Self-esteem, also known as self-worth or self-respect, is the opinion people have of themselves. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself and see yourself as deserving the respect of others. In psychology, your self-esteem is used to describe your sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you like yourself.
Your self-esteem involves a variety of beliefs about yourself, such as how you look, how you feel and how you gauge your personal successes or failures.
Self-esteem tends to fluctuate over time, depending on your circumstances. It’s normal to go through times when you feel down about yourself and times when you feel good about yourself. Generally, however, self-esteem stays in a range that reflects how you feel about yourself overall, and increases slightly with age.
While moments of insecurity or inadequacy are part of being human, sustained or constant feelings of not being good enough may point to having low self-esteem.If you have low self-esteem, studies have linked poor self-image with a variety of problems that can affect everything from the way you view your career to how you conduct your relationships, you might constantly worry that you aren’t good enough.
Causes Of Low Self Esteem
Your base level of self-esteem forms primarily during your developmental years, from young childhood into young adulthood. This is the time in your life when you develop your self-identity and start to form an understanding of how you fit into the larger world. Low self-esteem often begins in childhood, our teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us positive and negative messages about ourselves.
Cultural forces like racism, classism, sexism, and ableism can also influence how we think about ourselves. These power systems touch us from all sides, from poor representation in the media to bullying on the playground to microaggressions from teachers and neighbors. While many of us can soldier through these forms of discrimination with our self-esteem intact, that isn’t the case for everyone.
Environmental factors that can affect our self-esteem include:
- frequent criticism from parents, teachers, or other important adults during childhood
- inattentive or uninvolved caregivers or parents
- medical and mental health conditions
- adverse life events
- trauma or abuse
We should also note that low self-esteem can develop in adults, too. Dramatic life changes like the end of a serious relationship or the outset of a medical condition can have an impact on our self-worth, no matter what age we are.
Lastly, biology and personality also play a part. Some of us are simply wired to feel things more intensely. Because of this, we may remember or hold on to experiences in our lives that other people would more easily brush off. Some people are just more prone to negative thinking, while others set impossibly high standards for themselves.
Signs Of Low Self Esteem
- Difficulty speaking up and prioritizing your own needs, wants, and feelings
This may be especially prominent in the context of what others want or need, such as routinely placing others’ priorities above your own. Perhaps you convince yourself that what you really want doesn’t matter in the moment, in the face of someone else’s needs. It’s understandable why you don’t speak up! While caring for others is a personality strength, when it comes at the cost of your own needs, wants, or feelings, it becomes a hindrance.
- Saying “I’m sorry” and/or feeling guilty for everyday actions
Do you constantly feel guilty for things like taking up space or apologize for things that you have no control or responsibility over? This could be a sign that you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong, chances are you have nothing to apologize for, but it’s become a habit.
- Anger and rage
Anger is a normal emotion, but one that gets distorted when you have low self-esteem. When you don’t think highly of yourself, you start to believe your own thoughts and feelings aren’t important to others. Repressed hurt and anger can build up, so something seemingly small can trigger outbursts of fury.
- Following Other Mindlessly
This is another example of a strength becoming overdone, being flexible is a good thing, but when it means that you seldom carve your own path, it may be a sign of low self-esteem.
- Not feeling deserving of, or capable of, having “more”
Whether “more” means deserving better relationships, a higher-paying job, or the common decency of others, when you feel like you deserve better, you won’t go seeking it. This can lead to unfulfilling (or even toxic) relationships, unsatisfactory or low paying jobs, and overall lower standards.
- Difficulty making your own choices
A lack of confidence can show up in feeling torn between choices or having difficulty making your own choices. It’s much easier to let others decide, but do they always know what you want or need? If you do make a decision, do you have trouble standing by them? This is a sign of low self-esteem, not believing that you can make good decisions.
- Lack of boundaries
Having a lack of boundaries may leave you feeling vulnerable or hurt, whether that’s the intention of your loved ones or not. Low self-esteem shows up in feeling insecure that speaking up about your needs will cause people to look down on you.
- Doing things or buying gifts excessively for other people
Everyone loves receiving gifts — which is the point. By giving people thoughtful gifts, you’re relying on the joy of presents to bolster your reputation. Even for those who wouldn’t appreciate it, you buy them gifts in order to feel wanted, needed, recognized.
- Negative self-perception
Negative self-perception means that you don’t think that people would like or accept you for who you are. This often stems from a lack of acceptance from yourself and is a very common sign of low self-esteem.
- Critical, abusive internal dialogue
One of the most damaging signs of low self-esteem are critical, abusive internal dialogues. Whether you scold yourself for negligible actions or call yourself names, this is negative self-talk that will impact your mood and mental health.
- Fear and anxiety
Fear and a belief that you are powerless to change anything in your world are irrefutably linked to low self-esteem.
Treatment Of Low Self Esteem
1.Seek help for underlying self-esteem problems
Chronic problems can be demoralizing and lead to self-esteem issues. Seek professional advice for problems such as relationship breakdown, anxiety disorder or financial worries.
Self-esteem is strongly related to how you view and react to the things that happen in your life. Suggestions for building self-esteem include:
- Talk to yourself positively.
- Challenge negative ‘self-talk’.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Appreciate your special qualities.
- Forget the past.
- Tell yourself a positive message everyday.
- Stop worrying.
- Have fun – schedule enjoyable social events and activities into every week.