6 Ways To Feel Good About Yourself When Your Childhood Was Full Of Insults & Put-Downs

Learn to halt the negative inner dialogue.

Last updated on Dec 09, 2023

Depressed woman finding her light, way out Valeriia Miller, Manny Moreno | Unsplash 

Most people deal with a lot of negativity growing up. Grown-ups (parents, teachers, acquaintances) often don't realize the detrimental effects that put-downs, criticism, or simply their frustration with their lives can unknowingly cause for their children.

The question is: What can you do about it? How can you stop negative self-talk and lift your self-esteem? The answer is simple in theory but requires some practice to fully overcome the issue.


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Six ways to start feeling good about yourself when you had a rough childhood

1. Recognize when you have negative chatter.

That can be as easy as noticing how you feel. If you feel angry, resentful, victimized, or bored, you have negative chatter.

Notice your body. Where are you feeling tight? Clenched jaw, teeth grinding, a knot in your stomach, lump in your throat. Are you making a fist? Have tight shoulders or back? Your body never lies, and it will always reveal your thoughts.

2. Learn how you can "brain dump."

Focus on that area and then ask yourself, "What have I been saying to myself?"


Do this as you release the tension. An effective way to get in touch with your tension is to write about it. When you focus on your rigid jaw and ask yourself, "What have I been thinking?" Your brain dump can be, “I’m mad I didn’t get the promotion at work. Or, I feel ignored at parties. I think I got a raw deal with something.”

Brain dumping on paper is a great way to release negativity. You can keep a brain dump journal. When you have expunged the negativity, create a little ritual of tearing up the paper or throwing it in the fireplace. Some people go so far as to bury it. Your choice!



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3. Confront the issue head-on.

The next step is where things get interesting because it involves two parts. Part one is confronting the negativity straight on.

For instance, “I always get passed over for promotion” or “things never turn out well for me” is addressed with a question: Is that true?

It is up to you to come up with evidence of validity. And if you do find legitimate proof, the next question is, “Why have I chosen to direct my life that way?”

4. Recognize when you're being the "victim."

Living with a victim mentality is highly destructive because you have set a life course for disaster and unhappiness. Victims are never happy and they are very often attached to their victim's "Woe is me" life. It can be their claim to fame.


Once you have confronted your “story,” the second step is to make up a new one. Whereas the first part of the process is a brain dump, this part is a brain shift. You have to shift your mind to a positive possibility. You must choose a new, uplifting narrative for your life because if you don't, your brain will simply go back to its old process: victimizing yourself.

That is because you have invested many years into the “poor me” scenario. Thus, your new story will need a fair amount of reinforcement to become a neural pathway.

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5. Create a positive mental path for yourself.

If your old rendition was, “I’m not good enough,” start your new tune with, “ I am more than good enough.” Think about your positive attributes such as kindness, gentleness, patience, generosity, being a good listener, and keeping your word. Everyone has positive qualities!

Follow that with what life looks and feels to be more than good enough. For example, you can think, “People love to hang out with me.

Visualize people inviting you to hang out and laugh and have fun together. Visualize an active social life. Or visualize people asking you for feedback or assistance at work, how good it feels to help them out, and how much they appreciate you.

Watch out for when you're falling back into old patterns, like when you think, “Things never go my way.”


First, find the evidence. Is it a true statement? Why do you want to hold on to this idea? What do you want your new story to be? Visualize a new scenario — serendipitous things happen all the time. People give you the right of way; you buy one item and receive two because today they have a special. Compliments fly at you from everyone!

happy smiling woman

Photo via Getty

6. Make sure what you're visualizing is what you want.

The next step is to ask if you want this new positive life, and if so, why? It is vital to have positive motivation to keep yourself moving. If your intent to change is not solid, you will put out a half-hearted effort and then say the process doesn’t work. But it only works if you work it.


Adults unknowingly project their problems onto their children and are manifested in phrases like:

“Are you ever going to get it right?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“How could you be so stupid?”

Or it could be subtle rather than obvious — a disappointed sigh or disdainful look, leaving you feeling like you're not good enough.

After being subject to this negativity for a while, you begin to internalize the criticism to the point that these grown-ups no longer have to say a word because their negative “program” is imprinted in your mind. It becomes your default inner dialogue when things go badly in your life. At this point, the program has become a neural pathway in your brain and habitual negative chatter.


If you receive a lot of rewards for having a sad story, you may not be ready to change. Answer truthfully. Are you ready to release negative chatter and move to a more joyful experience?

Recognize the negative chatter. Notice it.

Feel the negative energy and determine where the tension is in your body.


Challenge negative chatter. Is it true? What is the truth?

Decide if you want to keep the “poor me” story — or create a new one.

Design a new story with positive feelings and affirming thoughts.

Be grateful you noticed the negative chatter, challenged it, and are creating and experiencing a new outcome.

Do this over and over until it becomes your default process. Soon, the negative chatter will be gone, your life will be brighter, and you will be happy.

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Jean Walters is an international best-selling author and transformational coach with expertise in personal and spiritual empowerment. Her work has been featured in the St. Louis Suburban Journals, The Fax Daily, St. Louis Globe-Democrat Newspaper, St. Louis Home Magazine, and elsewhere.