How Does Anxiety Affect Self-Esteem?

When I was a kid, especially at school, I was anxious about everything. Would the other kids like what I was wearing? Would they like the way my hair was cut? Would anyone want to talk to me? Would they all be smarter than me?

All of my thoughts about myself were based on what other people would think. I tried really hard to present myself in a way that everyone would want to be my friend. As a child, I still believed that it was entirely possible to be ‘perfect’, if I just tried hard enough.

anxiety and self eteemThe trouble with that hypothosis, was that kids are cruel! Generally they don’t mean to be, but for many, their filters aren’t all in place yet and they tended to act and say things like the ‘respected’ kids did.

The truth of the matter is that most school kids are just as lost as I was. It makes sense then, for them to copy the ones that could cause them the most harm. That’s why school bullies usually have a large posse of ‘hangers-on’.

But…. I took these opinions and made them facts.  In a short space of time, some of my attributes were;

  • I was pointless
  • I should have been ‘put down at birth’
  • I had the sort of face, ‘only my Mother could love’
  • My parents ‘clearly shopped at Oxfam’
  • etc., etc., etc.

Looking back now, it wasn’t the comments that caused the anxiety. It was that I accepted them as FACTS.

upset childAs a child, we don’t always think about whether what someone says, is factual, or just their opinion. We just accept they probably know better than us and believe what they say. By helping our children to learn the difference, we can help control some of their anxiety.

People who suffer from an anxiety disorder, tend also to have a much lower self esteem. Their anxiety about themselves is enhanced by the mean things people say to them.

Below, you’ll see 15 statements. Some of them are facts, others are opinions. Ask your child which ones are which.


1. “I’m stupid”
2. “I’m not smart enough to get a good job when I finish school”
3. “Nothing ever goes right for me”
4. “Everything I do is a disaster”
5. “I’m the ugliest person in school”
6. “I failed the test”
7. “I’m overweight”
8. “He shouted at me”
9. “I’m selfish”
10. “There’s something wrong with me”
11. “I’m too old for that game”
12. “I’m always late for everything”
13. “I’ll never have any friends”
14. “I can’t do anything right”
15. “Everybody hates me”


Only three are facts, yet  a child will be adversely effected by any of them.

If you wish, there’s a free worksheet of the above to download. Also, with the worksheet, there’s also an explanation of why each example is either a fact, or an opinion and how you can explain it to your child.

Once they begin to understand how to work out the difference, they can begin to feel less effected by what people say to them, or sometimes just as often, what they say to themselves.

It’s important that they understand, they’ll never please everyone and everyone has an opinion, including them. An opinion can’t hurt you, thinking you’re ‘that’ person surely can.

Let me know you’re thoughts in the comments, or in the Facebook Group.


Contributor | + posts

Dave has been involved in Child Psycholgy for nearly 15 years. He is a member of the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists and a certified Life Coach specialising in Childhood mental health disorders.

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