Most people experience self-doubt on a regular basis and I am not immune. I have spent entirely too much of my life trying to accept myself as I am. While easy for me to see how wonderful and special you are, it was a challenge for many years to see myself in the same light. It’s no wonder that my first book focuses on “self-discovery and acceptance.” And it’s no wonder that my journey led me into psychiatric nursing and success coaching not only to work on my own personal development, but to assist others in their personal leadership development as well.

One way self-esteem issues show up in our lives is through addictions. Addicts often have self-esteem issues; why else would we put junk into our bodies, participate in high risk behaviors, and treat ourselves with such disdain and disregard?

But addictions aren’t the only way self-esteem issues show up.

When you don’t honor yourself, when you constantly question yourself and your ability to make good decisions on your own behalf, when you look for your value in places outside of you, then your self-esteem suffers.

In fact, any time you choose to do something that does not honor you, your self-esteem is impacted. Honoring your Self and valuing your uniqueness as a human being, clears your mind of the negative self-talk and self-doubts so you can focus on other important things in life like your relationships, work, recreation, and passions.

How Self-Esteem Issues Begin
Self-esteem issues show up in many forms and are often quite insidious. As children, we are told what to do. We are taught to be good boys and girls. We received messages that we were good or bad; that we mattered or we got in the way; that we were wanted and loved or we were a mistake. At the very least, we felt loved, wanted, and cared for. Language matters greatly in developing self-esteem in our youth.

Then we become teenagers and with all of the changes we experience, our parents struggle. Some parents put too much emphasis on our being responsible, after all it’s what we say we want: “Leave me alone! I can do it myself. I’m old enough. When will you treat me like an adult?!” But the reality is most teens haven’t learned how to be responsible. We don’t have these skills yet.

Other parents continue to do everything for us as if we are still children so we grow up thinking that someone else will always be there to pick up after us or that we are not good enough to do for ourselves. Some parents send the message that “in order to be ‘okay’ you have to be as I want you to be” leaving us little freedom to be ourselves. This can result in rebellion which can show up in a myriad of ways. Or they can give us too much freedom with not enough limits, values, and ground rules when – even though teenagers – we are still children and we have so much to learn before we go out into the world by ourselves.

Getting over your childhood can seem like a lifelong endeavor! It doesn’t have to be once you learn to accept, forgive and embrace your past without trying to change it or wishing it was different and accept responsibility for your life moving forward.

Learning to live today the best you can and put the past in its place is empowering; it’s necessary for creating the life of your dreams and for developing your self-esteem and confidence.

Growth and maturity occur when you accept responsibility and accountability for your choices as an adult and stop blaming your parents. They did the best they could with what they knew; now it’s your turn to take the steering wheel of your life and point it in the direction you want to go. As an adult, you are response-able.

Poor Self-Esteem Can Lead to Addiction
When you think of addicts, you think of drugs, gambling, sex, alcohol, even food. But addictions are everywhere and many addictions go untreated because they are ‘socially accepted behaviors’ like working long hours, playing or watching sports, exercising, video games, surfing the internet, or even volunteering. Any behavior used to avoid responsibility or deal with emotions can easily become an addiction. And being addicted to adrenaline where you are in a constant state of “up” can be played out in a multitude of ways.

Of course, many addictive behaviors go unnoticed because people keep them secret. I often say, “You cannot look at someone’s exterior and know what’s going on inside.” I have known couples who appear to have it all together only to discover that she is having an affair (what’s the thrill here?) or he is into pornography (sex addiction), that the relationship is abusive (codependency) or that they are filing for bankruptcy (spending addiction).

You could be addicted to drama. We have all experienced the passive aggressive behavior of people in the workplace. You can people-please to the point of hurting yourself; with no time for yourself, you become stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed wondering if this is all life is about. While you may not classify this as an addiction, consider your attachments to being a victim, sabotaging your happiness and success, or being stressed. Addicted or not, there is still a self-esteem issue that holds you back from achieving more happiness in your life.

When you learn to value human life, this includes accepting and valuing YOU as a human being as well. But many of us – including addicts – often miss this crucial piece of information. We don’t see that we have any value which makes it challenging if not impossible to function successfully in the world.

Developing Your Self-Esteem
So how does one learn self-confidence? How can one develop self-esteem at a young age so that as an adult you can get to the business of living without wasting time wondering if it’s okay to be YOU?

Learn to be okay with yourself, to accept yourself unconditionally. It is said that to truly love another you must learn to love yourself. “Love” in this case means to understand, to respect, and to accept unconditionally and without judgment; it’s not the mushy or lustful kind of love but rather an appreciation for and the acceptance of YOU. There is no greater achievement in life than to simply be yourself with all of your splendor and brilliance shining to greet the world. And when you can accept and honor yourself without condition, you more readily accept and honor others, including your children.

Coaching Tip: Notice today the thoughts you have about yourself. Are they positive or do they put you down? What is their tone? What do they tell you? Avoid asking why or where these thoughts started. Know that your thoughts create your reality. They are extremely powerful. But you are more powerful than your thoughts. You can learn to be in charge and change your thoughts. The first step is to notice. The next is to choose new, more empowering and loving thoughts of you.

Author's Bio: 

Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? Julie Donley, a psychiatric nurse and author of this essential book on change, was tired of life being SO hard and went in search of an easier way. What she found was quite intriguing: “Hard or easy, it’s how you think about it!” Want to learn more? Contact to arrange a free 30-minute coaching session to learn how you too can change a HARD challenge to something EASY. An addiction and change expert, Julie is named one of the top 100 thought leaders in her field. She has published hundreds of articles and is author of several works including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? and The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance. Visit to learn more about her work, sign up for her newsletter or arrange to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.