Self Esteem and Health Part 1

May 27th, 2013


“OK, shout into the microphone ‘I’m the BEST!’ as loud as you can!”



This was the seemingly fun and simple request a former client of mine made to his audience during a performance he was giving a few years ago at a Stockholm club. The theme of the show was a gentle parody of Swedish life and values.


The adults in this audience, despite having eaten dinner and probably having had a few drinks to relax their inhibitions, could not respond to this simple request. Table after table of guests at the club were asked the same question. No one could answer it.


Bruce mic


The point of this particular skit was to show how conditioned adults have become to repressing the natural joy of Self. Could you imagine a group of young children having any problem fighting each other to be first to the microphone to yell “I’m the best!”?


So what has happened?



Self Esteem: The early years


It is important at this point to state that self esteem is not only a sense of personal worth. It goes deeper than that. It is linked to our very sense of existence – our first understanding that “I am.”


Dad and Ben


When a child makes its debut into the world of three-dimensional form it takes a while to fully realize where it is. It takes a while to even understand it is a separate entity to its mother. To help with this transition its sense of self is confirmed by:


Touch: Reinforcing the boundaries of its individual physical self

Feeding: The introduction to its ‘Earth mother’ and the beginning of its connection to the earth itself via food.

Presence: The attention and love that reinforces its sense of existence and value.


All of these examples are of course some of the many expressions and faces of love. Raised in these conditions a child will most likely fill up on positive self esteem. Their world at that point is all about them – what they are thinking; what they are feeling; what they desire to experience.


The Leaky Bucket


But what if some of these idyllic conditions are not met and the filling of their self esteem ‘bucket’  causes their focus to leak outside of themselves into outward concerns that trigger their survival responses as their sense of Self drains away?


leaky bucket


Maybe the child is separated from its parents at birth (death, illness, adoption).


Maybe its parents are physically but not emotionally present due to problems of their own: dysfunctional relationships, drug and alcohol addictions, mental illness, crushing economic hardship or another child that requires more attention, for example, due to a physical or mental handicap.


Maybe the only attention they receive is in the form of negative criticism. They are ‘trained’ to constantly abandon and devalue themselves in the search for outward approval.


Survival Responses


A human infant has every reason to be fearful of abandonment. Although we have the capacity to learn and adapt more than other species we begin life with a very limited skill set. We can breath, we can evacuate waste and we can suck. That is about it. An infant cannot even roll over when it is uncomfortable.


Therefore abandonment almost certainly means death for a baby human and its survival response is to secrete massive amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into its bloodstream.


If this response is conditioned early enough through the feeling of disconnection and emotional or physical abandonment by our care givers we can develop a reflex pattern that occurs unconsciously throughout our adult life even in response to situations that we know (intellectually at least) are not life threatening.


How might this manifest? :


‘Spontaneous’ panic attacks, some forms of depression and burnout syndrome are all examples of this well-meaning but inappropriate mechanism. There are many more.


‘Modern’ Stress


It is a modern reality that stress-related medical issues have become an enormous problem (and medically supplied industry) so it is important to understand some of the underlying causes – as opposed to the immediate stress triggers which only appear to be the problem.


In the following two parts of this series on self-esteem and health we will look at how our attempts to compensate for undeveloped self-esteem can lead us into illness and the creation and attraction of stressful situations in our life.


– and of course, what we can do about it.


Until we are again at our very best to face another Monday,



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own. As always you can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:


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