Take a moment and think about your childhood for a moment. Go back as far as you can remember. If you have pictures from your childhood, go over them.
How do you feel about your childhood? Were you taken good care of by your parents or caretakers? Were you treated well by your family and friends? Or have you been verbally or physically abused ?
Do those pictures make you happy? Does thinking about your childhood bring up good memories? Or does it make you sad, even angry? Do you remember only painful memories?
Your answers to those questions have a direct impact on your self-esteem as an adult. If you have a difficult time thinking about your childhood or going over your childhood pictures, your perception of your childhood is adversely affecting your self-esteem.
If you feel pain when thinking about your childhood, you have to make peace with that time of your life to improve your self-esteem.
Maybe, you were abused verbally or physically. Maybe, you were raised in poor conditions. Maybe, you made some mistakes as a child that make you feel ashamed and guilty as a grownup.
Unless you come to terms with your entire childhood, you’ll never enjoy a healthy self-esteem. Yes, that’s a lot of work that involves emotional pain, but the benefits of a healthy self-esteem are waiting for you on the other side if you’re willing to do that work.
Journaling is an excellent way of processing those childhood memories. Just go over those pictures and write down whatever comes up.
Feel those painful emotions. By triggering and processing those emotions, you’ll set yourself free from them. Keep doing it until you make peace with your entire childhood.
Making peace doesn’t mean being happy about what happened in those years. Making peace means not feeling shame, guilt, anger, sadness, or any other painful emotion anymore when you remember those memories.
You can use the letting go method to process those painful emotions whenever they are triggered. You can also use the sentence completion exercises in the audiobook The Psychology of High Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.
Dr. Branden dedicated a complete chapter to childhood and teenage years with lots of sentence completion exercises. Those exercises take hours, but they are worth the effort. They help you making peace with your childhood.
If it is too hard to process those memories and emotions by yourself, you can always get help from a professional.
Once you’re done with your childhood, go ahead and process your teenage years as well. Our teenage years are times of hardship when we are trying to find our place in the world. We experiment a lot, and we make a lot of mistakes. As a result, we collect a lot of painful memories.
If you feel shame, guilt, anger, sadness, and similar unpleasant emotions about your teenage years, go ahead and process those years as well.
Our goal is to make complete peace with our past. Unresolved issues in our childhood and teenage years tend to haunt us in our adult lives as well. Making peace with our past isn’t the only component of a healthy self-esteem, but it’s a crucial part of it.