Fascinating post Willow. I used to work with someone whose self esteem was entirely based on what other people thought of her. I would say "I spoke to someone at x office and they remembered you" she would get paranoid and ask what they said about her, and so on. Apparently she left there under a bit of a cloud, but it seems she brought her baggage with her. It was a bit pathetic really, to see someone collapse into a heap of stress because someone 20 miles away may be saying something bad about her. In fact they weren't, they just sent their regards.
I think she didn't know herself. She was one of these people who build a false tough facade up, but eventually it falls apart and then she moves on and repeats the mistake. In fact, she turned on me because it gained favour with her bosses, but after I left that job she was sacked in the most spectacular way involving video surveillance of her going home every day and doing no work. A point which I gently pointed out to her, as her boss, but it was conveniently ignored by management at the time when she decided to help them and use the race card to say I was victimizing her when I criticised her work because she was asian. I think one of the guys involved in the eventual process of sacking her nearly had a nervous breakdown. That was a very sick workplace, and a lesson in life of what to avoid. Very glad I am out of there.
On the suject of those little lessons in life, I think people with low self esteem may indeed regard themselves as victims. She did. I think they must feel like a blind man in a maze, and it's not fair ("why me?" and all that). But the annoying thing is all they have to do is start walking in any direction, and if they bump into something it's the wrong way! Keep doing that and you will get out. The lesson being is that you are in control of your own destiny. And when you get out you will probably find that you can see after all, it's just that the lights were off where you originated from. As you physically move your viewpoint will change, and you will see things differently, even if you never believed it was possible in the first place. The feeling of impossibility only comes from the fact that you have never experienced anything different. But it is irritating when you see people who refuse to help themselves for whatever reason. Sometimes they need to get away from others who are putting them down. I feel like whacking them on the head with a well rolled newspaper, in the hope that it will knock some sense into them! I think you probably have a much better way of dealing with them though.
And confidence is the big thing. Forget about that outer facade, find yourself, that should be the ultimate goal. Confidence comes from within I think. But being confident does not always mean being happy, because I think we are all tied in with others. I can be confident - but put me in a McDonalds and I will not be happy. I'll be wanting to tell all those people not to ruin their health and our shared planet, and then I'll be worried about a McLibel case against me. However put me in a good conversation over a meal with friends and I will be happy. On a macro scale, I think the human race may be heading for ecological disaster, on the other hand it may just be one of those bumps on the head you get when you are searching for the way out of the maze, albeit a very large bump indeed.
Regarding what can be achieved, well I too think just about anything is possible. It sounds like your parents were very good, and as such you are now using that knowledge to help others, which is great.
I rambled a bit off the topic of self esteem, but I'll post it anyway.