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Low Self-Esteem

Self-esteem means feeling good about yourself and having confidence in your value as an individual. People with a healthy level of self-esteem usually feel liked and accepted, are proud of what they do, and believe in themselves. On the other hand, people with low self-esteem tend to not be very kind to themselves, judge their own actions negatively, and take on less challenges in life due to a belief that they will inevitably not succeed. As you can imagine, having low self-esteem can have seriously detrimental effects on many different aspects of our lives.

The Impact Of Low Self-Esteem On Personal Development

Low self-esteem often comes hand in hand with having a fixed mindset (as opposed to a growth mindset), which usually develops in childhood. In a fixed mindset, someone believes their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. They think deep down that innate talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. When they try something new and find it challenging (which is normal in most cases!), they believe that it’s because there is something wrong with them, as if they are lacking in a magic ingredient of some sort. People with this belief tend to avoid developing new skills and talents or taking healthy risks, and can get into patterns of stopping and starting many different things.

The Impact Of Low Self-Esteem On Relationships

A healthy relationship can only develop between two people, if both parties are able to equally give (or share) parts of themselves and receive from the other person. People with low self-esteem can find this a real challenge. If someone does not think highly of themselves, they are likely to hold parts of themselves back. It’s important to distinguish the difference between people-pleasing (doing endless favours for someone and telling them only what they want to hear, because you don’t believe that you being your authentic self is enough for them to want to stick around), and sharing your authentic self with someone. Sharing our hearts authentically requires us to love ourselves enough to believe that our truth is worth sharing. We have to trust that even if we say something which displeases someone, there is enough of us that they value to stick around (and hopefully communicate their issue to us).

On the other side, perhaps you can see how someone with low self-esteem might also find it really uncomfortable receiving favours, gifts, or any form of help from someone else. Many can struggle with feeling like a burden whenever someone does something for them. The relationship dynamic becomes imbalanced, with the person who has low self-esteem giving significantly more than the other (refusing to receive what the other tries to give).

The Impact Of Low Self-Esteem On Overall Happiness

Having low self-esteem will make someone highly sensitive to criticism and judgement from others. Yet in most cases the person is actually their own worst enemy, as inside their mind will be the brutal voice of their inner critic. This abusive inner voice will be there harshly judging all of their behaviours and feelings, causing them to over-analyse everything, which ultimately becomes completely exhausting. People with low self-esteem have an increased likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression, and severe loneliness.

Solutions: Adopting A Growth Mindset

In a growth mindset people have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When you believe you can become smarter, you realize that your effort has an effect on success, so you put in extra time, leading to higher achievement. Understanding that finding something difficult (or even failing at first) is a natural and valuable part of growth, is crucial for getting out of a fixed mindset. It makes trying new challenges feel less scary, and it makes “picking yourself up when you fall and trying again” make a lot more sense. It can be hard to break a heavily ingrained habit of quitting when something feels unpleasant, so it is recommended to start by setting small and manageable challenges. This can be a great exercise to do with children, if you are noticing this habit developing. Each time the person succeeds in a small challenge, they should fully acknowledge it and give themselves credit (perhaps recording it in a journal or in an “achievements” chart), since someone with low self-esteem often ignores anything positive that they do. Soon they will create a bank of positive skill progression experiences to draw self-esteem from, and they will slowly rebuild their confidence and trust in themselves.

Solutions: Silencing The Inner Critic

To remove the power of our inner critic, we must first notice them, and then disidentify from them. Viewing the inner critical voice as nothing more than an annoying judge can be a powerful exercise. This judge is not us. They are merely an accumulation of our faulty beliefs, acting like a record of our faulty programming. See the judge so that he doesn’t hang out in a distant corner manipulating you from above; listen, but don’t take the judge’s words to heart. Identify him with presence rather than pushing him way, because what we resist will persist! Anytime you hear the judge’s voice, take away his power by responding “so what?”. The judge is allowed to be there, but he doesn’t need to effect your decisions or behavior. It is liberating to realize that we can do and say whatever we want, no matter what the judge is telling us. This method can also be really helpful to teach to children who are really hard on themselves. You can replace the judge with the image of a little cartoon monster who likes to try and irritate people, but the child needs to see that it’s “just a story”. Any time you hear your child being hard on themselves, say “is that the little monster speaking again?”.

Building self-esteem is a process, and it can take time to shift beliefs. Many people find a lot of value in working with a therapist to challenge their own specific barriers. Everyone deserves to recognize their own unique value and self-worth, so if this article resonates with you (or your child), hopefully it can serve as a nugget of insight.