What is low self-esteem?
A person with low self-esteem lacks confidence in both their identity and their abilities. These individuals often feel unloved, incompetent and inadequate. When a person has low self-esteem, they are constantly afraid of making mistakes or letting others down.
The consequences of low self-esteem can be detrimental to your health and your relationships at home and work. Self-esteem can be affected by a number of factors, including your genes, your upbringing, and other circumstances in life.
However, your mental health is a major factor in determining your self-esteem. Even if there are signs to the contrary, your inner voice can constantly tell you that you are flawed and unworthy. It has been shown that negative thinking is associated with low self-esteem causes and low self-worth.
Read: Mild Cognitive Impairment
Signs of low self-esteem
The way a person thinks feels, and behaves can be influenced by their self-esteem. Occasionally, these signs are more obvious, but sometimes they can be less obvious.
When someone’s self-esteem is low, they may talk negatively about themselves, while others may go to great lengths to ensure that people like them. If someone does not feel like they are worthy and valued, this can have a severe negative impact on their life and health.
Below are a few signs of low self-esteem.
When you have a low level of self-confidence, you are inclined to have a low level of self-esteem. Being confident in your abilities helps you to know that you can handle different situations.
By feeling confident in your ability to navigate a variety of different life situations, you may be able to improve your overall wellbeing.
This lack of confidence can be caused by a lack of self-esteem, but poor self-esteem can also worsen poor confidence. It can be beneficial to gain a greater sense of self-confidence and ability. Practicing and acquiring new skills can enhance your self-confidence.
Lack of control
When you have low self-esteem, you tend to feel like you have little control over what happens to you. People might feel powerless to change themselves or the world due to the belief that they have little authority to do so. They may feel powerless to resolve their problems because they have an external locus of control.
Studies have suggested that people with higher self-esteem are more likely to be able to deal with stress in situations where they have little control over what happens, contributing to their mental health.
Find ways to improve your self-esteem if you feel as though you are powerless over your life or situation.
Negative social comparison
Social comparisons can sometimes be beneficial to a person’s self-esteem. In addition, comparing oneself to others may also lead to self-esteem issues. When people have low self-esteem, they are more likely to engage in what is called upward social comparison, in which they compare themselves with people who are better than they are.
Comparing yourself to others can benefit you in the long run. These comparisons can sometimes be an inspiration for improvement and a source of information. If people feel hopeless or inadequate, it can affect their self-esteem.
Similar comparisons can also be made via social media. Self-esteem can be damaged when you are constantly comparing yourself unfavorably to people on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
Check: Antisocial Personality Disorder
Problems asking for what you need
Low self-esteem can make it difficult for a person to ask for what they need. They may feel unworthy of help since their self-esteem is low. Furthermore, they may feel incompetent or embarrassed when they need assistance and support. The fact that they do not prioritize their own desires makes it difficult for them to assert themselves when they are in need.
Worry and self-doubt
Many low-self-worth individuals worry even after they have made a decision that they made the wrong one. They would rather listen to others’ opinions rather than stick to their own.
In turn, people with low self-esteem are likely to question their decisions and doubt themselves, which makes it harder for them to make important life decisions.
Trouble accepting positive feedback
The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published a study in 2017 that noted low self-esteem is directly correlated with the inability to take advantage of others’ compliments.
People with low self-esteem find it hard to accept compliments from others since they do not have a positive opinion of themselves.
Positive feedback is sometimes met with suspicion. When people with self-esteem issues hear complimentary words, these do not align with what they believe about themselves; they may even think the other person is flippant or cruel.
Read: Brief Psychotic Disorder
Self-esteem issues lead to people focusing on their flaws rather than their strengths. They seem to always speak negatively about themselves rather than positive things. Their fault is always to find some fault with some aspect of themselves, whether it is their personality, their appearance or their abilities.
Fear of failure
Low self-esteem causes people to doubt their ability to succeed because they lack confidence in their abilities. Although they fear failure, they often avoid challenging situations or give up quickly without trying.
When people feel insecure, they exhibit behaviors like acting out when things go wrong or trying to hide their feelings of inadequacy. The task may get downplayed, excused and external factors may be blamed.
When people are low on self-esteem, they believe that the future will be no better. When someone experiences a sense of hopelessness, it can be difficult for them to engage in behavior that will bring about positive changes.
A common way to cope with such feelings is self-sabotage. Low self-esteem is often caused by finding obstacles that prevent success, which allows people to find another factor to blame for their perceived shortcomings.
Check: Guilty Feelings
Lack of boundaries
Early in life, people often learn how to set boundaries. A child who experiences respect and value from his or her caregivers has a better chance of being able to create good boundaries in their adult relationships. The view of themselves is also more positive in general.
If a person does not value himself or herself, setting boundaries can be difficult. If they attempt to maintain or establish a boundary, they may feel guilty or fear losing their popularity.
It can be very frustrating if people don’t respect another person’s time and space. Respect is not only stressful but can make a person feel unvalued as well.
Trying to please others
Keeping people happy is also a symptom of a low sense of self-worth. Some people who feel bad about themselves may do a great deal to ensure that others are comfortable and happy as a way to gain external validation. Many people neglect their own needs, agreeing to many things they do not wish to do and feel guilty for saying no.
Read: Body Dysmorphic Disorder
What causes low self-esteem?
Low self-esteem is caused by your negative attitudes and beliefs. It is not something you are born with – you develop such beliefs as a result of your life experiences. You can greatly affect your perception of yourself by how others treat you, particularly when you’re a child. Your chances of developing low self-esteem increase when you experience the following experiences:
- The experience of being punished, abused, or neglected. It is very powerful to experience punishment, abuse, and neglect. They often lead children to believe that they must be bad and must deserve what they’ve gone through.
- It is not enough to be warm, affectionate, praise, love, or encourage one another. If nothing overtly traumatic happened, you might wonder why you feel this way. Insufficient positive experiences can lead to low self-esteem without any specific negative experience. Children can develop the impression that they don’t measure up without enough reinforcement that they are good, special, and loved.
- The failure to meet the expectations of others. If someone else’s expectations didn’t match yours, you might feel inadequate. Your parents or another authority figure might have set these standards. The fact that they don’t meet the standards doesn’t matter to many people with low self-esteem, no matter how fair or balanced the standards are.
- An inability to relate to your peers. A ‘tribe’ or ‘group’ is important for survival – we need to belong to them. Adolescence is a time when your sense of self can be profoundly impacted by the experience of being different or the ‘odd one out’.
Impact of low self-esteem
According to research, low self-esteem is associated with mental health problems such as:
- Eating disorders
- Emotional distress
- Panic disorder
- Risky behaviors6
- Social anxiety disorder
- Substance use
It is more difficult to form healthy, supportive relationships when you have low self-esteem. Several disorders and conditions related to mental health can also be affected by it, which include anxiety and depression.
Additionally, suicidal thoughts are more likely to occur among people who have low self-esteem.
In addition to low self-esteem, people may also be more sensitive to rejection or criticism. Someone who has a high sense of self-worth may be able to ignore negative feedback, but someone with a low sense of identity may take it more personally. Self-esteem problems can also lead to people giving up when they are faced with obstacles.
The authors of the study found that people with a low sense of self-worth often engage in behaviors designed to try to gain social support. People with low self-esteem may act sad or sulk in order to gain others’ support.
Such behavior often backfires. Their failure to boost their self-esteem results in others’ negative reactions instead of them getting the support and encouragement they need.
Read: Asperger’s Syndrome
When you don’t feel good about yourself, it can negatively affect your emotional health, so you need to address that problem and get the support you need. Although building self-confidence takes time, there are things you can do while taking steps to improve your self-esteem to protect your mental health. You may be able to do the following things to help:
Keep a positive attitude
Focus on positive, hopeful thoughts each day. Be aware of the things you are good at and let yourself take pride in them. Remind yourself that despite feeling less than your best, you possess the strength and ability to get through something difficult. Try to recall times in your past when you have achieved something amazing.
Take care of yourself
You may feel that you don’t deserve care and consideration when you have low self-esteem. Take the time to remind yourself that you need to take care of yourself and find things you can do to show yourself kindness, no matter how small they may be. You should do something that you enjoy doing. Take some time to relax and rest.
You must invest in your health – both physical and mental – by investing in your own health and comfort.
Read: Schizoaffective Disorder
Get some outside support
You can find unconditional support from someone who understands your struggles. You can choose from friends or family members, therapists, teachers, clergy members, teachers and so on.
Self-esteem can be improved by having a network of caring people who respect you and want you to value yourself.
How to build self-esteem
You can do things to improve your self-esteem if you are struggling with low self-esteem. The following are some of these strategies:
Read: Premenstrual Syndrome
Notice your thoughts
Take notice of the negative thoughts you automatically have throughout the day. To combat negative thinking, it is important to proactively identify cognitive distortions and replace unhelpful thinking with positive thinking.
You should learn how to forgive yourself if you tend to dwell on your mistakes or failures. This can keep you focused on what you can improve upon in the future rather than what you can’t change.
It is important to let go of the notion that being perfect is necessary to be valuable. Accept yourself as you are today. Having goals or things you want to achieve doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving of love or esteem, but we should emphasize the fact that we are all deserving of love and respect, now and in the future.
Think about your accomplishments and things you’re proud of. Don’t compare yourself to others or focus on things you’d like to change, but instead recognize and appreciate your own value and talents.
The ability to value yourself is not dependent on your ability to improve or achieve — but learning to value yourself can help you progress toward your goals.
Consider yourself as a close friend. What would you do if you were in the same situation with someone you cared about? When you understand, patiently demonstrate empathy, and treat them with kindness, you may find you are giving them the same level of unconditional support. Instead of beating yourself up, it’s important to show yourself the same unconditional support.
Read: Attachment Disorder
How to boost low self-esteem
Here are some tips for building your self-esteem:
- Feel good by doing something you enjoy.
- Exercise can improve your mood.
- Take a moment to reflect on your strengths.
- Journalize your gratitude.
- Negative thoughts should be challenged.
- Engage in activities that make you feel better about yourself.
- Help others by volunteering.
- We all make mistakes.
- Don’t forget to celebrate your success, no matter how big or small.
Read: Types of Attachment Styles
It is crucial to establish healthy relationships, pursue goals, and feel proud of who you are to have self-esteem. Everyone has moments when they are unconfident once in a while, but low self-esteem can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
You can seek assistance if you are suffering from low self-esteem. If you are experiencing mental health problems, speak to your doctor. You can boost your confidence and self-esteem by working with a therapist to change the thinking patterns contributing to low self-esteem.
You may need some time and effort to change how you view yourself, but you will be able to begin to recognize and appreciate yourself as you are.