5 Facts About Low Self-Esteem
Everyone has different conceptions about what low self-esteem is and its effects, but we can agree on a basic conception of self-esteem as our perception of ourselves. People with low self-esteem believe that they are inferior to others in some way, while people with healthy self-esteem see themselves as equally valuable to other people. This article attempts to explain the origins of self-esteem and some of the ways it manifests in our lives.
1. Self-Esteem Begins in Childhood
Our conceptions of our own self-worth begin early when we are children. When we do not get what we want or need from our guardians, we learn what we need to do in order to please them. When we still do not get what we want or need, we feel like we have failed or displeased the people we care about. It is this approval-seeking trait that manifests in our adult life and contributes to our sense of our own self-worth. Because we tie our worth to how others perceive and care about us, if we feel they are displeased with us or that we have failed them, we develop negative emotions about ourselves and begin to feel worthless. It is this worthlessness that contributes to our negative emotions and our feelings of low self-esteem.
2. Self-Esteem Can Affect Our Relationships
As people with low self-esteem already know, how we see ourselves can affect both how we see our partners and how they see us. People who believe they are worthless do not believe they are worthy of love. As you may know if you have ever tried to give someone a compliment who refuses to take it, people who do not believe they are worthy of love or praise cannot be convinced otherwise. They have to teach themselves to believe in their own worth — no one else can do it for them.
People with low self-esteem sometimes believe that their partners are misguided or just feel sorry for them — otherwise, why would their partner stoop so low as to date someone worthless? If you recognize this feeling, you may have experienced being in a partnership where you felt like you had nothing to offer the other person. Or, you felt like you had everything to offer, but they did not take it because they felt they did not deserve your love. Even the strongest relationships have trouble surviving low self-esteem when it is at its worst.
3. Low Self-Esteem Can Lead to Depression and Anxiety
When your thoughts are that you deserve nothing and no one, and that no one likes you, your emotions will follow suit. Prolonged bouts of low self-esteem frequently manifest in longer-term issues like depression and anxiety. Feeling worthless is a full-time job, because it means that the person is always on defense against themselves and against perceived threats, fear, and disappointment in others. It is only when people begin to stop internalizing all of the bad things that happen around them that they can begin to work through their feelings of anxiety and depression.
4. Everyone Experiences Low Self-Esteem as Part of Human Development
When we are younger, we begin to learn to separate ourselves from our parents, and we also learn to separate their positive reactions from negative ones. Eventually, we learn that our behavior has the ability to influence their reactions. But, because we have not cognitively begun to sort through this yet, anytime our parents are disappointed, we feel as though we personally have failed or disappointed them. This may lead to feelings that we ourselves are a failure, which is the beginning of low self-esteem. This manifests in adulthood as approval-seeking behavior from our peers and loved ones, and tying their reactions to us to our own sense of self-worth.
5. Positive Affirmations Can Worsen Low Self-Esteem
While many self-esteem self-help books and sites will tell you to look in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful, smart, etc., these types of affirmations are not likely to work for those with very low self-esteem. The reason is because we are not wired to believe things that are outside of what we are able to conceive. Because people with low self-esteem simply cannot conceive of themselves as beautiful, smart, etc., these affirmations will only serve to affirm what they already know about themselves — that they can never be what they want to be because they do not have worth.