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Low Self Esteem

Defining Self-Esteem

When we feel good about ourselves and who we are, we are said to have good self-esteem.


Having healthy self-esteem is essential to living well and being a productive member of society. Low self-esteem not only affects our internal world, but our external actions as well, limiting their ambitions and choices in life.


Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” says self-esteem is as essential to living a good life as having good nutrition, a safe environment, and even love.


Our self-esteem fluctuates throughout life however, there is not too dramatic a change from day to day.


Having a healthy internal monologue is essential for maintaining balance with self-esteem. After all, self-esteem that is too high can be as detrimental as low self-esteem and can suggest the presence of mental disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder.


Self-Esteem vs. Self-Image

Self-esteem and self-image are interrelated, but different. Learning the differences between these two can help individuals understand self-esteem and develop healthy self-esteem.


Self-esteem is how someone interprets their self-image. A self-image includes how an individual perceives herself, but also includes how others perceive her. As an example, a person might narrate their self-image as “I am a kind and constructive member of my social circle.”


This might also translate into “My being a kind and constructive member of my social circle means that my friends like me.” As a result of this positive self-image, this individual might then say “I am happy with who I am.”


Oftentimes, low self-esteem starts with negative or faulty self-image.


Recognizing Negative Self-Image and Low Self-Esteem

It’s hard to recognize how low self-esteem or negative self-image work within us.


Negative ideation can be habitual and therefore “normal” in an individual’s eyes. Self-evaluation is key to assessing how selves and maintaining balanced self-esteem.


Not everyone with low self-esteem is shy or unassuming. Oftentimes, those with a negative self-image overcompensate with exaggerated confidence. Some might even insult or tease others.


Some of us even develop mental illnesses as a result of low self-esteem, including depression and social anxiety. Those with eating disorders, additionally, have skewed self-images.


Signs of either scenario may include:

  • Self-doubt

  • Shame

  • Negative thinking or pessimism

  • Refusal to accept responsibility

  • Faulty boundary setting or maintenance

  • Social withdrawal

  • Lash out at others

  • Demonstrate aversion to compliments


Physical symptoms associated with these conditions include.

  • Stomach issues with no outward cause

  • Headaches

  • Back pain

  • Insomnia

  • Exhaustion


The Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can stem from multiple triggers. People can uncover the roots of their low self-esteem in a therapeutic setting working with a mental health professional. Identifying these roots is the best way to move toward a healthy self-image and self-esteem.


Causes of low self-esteem can include:

  • Disapproval from authority figures or parents

  • Emotionally distant parents

  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

  • Contentious divorce between parents

  • Bullying with no parent protection

  • Academic difficulties

  • Guilt associated with religion

  • Social beauty standards

  • Unrealistic goal setting


Building a Positive Self-Image

There are a number of strategies we can employ to develop a positive self-image and, as a result, healthy self-esteem:


Neutralizing Our Thoughts

Any thought runs through our brains throughout the day. They are arbitrary, and not necessarily true. What many individuals with poor self-image or self-esteem tend to do is believe any and every thought that goes through their heads. A helpful technique can be

identifying thoughts as “just thoughts” and allowing them to flow through your mind and away. Giving random thoughts power and credence can be destructive.


Spinning Negative Thoughts

Another reliable technique is spinning negative thoughts into good ones:

“I’m fat” turns into “I have nice curves”

“I don’t deserve love” turns into “My loved ones value me”

“I am a bad person” turns into “I’m giving it my best”


Eliminating Comparison

Many people compare themselves to others constantly, especially since the advent of social media. Individuals need to remember that others may be putting a best face forward and may be hiding their struggles. Comparing your life with someone else’s is impossible and destructive. By engaging a professional in a therapeutic setting, those with low self-esteem can learn the tools they need to stop these destructive patterns.


Self-Esteem Therapy

Working in a therapeutic setting with a therapist or counselor can help those suffering from low self-esteem. The patient and professional can discover the sources of the patient’s self-esteem struggles and begin the healing process. Therapeutic options include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for tool-building and giving patients “assignments” to work on at home through journaling.



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