What you see above is Pihu’s story of how she developed self-esteem issues. Do you feel like her as well? Do you feel insecure about the way you look every time you glance at a mirror? Do you believe that your skills are not good enough even after giving your best? These feelings are something that most of us have experienced sometimes in our lives. So what is the reason behind having all these feelings? These feelings of unworthiness or worthlessness might stem from low self-esteem!
So, what is this Self-esteem you may ask? In simple terms, Self-esteem is the way we see ourselves or evaluate our own worth. U.K.-based charity, Teenage Minds, defines self-esteem as “how a person feels about themselves and what they do.” It is the overall opinion that individuals have of themselves – the way they feel about their abilities or limitations.
So, people with healthy self-esteem, usually feel good about themselves and see themselves as deserving the respect of others. They focus on the good qualities they possess, without being too obsessed with their imperfections and generally strive for a happy and successful life. While people who have low self-esteem put little value on their own opinions and ideas. They often have negative feelings about themselves, believing that they are not worthy of love, happiness or success.
Like in Pihu, low self-esteem is widespread among most individuals. It affects almost every aspect of our lives, from how we think about ourselves to the way we react to challenging life situations. When negative influences and thoughts are prevalent in an individual, it adversely affects the way they feel about themselves. It also affects the quality of life they live. If low self-esteem is left unchecked it can even lead to mental health issues, sometimes with tragic results.
Causes of Low Self-esteem
But what causes low self-esteem? There are many and varied reasons, but according to clinical psychologist, Dr. Lars Madsen low self-esteem in individuals can be frequently traced to abusive or dysfunctional childhood years, the effects of which can persist well into one’s adulthood. Some of the causes for low self-esteem in individuals can be:
Unhappy childhood due to parents (or other significant people such as teachers) being extremely critical of the person.
Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence in oneself.
Any ongoing stressful life events such as relationship breakdown or financial troubles.
Receiving poor treatment from a partner, parent or carer, or any other individual, for example, being in an abusive relationship or being bullied.
Any ongoing medical problem such as chronic pain, serious illness or physical disability.
Effects of low self-esteem
Although low self-esteem is not usually categorized as a mental health condition in itself. However, our overall mental and emotional wellbeing is affected by the way we feel about ourselves. Researchers have linked low self-esteem to certain mental health issues which can contribute to poor quality of life. It can affect an individual’s overall mental and emotional well-being:
Fear of trying – People with low self-esteem often doubt their abilities or worth and avoid challenges.
Perfectionism – People could become obsessed with perfecting everything they do due to a lack of self-esteem. Thus they could become an overachiever to ‘atone’ for what they see as their inferiority.
Fear of judgement – People with low self-esteem probably avoid social activities, like sports or social events because they are afraid they will be negatively judged. They feel self-conscious and stressed around others and constantly look for ‘signs’ that suggest that people don’t like them.
Low resilience – People with low self-esteem find it hard to cope with difficult situations in their life because they believe themselves to be ‘worthless’.
Lack of self-care – People who lack healthy self-esteem care very little about themselves and often neglect or abuse themselves.
Addiction – Studies indicate that low self-esteem can be a predisposition to addiction in later life. Many addicts use substances such as drugs or alcohol to help ease the negative feelings they have about themselves. But over time this has detrimental effects on their mental and physical health.
Negative feelings – People with low self-esteem constantly self-criticise themselves. This can lead to persistent negative feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt.
Depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem tends to work in a vicious cycle with other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Someone who already lives with a mental illness may find that low self-esteem develops due to the social stigma surrounding mental illness.
Self-harming behaviours – Low self-esteem also increases the risk of self-harm, for example, eating disorders, drug abuse or suicide.
Relationship problems – Low self-esteem can also affect people’s relationships with others. People with low self-esteem tend to tolerate all sorts of unreasonable behaviour from their partners believing they must earn love and friendship, as they are not loveable. Alternatively, a person with low self-esteem may also feel angry and bully other people.