past events that ended up in failure or were unpleasant. Participating in the "blame game" or keeping the embers from yesterday's experiences burning are self destructive and reinforce to the child their inabilities to perform or meet the challenge.
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It is never too late to help another with a poor image of them. One is not born with a propensity toward low self-esteem. Through inappropriate or misguided comments it can burrow its way under the skin and eventually into the heart and soul of ones very fiber and produce a sad, scared and probably lonely person.

Be there to extend a helping hand of confidence; you just may be guiding that person toward a brighter tomorrow instead of the dead end of substance abuse.

If I can be of service to you or your family, please e-mail me at Carole@familyrecoverysolution.com
Thank you and I invite you to visit my website at www.familyrecoverysolutions.com

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