Low Self Esteem


Low Self EsteemLow self esteem is very debilitating. It may be associated with feelings of depression.  Or it may mean not thinking very highly of yourself, doubting your ability to get the things you want or to attract the sort of people that interest you. 

Low self esteem can be soul destroying and very costly if it limits you to playing it safe or causes you to avoid doing things that you would normally enjoy doing. It may prevent you from applying for a job or cause you to present yourself ineffectively at interviews.

There are two different low self esteem responses:

1. Feeling Down On Yourself

People with low self esteem commonly feel overwhelmed by the pace of life, thus feeling like a failure relative to everyone else. They constantly doubt if they can achieve anything thus playing it safe, not trying anything new, behaving timidly, not asserting themselves, overly depending on others to look after them and avoiding unpleasant realities.

They also fail to put sufficient effort into things because they doubt that they can be successful, so why try?  They put themselves down constantly and find fault excessively with their  looks - too fat, too slim, too short, etc.

2. Feeling Angry And Getting Even

The first self esteem response is passive while the second is more reactive and externally focused. These people tend to lose their temper at the drop of a hat. They are quick to pick a fight and to blame others or circumstances for setbacks. They are constantly finding fault with the world and being negative - nothing is good, everything is horrible. Such people take pleasure in stories about the troubles of others and are inclined to take things out on others. They are constantly arguing about petty issues.

Being Both Down And Angry

We mistakenly compare how we feel with how others behave. Inevitably, most others will behave more happily than we feel. So we conclude that no one else could feel as bad as we do. This creates a vicious circle and our self esteem drops further.Dwelling on the negative is like cancer. It grows and gets worse. It's pretty hard to force yourself just to think differently when you feel so negative.

Causes of Low Self Esteem

Too much criticism hurts self esteem. Not enough positive feedback can cause low self esteem. Poor appreciation of strengths, taking strengths for granted because they come easy to you.

Everyone has his or her own reasons for low self esteem. Here are some of the major ones:

  • Constant criticism or negative feedback from parents, other relatives, teachers and friends
  • Bullying at school or work
  • Unrealistic expectations or standards. Expecting yourself to be beautiful, tall, smart, etc. rather than accepting yourself as you are
  • Lack of success in relationships
  • Failure at school, sports or other activities
  • Carrying too much weight or other aspects of the way you look
  • Guilt feelings for something you did, didn't do or for which you blame yourself
  • Not celebrating success; focusing on mistakes instead, constantly criticizing yourself. 
  • Too much introspection, soul searching, not enough interaction with the real world, hence withdrawal.


One solution, if we can't change our situation or ourselves, is to change our attitude towards such things. One way to do this is to list all of the good things we can find in any situation. This may be hard at first. Perhaps someone else can help you. Keep in mind that you are partly causing yourself to feel worse. When we feel bad, we try to make ourselves feel better by blaming anything and everything around us, but that can often just make us feel worse. The worse we feel the more we feel a need to attack something, anything just to unload these negative feelings.

The problem is, however, that this does not really offer a long term solution even if it provides immediate relief. You need, instead, to look at what you can do to change how you perceive things in the first place. This means finding a more positive way of viewing yourself and your situation.

Another tactic is to spend time doing and thinking about things that get in the way of our focus on the negative. Do things that are constructive and make us feel good. That means such things as helping others or achieving things that take effort rather than just getting drunk for instance or watching TV. We can't develop a sense of achievement with no effort. Achievement is one of the surest ways of building better self esteem.

Dwelling on ourselves is one of the surest ways of staying down. Arrange to get regular positive feedback. This can be done by conducting regular meetings at work where you begin by everyone saying what went well for them since the last meeting. Also, ask stakeholders or colleagues regularly what went well before asking what did not go so well.

Here are some key steps to boost your self esteem

  • Change your attitude. This means focusing on positive qualities in yourself instead of negative ones
  • Get active. Being busy is a good antidote, the disease being too much sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves. If you are busy with other things, it will help you take your mind off yourself
  • Do things for people. Research has shown that helping, or being nice to, other people can definitely make us feel better
  • Change the way you talk to yourself. Stop saying mean things to yourself and, instead, say nice things about yourself
  • Recognize that you have only one life to live and you may spoil it by focusing on what you haven't got instead of what you have got. This is like going on a holiday but ruining it by feeling sorry for yourself that it has to end soon.
  • Spend as much time as you can with positive people, those who look on the bright side and are generally cheerful

Your reasons for having low self esteem are unique. So is your way of dealing with it. 

See the Self Esteem menu above for more on this topic, especially:  The Self Esteem Attitude and Boost Your Self Esteem 

Read the self esteem stories of other people here.