Confidence, bullying and childhood trauma

Loss of confidence and self-esteem difficultiesLaura Keyte

Loss of and lack of confidence is not often very evident. We may present a cheery, confident, polished, even hard facade or exterior to the world but inside we may feel fearful, anxious, inadequate, full of doubts, indecisive, often distressed. Our anxiety may result in withdrawing, holding back, isolating ourselves. We may find ourselves comparing ourselves unfavourable to others. Loss of confidence may result in constantly feeling driven and having to prove ourselves and to seek out approval. Our efforts may never seem good enough or always dogged by ill luck.

We may often or even always find ourselves saying yes when we mean no. It may be hard to ask for support, express our needs, make reasonable demands on others or assert ourselves. It might be hard to imagine that others want to help or would give freely.

In therapy we can explore the origins and the impact of these feelings. We can identify and build on existing skills, strengths and inner resources. We can develop strategies to deal with current experiences. We can also discover that we don’t need to be perfect to be liked, loved or befriended. Just as importantly we can begin to feel confident that it’s OK not to be liked by all of the people all of the time!

The impact of childhood and adult bullying at home, school and work

Bullying, critical and hostile environments can strip us of our confidence and self worth. It leads to self doubt, feelings of helplessness, anger and rage. It can make us feel very fearful and even paranoid. We can forget that we are likeable, loveable and resourceful. We can feel both resentful and powerless and often dislike ourselves for the negative feelings this generates. We often blame ourselves for our predicament assuming it is our fault and that we are responsible. This in turn can generate a cycle of internal as well as external bullying.

In therapy we would explore feelings around these experiences and identify how they are impacting on your current life. We would seek to break destructive patterns and cycles. Therapy would support you in feeling safer and more able to protect and assert yourself. It would seek to develop and build on your belief in yourself and in your strengths and qualities.

Chronic, cumulative and subtle childhood trauma

Subtle childhood trauma can result from childhood losses (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc), childhood illnesses, non-affirming, cold and/or critical upbringing. Anxious, absent and/or traumatised parents often cannot provide a fully encouraging, warm, affirming, affectionate and containing environment for their children. Therapy does not seek to apportion blame or fault but to recognise that this will have an impact on development and later life. The impact can often lead us to feel overwhelmed by emotions or, at the other extreme, cut off and distant from our emotions, relationships and inner sense of self. We may find ourselves having panic and anxiety attacks, feel chaotic, flooded with emotion. We may have difficulty engaging in relationships or in maintaining relationships. We may oscillate between being clingy and being distant. We may feel lonely and isolated but also fearful of being swallowed up in relationships.

Therapy can help to process the emotional impact of these subtle traumas and help us to begin to separate out from what belongs in the past and what is relevant to the present.