Low self-esteem can be so detrimental

By Kay McSweeney

Published 25/08/2015 | 00:00

Dr Michelle Cooper. Photo Eye Focus
Dr Michelle Cooper. Photo Eye Focus

Everyday occurrences can take a toll on our self-esteem and low self-esteem can have a detrimental and harmful effect on our life.

If you feel your self-worth is low and you feel you don't deserve the good things in life, this means that your self-esteem is low and that you may need help. 

Other signs of low self-esteem include harbouring negative opinions about yourself. For example, thinking to yourself; "I am a loser", "I am useless", "I am unlovable", "I never do anything right".

Not being treated well by other people can enhance ones negative thoughts and ones belief of not measuring up. This in turn can further lower ones self-esteem. Aggressive behaviour can also be a sign of low self-esteem.

Some factors that can contribute to low self-esteem are as follows:

- Difficult childhood experiences such as systematic punishment, abuse or neglect. Difficult family relationships. Having a troublesome time at school. Bullying during formative childhood years can be especially harmful to your self-esteem.

- Being the 'odd one out' at home or at school. Feeling 'different' from others around you or feeling under duress to comply with social norms that you don't agree with, can influence the way you see yourself.

- Relationships with other people, being on the receiving end of other people's stress or anguish can be hugely contributory to low self-esteem.

- Negative thoughts worsen low self-esteem and being stuck in a negative thinking pattern is hugely damaging.

- Repeatedly comparing yourself to others worsens feelings of low self-worth and self-esteem.

- Failing to meet parental expectations is also hugely contributory.

Signs of low self-esteem:

- Giving up on your goals and dreams. Feeling like you will not succeed even before you start something.

- Not standing up for yourself and lack of assertiveness. At the other extreme people who are overly aggressive, portray a false sense of strength and self-confidence. Deep within, these individuals often lack self-belief and often harbour feelings of low self-esteem.

- Feeling like you can't accept compliments.

- Being indecisive. Some people tend to refrain from making decisions due to lack of courage and fear of criticism.

- Feeling like you have nothing interesting to say or to contribute to conversations when in company. You may find yourself engaging in negative self-talk or simply withdrawing from conversations altogether.

- Allowing your own self-worth to plummet by comparing yourself to others and by giving extra attention to others who you may think have a more successful life than you do, further worsens your self-confidence as well as your low self-worth and low self-esteem.

What I can do to help myself if I think I am suffering from low self-worth and low self-esteem?

- Think positively about yourself. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts you hold about yourself. Stop putting yourself down. Remind yourself that you deserve to feel good about yourself - everyone is equal and you deserve the best in life.

- Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically achieve. For example, take up a fitness class, learn a musical instrument or cook for a small dinner party.

- Manage your stress levels. Set appropriate and manageable deadlines to avoid feeling overwhelmed. The balance between your work life and your home life needs to feel right. Tell people if you need more time or support with tasks which you find challenging, either at work or at home.

- Lack of sleep can cause negative feelings to predominate. It is important, therefore, to make sure that you get enough sleep.

- Look after your physical health. Physical activity helps people to feel healthier and more content. It also improves self-image. Eating a balanced diet can help you feel healthier and happier.

- Make 3 positive lists about yourself: One, a list of the things you respect about yourself, two, a list of your strengths and three, a list of your achievements. Read through this list regularly.

- Make your living space clean, attractive and pleasant. Display things that remind you of special times or of your achievements in life.

Low self-esteem can cause people to form unhelpful behaviours as a form of escapism and in order to cope. Such behaviours include drinking too much alcohol, taking drugs and forming destructive relationships. This can make life more difficult which can then result in mental health problems.

If you are going to work on and improve your self-esteem, it may be helpful if you understand more about your negative belief systems and where they came from. If you are feeling distressed and think that you are suffering from low self-esteem and low self-worth, seek the help of a professional therapist.

Wexford People

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