Tag Archives: self esteem

Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly

Today we bring you a review by Sarah from The Puffin Diaries, of the book Banish your Self-Esteem Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly

This book aims to teach young people, from aged ten, to use cognitive behavioural therapy to build positive self-esteem. The book can be used by a parent or a practitioner with the young person and is a combination of segments to read and activities to carry out.

self esteemWe have had this book some time, over a year, however we have used the book on and off through out this time. One of the main reasons for this is that we’ve accessed sections of the books which have I have considered age appropriate. So whilst my son at ten could access the first three chapters, which explored the concept of self esteem, he seemed less able to grasp the concepts of following chapters which delve deeper into how self-esteem develops. We have however returned to these sections at a later date.

The book is highly interactive and easy to follow, making a logical progression for the reader, building on one idea to the next. It was easy to break into smaller sections, which suited my son, as whole chapters include quite a lot to digest in one sitting for a younger child. That said my son asked on a number of occasions if we could work together from the book. He enjoys the one to one time and also the opportunity to explore himself with someone that feels safe by his side.

My son particularly enjoyed designing his own self-esteem vault, where you keep safe all the positive beliefs you have about yourself, from the self esteem thief, who you can also draw your own version of.

There are activities and parts of the text that are much more suited to teenagers than young adolescents. For example, there are case studies from older children which include incidents of self harming. I think this is particularly important to take into consideration when dealing with children who have suffered early life trauma and have a younger emotional intelligence than their physical age. My own son struggled a little with some of the list of emotional labels unable to differentiate between words like, embarrassment and shame or sadness and a low mood.

Another good reason to work in small sections was that reading about all the bad things you feel about yourself as you tick a long list of words you agree describe you, can be upsetting in itself. Sometimes I’d see we need to switch mode so that a dark mood didn’t stay with my son.

As the parent or teacher it is worth reading through to the end first and finding sections you can turn to and use to create positive endings to your sessions. There are some deep breathing and relaxation exercises which we introduced earlier than the progressive stage in the book because they were enjoyable to use. 

So in conclusion, this book is a really thorough and useful workbook to help young people understand how their own self-esteem works. I do consider the whole book suited more to teenagers, however I found there were sections that can still be useful for  those younger. My own son is turning thirteen soon and I’m sure he will ask me again if we can look at it again.

Depression in children

Today Rebecca, mum of 2 girls, asks about your experiences of depression within children.

I’m worried about my youngest girl who is 6. She takes a bit of a beating verbally from her elder sister who constantly knocks her and the things she does. At 9, I think she’s going through a developmental stage of competitiveness; at least her classmates seem similar.

Unfortunately I think my youngest is also going through a typical developmental stage of becoming aware of what those around her think of her. And this is really affecting her self-esteem and self-confidence. She has none at all.

Amplified by oldest’s constant calls of “You’re silly”, “That’s not how you do it” and “No, do it A Problem SharedTHIS way”, youngest’s feelings of self-worth have disappeared and she now feels unable to do anything for fear of getting it wrong, or not meeting other’s expectations.

At home we model ‘failure’ and overcoming it. We talk about how well they both combat challenges. But still, youngest always seems so blue and my gut instinct is that she’s depressed.

Does anyone have experience of depression within children? I’ve spoken to the school liaison officer but not sure where else to turn other than the GP….he’s next on my list.

Anna Writes: Self esteem, self harm and coping

Phonto*Contains some material that may be distressing*

Self esteem, self worth, self concept- these have all been tricky and elastic concepts for me, particularly as a younger person. I remember being told things like ‘you’ve got the ability but you just don’t try’ and ‘you need to believe in yourself’ these phrases wont be unfamiliar to lots of people.

But the assumption was there that there existed some mystical innate force within me that I could access and draw strength and positive affirmations from. Not true.

I felt worthless. I never had a strong sense of self, identity was a complicated beast and was marred even further by some of the behaviours that I adopted and adapted as coping strategies to protect against difficult feelings. I felt very much the ‘defective baby’ that Verrier describes in The Primal Wound.

I didn’t grow up in an environment of positive praise and reward, I grew up in a home filled with criticism and projections of parental self hatred and dissatisfaction. Again, not unusual. But what did feel quite specific to being me was knowing that I was unloved. Unloved by the one person biologically predetermined to love me. The first cut is the deepest and all that…

Where does self esteem come from? I think self esteem and worth are cultivated by accurate reflections of experience, by kindness, via patience and love. Self esteem comes from the building up of positive experiences and relationships that model and therefore mould into the self concept (or way we see ourselves)

surviving early separation from a primary caregiver requires some heavy duty coping strategies, popular wisdom has it that adopted people either develop passive pleasing tendencies in order to defend against any future or further rejection or find ways to keep everyone at arms length- avoidance or complicatedly- oscillate between these two conflicting positions.

I shut down. Avoiding. Much of the time I didn’t even feel. At a young age I discovered my mums medicine cabinet and found that her extensive stash of opiate based analgesics and tranquillisers could provide a wonderful, warm escape. Perhaps providing some of those all important opioids that weren’t being activated naturally. I felt ashamed of what I was doing but also, it gave me a sense of escape and release, I could take something that would help me to feel something, even if that something was a kind of oblivion, it was better than nothing.

By my teenage years, I had discovered self harm, and this really worked for me, I’m not advocating or suggesting it, you won’t ever find it in the NICE guidelines but it worked for me for a time. My sense of low self esteem, at times bordering on all out self hatred combined with the relief of having expression for the pain that I could not give name to- could only really be expressed through physically hurting myself.

I never had the words to accurately describe the eviscerated emptiness that I felt growing up- I never had the words to describe the inescapable loneliness that haunted me, I never had the words to say how angry, let down and abandoned I felt- so self harm became a way of articulating this- I could look at my arms, my legs, my torso and know that I had given some meaning to the feelings, I had started a dialogue with myself about the fact that I wasn’t ok.

It took a long time to find the right help and support to enable me to develop new ways of coping that didn’t hurt- most interventions that the adult world offered were around trying to get me to stop- but trying to get me to stop without asking what was wrong, or what was going on underneath- I don’t think things are so different now- although there is much better understanding and education around self harm, it is still widely misunderstood and creates fear and worry in professionals and caregivers alike.

Self harm is a symptom, a clue to the distress that someone is feeling, it doesn’t necessarily signal a desire for death, but more likely a will to survive. Self harm is a way, quite an extreme way- granted, of trying to communicate something.

By my early 20’s I had been lucky enough to have worked with a couple of really good counsellors, people who had taken the time to listen and understand and not tell me stop, so that over time, the need to do it lessened, I found new tools and ways to articulate what I was feeling and I learnt that it was ok to have needs. I discovered ways to ask for what I felt I needed and I learned about my impact on the world around me- I started writing without feeling self conscious, I painted badly and I danced like no one was watching- and each of these things helped me to feel more in myself, more grounded and accepting.

With the help and support of the people around me, I learnt what it meant to be me,

made things up, and discarded those aspects that didn’t fit anymore and accepted that things are not rigid. I did things that I can take pride in and learn from the mistakes that I keep on making.

I found new ways to cope.


Below are some suggestions of sites that can be really helpful if self harm is something that impacts you or anyone you know.

selfinjurysupport.org.uk was formerly known as the Bristol Crisis Service for Women and has lots of great resources such as an interactive diary to record self care/ self harm, a telephone helpline and links to support.

youngminds.org.uk  is a portal for all things to do with young people and mental health and includes lots of links specifically for people who self harm, including Kooth telephone counselling service.

thecalmzone.net  this site covers many areas and includes contributions on self harm by people who have lived with it.

selfharm.co.uk was set up by people with lived experience of self harm and contains a wealth of information on where to access support.