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5 Childhood Experiences That Often Cause Low Self-Esteem and How to Recover from Them

Generally speaking, low self-esteem does not happen in a vacuum. There are some common childhood experiences which pretty much always lead to low self-esteem, even in children who, prior to these experiences, had healthy levels of confidence and self-worth.

I see this day in and day out in my work with clients. Sadly, the effects of these early wounds to self-esteem can be far-reaching and lifelong.

Not only do these self-esteem issues cause emotional pain and suffering, they also nearly always prevent people from achieving many of their goals.

This not only affects the individual, but also deprives others of her gifts, which, if she had the necessary self-esteem, she would be offering to the world by way of her professional or creative work.​

Below are five of the childhood traumas that I see the most often in my work with clients, and which have damaged their self-esteem.


“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot out perform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” ― Iyanla Vanzant


1. Divorce

Regardless of how hard parents try to protect their children from the trauma of their divorce, kids are nearly always wounded in some way by their parents' split. All too often, at least one of those wounds is to their self-esteem.

Sometimes it's because they feel, on some level, that their parents' divorce is their fault. Sometimes it's because they feel ashamed of coming from "a broken home," and sometimes it's a combination of factors, including these, as well as others, such as:

  • Kids from regular families are better than I am.

  • There's something wrong with my family.

  • Having to move back and forth between my parents' houses all the time makes me feel bad.

  • If my parents really loved me, they would have stayed together.

  • The stuff I hear about divorce on the radio and TV makes it sounds like a disease.

Thankfully, if your self-esteem has suffered as the result of your parents' divorce, you can restore it.

The key is to unpack the divorce experience, and all of the myriad ways in which it affected you, especially how it made you feel about yourself.

Very likely, many of the residual emotions and beliefs you may have about this time in your life are subconscious. However, that doesn't mean that they can't be uncovered, identified, and then released with tapping. It just means it might take some detective work.

2. Abuse

It's no surprise that being abused damages a child's self-esteem. Whether the abuse is emotional, physical, or sexual, it causes deep wounds to their sense of self.

Common beliefs that abused children have, and then carry into adulthood include:

  • What's happening to me is my fault.

  • What this adult is doing to me make me bad.

  • If I was a good girl/boy, this wouldn't be happening.

  • No one will want me because of what has been done to me.

  • I'm permanently damaged.

As with the divorce example, if you suffered abuse as a child which damaged your self-esteem, the key to restoring your positive sense of self is unpacking and releasing the trauma, including the beliefs that resulted from it.

While, for a skilled EFT practitioner, this is a relatively simple process, it can be quite challenging to undertake on one's own.

It can be done, but if you undertake it, and find yourself getting stuck, not experiencing the healing results you seek, or simply needing support, I recommend working with a professional EFT practitioner.

3. Having a Learning Disability

Over the years, I've worked with many clients who suffered from learning disabilities. Despite the fact that they were very smart, often high-achieving people, deep down, they still suffered from feelings and beliefs like:

  • I'm stupid.

  • Everyone else is smarter than me.

  • If I speak up, I'll be laughed at.

  • No one wants to hear my ideas.

  • I'm defective.

In order to help these clients increase their self-esteem and confidence, it was necessary to identify and tap out the childhood experiences that caused their self-worth to be diminished.

For a couple of my clients, this meant tapping out the pain of being placed in a special class for "slow children."

For others, it meant tapping out the humiliation, anger, and sadness caused by one or more teachers calling them stupid in front of their whole class.

Again, the key to healing your self-esteem and boosting your confidence is to unpack and tap out the experiences that caused you to feel bad about yourself.

You can do this on your own, or with an EFT practitioner, or a combination of both, which is what many of my clients do.

4. Being Bullied

Few things hurt a child's delicate sense of self more than being bullied. The wounds it causes can last a lifetime, resulting in lifelong feelings of shame, unworthiness, fear, and anger.

Clients I've worked with on bullying have had painful feelings and beliefs like:

  • No one wants me.

  • There's something wrong with me.

  • If I was good enough, other kids wouldn't treat me this way.

  • It's not safe to be around other people.

  • I'm ugly.

  • I'm a loser.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the key to healing these wounds is to unpack, identify, and tap out all of the painful memories, feelings, and beliefs you have about having been bullied.

You might start by testing the statements in the bullet-pointed list above. Do they hurt when you read them?

Do they resonate with you emotionally, even if you may not agree with them intellectually?

If so, they are "tappable" statements for you, meaning that if you tap them down to 0 from whatever emotional charge they currently are, it will heal you, and in the process, improve your self-esteem.

5. Growing Up Poor

For those who haven't personally experienced it, poverty is something that is hard to understand, and it detrimental effects on the psyche are numerous, especially for children.

The stigma of poverty damages their self-esteem, and so does the daily feeling that those around them who have more are somehow better than they are, more worthy than they are.

Unpacking and releasing the following has helped many of my clients recover from the damage that growing up poor did to their self-esteem.

  • All the other kids have more than I do.

  • Wearing hand-me-downs is embarrassing.

  • My mom is the only one who has to work on holidays.

  • It's embarrassing to have my friends over to my house because it's so small and shabby.

  • Being poor means everyone else is better than I am.

If any of the above statements resonate for you, I recommend tapping them down to zero, either on your own, or with your EFT practitioner.

Tapping Your Way to the Self-Esteem That You Deserve

Needless to say, there are countless other childhood experiences that can and do lead to low self-esteem. These are just a handful of the ones that I've see the most often in 10 years as an EFT practitioner.

If you suffer from feelings of low self-worth, shame, or lack of confidence, and you give it a chance, EFT tapping will heal all of that pain for you.

In the process, it will skyrocket your confidence, and make it much, much easier for you to create the life that you most want to live.

It will improve your relationships with others, your relationship with yourself, and increase your ability to translate your dreams into goals, and your goals into reality.

You can do this, and I will be rooting for you every step of the the way.


When doing EFT tapping on your own, if you aren't able to completely heal the issue you're working on, so that when you think about it, it no longer causes any stress, emotional pain, anger, or fear, I recommend working with a professional EFT practitioner. If you decide that this is the best course of action for you, and you'd like to work with me, click here to schedule a session or free consultation click here.


Heather Ambler is an EFT practitioner and mindset coach in California. Through her private practice and online programs, she’s helped over 14,000 people in 81 countries heal the pain of losing a loved one, recover from trauma, release fears, erase limiting beliefs, increase confidence, and achieve goals. If you could use some help with any of these things, click here to learn more and schedule an EFT session or free consultation.

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