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Introduction: Laying the Foundation


Laying the Foundation:

Personality Traits of Low Self-Esteem

By James J. Messina, Ph.D.

The goal of Laying the Foundation

In the next twelve chapters you will be exploring what constitutes a dysfunctional family, the nine behavioral roles exhibited in such families, the impact of these roles on a person's self-worth and self-esteem, and how a person can unlearn these old behavior scripts. It is neither important nor necessary for you to accept the term “dysfunctional family" if you have a need for the material in this book. If you have low self-esteem it is only important that you recognize the roles you played in your family of origin and how you have carried these roles over into your current life. It is also important for you to recognize that one or more roles outlined in this book are at play in your life today. This can affect your personal effectiveness and emotional health.


Use the role descriptions in this series of books to help you identify the feelings, irrational beliefs, and negative consequences affecting your life so that you can work at changing them by your journal writing and self-improvement activities. 


The most important goal of Laying the Foundation is personal growth. Good luck!

Prologue to Laying the Foundation


Dear Mommy and Daddy,

When I was a little boy, I tried hard to make you love me. I was the perfect child: I was never loud, never made a mess, my hair was always combed, my clothes neat and clean, my face and hands freshly scrubbed. I always got good grades, and I was involved in nearly all the activities at school. I was a good student, class president, a member of the drama club, editor of the newspaper, and member of the National Honor Society. I won many awards and achieved many honors. Most of all I kept up the image you so desperately wanted to project. The image that we were a perfect, happy family even though I knew in my heart it wasn't true. I worked so hard, I made so many sacrifices in the hope that one day I would get my just rewards. But, do you know what? I never got what I knew I deserved. I never heard you say how proud you were of me. I never heard you say I love you. I never heard you say how glad you were that I was your son. And I was never able to steer you away from your self-destructive course in life.


I have received a few gifts from you, though. You have given me the gift of guilt, thinking I was never the son I should have been. The guilt that if I had been a “good enough'' son, you would have been better and happier parents. You have given me low self-esteem, and I am blinded from seeing the great and wonderful person I am. You have given these gifts as a legacy so that I may carry on the tradition, repeat the vicious cycle, and treat my children in the same way you treated me.

Your son