This is article 1 of a 3-part series about
The NLP TimeLine Process & Self-Esteem


From an NLP TimeLine Perspective, poor self-esteem originates from a limiting decision* about yourself and/or yourself in relation to other people.

Limiting decisions* are usually formed before the age of 6 or 7 years old. It happens when you experience an event that you don’t have the conscious tools to make sense of and so are unable to process. Perhaps it is too intense, or overwhelming. For example, maybe you spent hours creating a project for school that you are really proud of and are really excited to show it to your father. But instead of being proud of you (as you expected he would), he cruelly makes fun of your project. He tells you it’s not good enough.

All of a sudden the structures of how you’ve made sense of your life no longer are working. This puts you in a state of chaos and confusion. You are in shock. Your conscious mind stops functioning, and your unconscious mind takes over. This is a state of hypnosis, a very impressionable trance state.

In that state your unconscious mind decides on a meaning for what you just experienced, based on your limited development and experience in life. The meaning you gave it is the limiting decision*. In the above example you might decide, for example, “I’m a failure” or “I’m not good enough.”

This interpretation of reality is locked in through your breathing patterns, muscle contractions, and neuro-network patterns. From this point on, you filter your perception of yourselves and the world through this decision. It now becomes part of the structure of how you interact with and perceive the world.

This limiting decision* creates a negative identity for yourself. Once this identity is formed, your unconscious mind becomes very invested in maintaining it because it becomes a source of stability for you. (You have blocked out of your awareness that you are the one who has created it.)

Then two opposite things start happening: On the one hand you are invested in this negative identity because it provides a stable framework out of which to function. On the other hand, you don’t like seeing yourself that way and reject that part of yourself. This creates a split in you because your conscious mind is denying awareness of that part of yourself. A part of you is split from the awareness of the rest of you.

Once you start rejecting a part of who you are, the results of doing that snowball. When you reject a part of yourself, you are dropping conscious responsibility for it. The rejected part then goes underground in the unconscious, where it gets out of control and irrational. This part of your self is no longer responsive to what is actually going on around you. And it is no longer aware of all of the riches that exist in reality that don’t support the limiting decision*.

This results in your experience becoming limited and distorted. Every time you make a limiting decision*, your experience becomes more and more limited and disconnected from reality. As a result of this, you sometimes do things which you dislike yourself for. This reinforces the negative identity you have created. When you feel emotionally triggered by someone (i.e they “press your button”), you might find yourself reacting in ways that seem outside of your control.

Your limiting decisions* can have a large effect on the way you express yourself and the actions you take. They can also form how you come across physically. For example, they can be seen in the expressions on your face, the way you talk, how your voice sounds, how you hold your body, how well you do or don’t take care of your body, the kind of decisions you make, how you relate to others, the food you eat, and how you use your energy and your time. These all can negatively affect what kinds of responses you elicit from other people. And then you take these responses from others as proof that you are indeed, for example, inferior or unlikable. And so it’s a viscous circle holding in place low self-esteem.

*Limiting decisions: An NLP term used in NLP TimeLine counseling sessions to mean unconscious decisions made in early childhood. They are always some form of that life doesn’t work and, also usually, that there is something inherently wrong with you — such as “I am powerless,” “bad,” “unlovable;” or “People can’t be trusted.” Limiting decisions are never true. NLP TimeLine counseling sessions facilitate clearing limiting decisions in order to release the negative patterns in your life that are caused by them. For more information on limiting decisions and NLP TimeLine sessions, click here.

For the next article in this series, which is called, “How People Maintain their Poor Self-esteem,” go to: .


I invite you to leave any questions or comments in the below comments field.


Author’s Bio:  Jane Ilene Cohen, Ph.D. is an Intuitive & Transformational NLP Counselor, and an NLP & TimeLine Master Practitioner and Hypnotherapist, with a private practice in San Diego North County (Encinitas). She does individual counseling with children and adults (includes the NLP TimeLine Process and hypnosis), works with couples, families and other relationships, and facilitates groups and workshops.  She is also the Founder of the “Life is Designed to Work” thought system.

For more about Dr. Cohen’s counseling services, go to: . For a free phone consultation to decide if this is right for you, or to make an appointment, call Dr. Cohen at (760) 753-0733.

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