Still, if you just share the common belief that you have to analyze events in your childhood in order to overcome low self-esteem, I would like to challenge this belief. Quite often it is not necessary or even counter-productive to ‘rummage through the past’. But why is it such a popular idea?
Our general approach to repair things…
It is commonly thought that you have to examine the past in order to get cured from any psychological impairment. It is supported by pop culture, like movies or books. But it is also supported by our general approach of fixing things: When your car is broken or your washing machine doesn’t work anymore, you or the mechanic will search for the cause of the problem, for the part that is broken. Discovering it is the fan belt, it will be exchanged and you’re back on the streets in no time. That is the reason why some self-help books are appealing at first sight. Analyzing the past, looking for the cause of the problem, and repairing it, seems to resonate with us intuitively.
… is not suitable for the mind
But that is not how the human mind works. Even if we could locate the exact part of the brain that is responsible for the formation of low self-esteem, we cannot just replace it with a spare part. The brain is not organized in such a way. (Aside from the fact that it wouldn’t be technically impossible.)
The brain is a self-organizing system, which various parts are interrelated. The brain saves memories as bundles with other related or associated items, like thoughts, feelings, noises, smells, etc. Have you ever had the experience of hearing a melody on the radio or in the elevator, and suddenly you had flash-backs of old memories, almost taking you to the place and the time? That is because of the multi-dimensional way any input is stored in the brain. But then again, isn’t what happened in our childhood responsible for the shaping of our personality?
Does the past really matter?
The big question is, does it really change anything to know the reason why you have low self-esteem? I do not think so. And scientific research supports my belief. There is no scientific proof that low self-esteem is a result of traumatic experience in childhood. Even more, the assumptions concerning the reason for low self-esteem are contradictory. According to one theory it is due to a lack of love, the other says it is due to too much love, leading to overprotecting. Furthermore, though what happened to you in early childhood can be a reason for your problems, it is probably not the only reason. There are a bunch of other causes that could have afflicted your self-esteem. The most important other influence is your genetic predisposition. We will come back to this later on.
Knowing the cause of your problem does not change you
It might be worth the time and money, if a lengthy examination of your past, like in a classical psychoanalysis, really could cure your low self-esteem. What could happen, if you found a competent therapist and…