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There is one fundamental difference between a lack of confidence and a lack of self-worth. When you lack confidence, you feel unable to do one or several things in life. Whereas, when you lack self-worth, you feel you do not deserve to do one or several things in life. A lack of self-worth will therefore automatically include a lack of confidence, whereas someone can lack confidence without being low in self-esteem.

The main features of a lack of confidence are:

  • Remaining passive in certain situations where being active would improve life for you
  • Not saying what you think where it would be appropriate to do so
  • Not standing by what you said earlier
  • Always putting others first
  • An inability to say no
  • An inability to make decisions
  • Doing as you are told but resenting it
  • Shouting or getting angry when you want something

The main features of a lack of self-worth are all of the above points, and:

  • Feeling that anything bad that happens to you is your fault
  • Feeling that anything bad that happens to you is a punishment for being such a worthless person
  • Putting yourself down in your thoughts
  • Self-abuse (smoking, drinking, drugs)
  • Choosing abusive partners and staying with them because you feel they are what you deserve
  • Rejecting people who are nice to you because you assume, they are either lying to you or are too stupid to see how worthless you are
  • In extreme cases, self-mutilation or suicide

A lack of confidence in a mild form is something that most people will have experienced at one time or another. This is typical during the teenage years. You have to learn to deal with all the physical changes going on in your body, while at the same time trying to join the adult world. But even later on, when we have become more proficient in many areas of life, we can still be unconfident about particular aspects of ourselves.

Maybe we cannot cope with public speaking, maybe we feel intimidated by people in authority, or maybe we find it difficult to complain when we are dissatisfied with a product or service.

If your lack of confidence is restricted to one such area, a hypnotherapist will in all likelihood give you some suggestion therapy and possibly also a recording to reinforce the suggestions at home. Only if there are a cluster of confidence problems will the therapist start looking more closely at the underlying reasons by using analysis.

Among the reasons for low confidence can be one or several of the following:

  • Lack of attention and encouragement from your parents
  • One or several negative experiences when you have tried to be assertive
  • Parents who were unconfident themselves
  • Living in an environment where dissenting opinions are not tolerated or are ridiculed
  • Guilt about something that has happened in the past
  • Criticism or disapproval in childhood, adolescence and/or with your present partner
  • Parents who argued a lot
  • Parents who divorced, and having divorced parents who did not stay in touch with you once he or she had left home

With low self-esteem, a hypnotherapist would be more likely to go for an analytical approach straight away. This would enable them to find out what had happened in the client’s life that brought about such a negative self-image. Although it is true to say that your personality type plays a part in how you deal with life situations, there is always also an external component that will influence your view of yourself. You may well have been shy since birth, but that in itself is no barrier to growing up into a person who likes him or herself. It is the way others react to you that determine whether you develop self-worth or not.

Here are a few reasons that can (but do not have to) lie at the bottom of a lack of self-worth:

  • Being humiliated frequently
  • Having suffered verbal, physical or sexual abuse
  • Having been emotionally neglected over long periods as a child
  • Growing up in a home where no close one-to-one relationship with an adult could be built up
  • Seeing someone else in the family being subjected to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse and feeling unable to help
  • Having parents who fought physically
  • Never getting help from anyone, no matter how upset you were about a problem

Self-worth begins to develop very early on in life and, until it has become firmly established, it is very vulnerable to outside events. Children relate everything around them to themselves. As children are dependant on their parents (or carers) for food, shelter, love and recognition, any events that jeopardize their emotional safety will be upsetting to them. As children begin to realise that there are lots of things they are unable to do and get wrong, they automatically assume that anything that goes wrong in their environment is their fault.

CASE STUDY by Vera Peiffer

Vera Peiffer has been in full-time practice as an analytical hypnotherapist since 1986, she holds a degree in psychology. Before moving to Chichester, she previously worked from Harley Street and Surrey.


“Peter was 25 when he came for treatment. He had been in prison several times for various serious thefts he had committed. Apart from a fundamental sense of self-loathing, he also suffered from anxiety and depression.

Unhappy Memories

As we started exploring his lack of self-worth, we came across a long string of unhappy memories. Growing up in the countryside, Peter was brought up by his mother and grandmother, his father making only occasional appearances, usually when drunk. Peter’s mother and grandmother did not see eye to eye and vented their frustrations on Peter by verbally attacking him. In addition, Peter was beaten up regularly by his older brother and on many occasions by his father. As the youngest of the family, it seemed to Peter that the dissatisfaction of the entire world descended on him on a daily basis. It was as if he were the family punch bag that got knocked around when anyone was angry or dissatisfied. He could not remember a single happy event in his early life.

Things got worse for Peter

Peter started occasionally stealing small amounts of money from his mother and grandmother, until one day he was caught. He consequently got a beating from his grandmother, brother and his father. His grandmother announced publicly that her grandson was a thief and would always be a thief. Peter was devastated and overwhelmed by guilt. Whatever self-esteem had survived the beatings quickly disappeared after this public character assassination. Peter had nothing more to lose, so he followed the path that had been predicted for him. Peter became a thief on a grand scale and started to burgle houses.

Hypnoanalysis helped Peter

Our hypnoanalytical sessions became an agonising search for the good in him. In the process, it was necessary to have a closer look at his parents, grandmother and brother. It took quite a few sessions until Peter could allow himself to contemplate the possibility that others might have been out of order in the way that they treated him. He was so used to blaming himself for anything bad that happened to him. But finally, the breakthrough was achieved. Peter started building up self-esteem and decided to enrol for a college course, which he completed after three years.”

If you are interested in booking in with Vera, she is available at Chichester Natural Health Centre on Thursday afternoons. There is always a warm welcome for you at Chichester Natural Health Centre – so why not call in or telephone to find out more. Our reception is covered six days a week. 

01243 786946

Chichester Natural Health Centre,

5, City Business Centre,

Basin Road,


West Sussex

PO19 8DU

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