Verbal Abuse and How it Affects Your Self-Esteem

May 6, 2021 Cheryl Wozny

One of the many side effects of suffering verbal abuse is decreased self-esteem and low self-worth. Even the strongest individuals can suffer the damaging consequences of having someone verbally chip away at their psyche regularly. Unfortunately, this was very much the case in my childhood and adult years. 

Verbal Abuse in Childhood and Low Self-Esteem

When you are a child, you look to anyone for guidance and help with the world around you. Many children have people who love them, encourage their talents, and help them learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately, others like myself had days consisting of insults, degradation, and even threats

Not everyone will have the same side effects of abuse that I have. I am not here to tell you that every person with low self-esteem has a verbally abusive situation, either. But my story may resonate with someone else and give them a glimpse of hope. They are not the bad person they were told they are. They are important, worthy, and necessary. 

How Verbal Abuse Affects Self-Esteem 

Children are impressionable beings, and I was no exception. I took in everything around me at home, school, and extracurricular activities. I also absorbed everything that was said to me and took it to heart. I may have been able to bounce back from a few insults at school or from a friend who was angry one day, with only a small number of instances. But when you face verbal abuse almost every single day, as I did, it slowly leaks into your brain, damages your psyche, and changes who you think you are. 

Words are extremely powerful, especially for children. This element is critical when it comes from a family member whose job is to love and protect a child from harm. Imagine growing up in a home where the people who should love and care for you more than anyone else in the world tell you things like this daily: 

  • What's wrong with you? Are you stupid or something? 
  • If you just behaved properly we wouldn't get so mad. 
  • Why can't you be more like your brother/sister? 
  • Why do you bother trying to look nice? It doesn't make a difference. 

Why Verbal Abuse Hurts After You Grow Up

Unfortunately, in many cases, the verbal abuse that a child hears becomes their internal dialogue. For myself, it has taken me years of therapy and guidance to slowly pull myself out of the never-ending loop that I hear in my head when I doubt my abilities. I continuously hear the insults, the disparaging remarks in my mind each time I am afraid I've made a mistake or done something I shouldn't have.

It has been decades since I was that little girl who they said was no good, and nothing I did would matter. When the voices start pecking at me during times of self-doubt, I stand firm and tell myself that those are not my thoughts. They are the thoughts of someone else who did not care for me. I cannot let thoughts from someone who did not care about me bother me, especially 30 years later. 

Recovering Self-Esteem After Verbal Abuse 

It is a slow healing process and will not happen overnight. I have spent hundreds of hours with numerous therapists, trying to find the best way to work through all of the self-esteem issues that I've carried into adulthood. There are good days and bad days, but slowly, the bad days are becoming fewer and further between.

Progress is progress, no matter how small or insignificant you may think. Even if you are taking one step forward and two steps back today, you still managed to step forward. And maybe tomorrow will be better. Remind yourself that there are people who realize your worth, value you as the person you are right now, and are completely happy with you just the way you are. You can come out on the other side of verbal abuse okay. 

How has verbal abuse affected your self-esteem as an adult? Share your experience in the comments.

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2021, May 6). Verbal Abuse and How it Affects Your Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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