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Identifying Low Self-Esteem

May 19, 2016


Identifying Low Self-Esteem

What is self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can lead people to be depressed, to fall short of their potential or to tolerate abusive situations or relationships.  Too much self-love results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures.  It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism.

Question is:  How do we find the right balance of accurate self-knowledge and respect for ourselves.

Self-esteem is not static or fixed.  Your belief in yourself can change as a result of circumstance and experience throughout your life.

Brief contrast:

High self-esteem:

  • Generally you see yourself in a positive light
  • HSE acts as a buffer when your confidence is shaken such as after the loss of a loved one, a loss of a job or the ending of a relationship

Low self-esteem:

  • Focus on your weaknesses
  • Focus on negative beliefs about yourself

LSE can affect mental health as holding on to negative beliefs lowers your resistance and ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life.  It can put you at a higher risk for developing such problems as eating disorders, depression and social phobia.  LSE can also be exacerbated by existing conditions such as panic disorders or schizophrenia.

What are the causes of low self-esteem?

It varies person to person as we all take a different path through life and have different inborn nature and temperament.  Experience and relationships with people have an important part to play.  Negative experiences in childhood can be damaging to self-esteem.  Harmful experiences can leave you feeling that you are not valued or important.   Since you have not had the chance to build up any resilience this negative view can become the view that you believe about yourself.  Significant negatives in adult life can shake a person’s confidence as well as lower their self-esteem sometimes gradually over time without the person even realizing it.

Examples of things that can lower self-esteem:

  • Abuse: sexual, emotional or physical
  • Neglect of your physical and/or emotional needs as a child
  • Bullying
  • Feeling like the “odd man out” at school
  • Bereavement
  • Being poor in a wealthy neighbourhood
  •  Peer pressure
  • Prejudice
  • Trauma
  • Underemployment
  • – Social isolation and loneliness and other factors

Key point:  The way you feel about these experiences will depend on lots of other factors but negative core beliefs about your intelligence, appearance and abilities will often be formed

What are some of the consequences of low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can interact with mental problems and exacerbate existing conditions making one vulnerable to developing other problems.

What are some of the other results?

Personal relationships:  LSE can cause you to form damaging relationships.  You may feel that you don’t deserve to be treated with love and respect.  This can result in friends, partner or family members trying to take advantage of you.

Social life:  LSE makes it difficult for you to hear criticism, makes you overly sensitive and upset easily.  You may stay away from activities that expose you to judgment.  It can leave you feeling lonely and frustrated.

Work:  LSE makes you feel that you are not competent or  intelligent.  It makes you avoid tasks because you don’t feel confident that you can do it perfectly.  It limits career development because of the lack of confidence.

Negative Behaviours:  You may try to escape from life engaging in taking drugs, unsafe sex or drinking too much.  You might develop aggressive behaviour to hide your vulnerability and protect yourself.

How can I increase self-esteem?

To increase self-esteem …challenge negative beliefs

It can be a painful process to identify your core negative beliefs so take your time and ask a friend or partner to support you.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my weaknesses and failings?
  • What negative feelings do people have about me?
  • Describe yourself I one word.  I am ——————
  • When did you start feeling like this?
  • Is there an experience or event that caused this feeling?
  • Do certain negative thoughts recur on a regular basis?

You might want to keep a thought diary over several weeks citing situations, how you felt and its underlying belief.  For example:

Situation A) Asked to deliver presentation at work

Reaction:  Told boss I was fine but I was anxious

Underlying belief:  No one will want to listen to me because I am not engaging

Situation B) You are invited to party

Reaction:  You lied and said you had something else to do

Underlying belief:  I can’t say anything interesting and I’ll look stupid all dressed up

Once you identify your core beliefs about yourself your challenge is to change them.

For example with situation B:  my friend really wants me to go to this party, he/she must find me interesting.  I was invited several times they must like me and so on.  One tip is that every time you hear something that you interpret as hurtful think about the reasons why the person might have said it.  Then you won’t interpret it as aimed at you.

See next blog on more tips on how to boost your self-esteem…

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