self esteem November 8, 2011

6 Secrets to Rebuild Your Self-Esteem: Top 6 Dysfunctional Family Roles Affecting It

by Michael

dysfunctional family rolesWithout knowing, in our families we wanted to maintain balance of some kind. We unconsciously adopted certain dysfunctional family roles created by rules such as “don’t talk about the family problems.”

The dysfunctional family roles we took on tended to be unhealthy because of alcohol or drug addiction, physical or sexual abuse, or extreme aggression by a parent. We fell into these roles as a way to reduce stress and emotional pain. As a result our self-esteem – our degree of confidence in ourselves suffered.

As children, we may have believed we caused the problems. We choose our different roles to survive the best way we know how.

What role or roles did you assume in your family? We can take on different roles at different times.

dysfunctional family rolesSix Main Dysfunctional Family Roles:

Addict addicted to alcohol, drugs, physical or sexual abuse. The addict because of unresolved emotional pain probably has very low self-esteem. They use addictive behaviors to numb their pain.

dysfunctional family rolesCaretakerenables the addict by avoiding confrontation and wants to control or manipulate and keep everyone happy. The caretaker ignores their own needs to take care of everyone else. The caretaker seeks feeling better about themselves – a boost of self-esteem – by doing things for others.

HeroThey achieve success on the outside and make the family look good. This is the student with high marks, the football star, or the popular girl. The hero gets their self-esteem from positive attention outside themselves. They may feel inadequate inside.

Clownmake jokes, sometimes inappropriate to ease tension. The clown may feel the family shame or anger. They suffer the butt of negative attention which they seek. Negative attention decreases self-esteem.

Scapegoatacts out tension or anger that the family wants to ignore. The family holds up this child as the cause of problems while ignoring the real family issues. Again because of negative attention this child suffers low self-esteem.

Lost Childwithdraws and becomes invisible so as to avoid creating problems. The lost child may experience depression, lack of trust, and very low self-esteem.

How did your role(s) in your family affect your self-esteem?

How to Shift From Dysfunctional Family Roles to Functional Family Roles:

  • Change the rules to begin to heal family emotional issues.
  • Express without fear.
  • Have your feelings and needs accepted.
  • Set healthy personal boundaries.

How to Rebuild Your Self-Esteem:

  • AddictBegin feeling the pain. The only way out is through. Heal your codependency, wounded inner child, and the wound in your soul.
  • CaretakerLearn what your needs are. Begin to nurture yourself first. Become aware of your feelings and begin to express them. Set healthy personal boundaries by saying “No.”
  • Hero Overcome fear of rejection and failure by acknowledging and building on your inner strengths. Know perfection by doing your best and learning from mistakes.
  • ClownDevelop healthy humor. Forgive your family and especially yourself.
  • ScapegoatHeal the blame and shame you choose to take on for your family. Develop your personal inner power.
  • Lost ChildBuild your self-esteem by learning to love yourself. Gradually learn to trust yourself and others.

functional familyAre you ready to escape your childhood dysfunctional family roles to rebuild your confidence and thereby your happiness and success in life?

See also Self-Esteem: Recovery from a Dysfunctional Family: Part 2


Michael David Lawrience is the author of Emotional Health: The Secret from Drama, Trauma, and Pain His book provides ways for improving emotional health, easing pain and stress, healing physical and emotional abuse, and spiritual awakening. See book on Amazon

Michael as a previous Residential and Self-Esteem Coach and Mentor has over 15 years’ experience teaching teen’s self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-reliance. See eBook Self Esteem- A Teen’s Guide for Girls  This book is valuable for women also.

Michael offers Bowen Therapy in person in Sedona, Arizona for easing physical and emotional pain. See

Michael also conducts personalized hiking tours in Sedona for emotional and spiritual breakthroughs.


Comments 1
  • Very interesting as usual Michael. I did a course in Transactional Analysis some years ago looking at the roles people play. I wonder if these roles you mention are not just occurring in the type of dysfunctional families you describe here but also in the average family. I believe we all “hear/receive” a message in our earlier lives that prompts us to play a role to cope with the way life presents itself to us.

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