Low Self-Esteem: Causes and Treatment

Self-esteem is defined as the negative overall subjective emotional evaluation of one’s worth and is one of the most widely studied topics in psychology. The first pure psychological use of the low self-esteem disorder goes back to the work of William James, who is generally seen as the father of modern psychology. Low Self-esteem can play a significant role in one’s motivation and success throughout his/her life as it can hold a person back from succeeding at school or work because this person does not believe that they are capable of success. In this article, we will trace this problem to its roots and answer the question of how to maintain healthy self-esteem.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem is usually the outcome of a deprived childhood since psychologists ascribe it to the damaging parenting behaviours that hinder children from morphing into the confident leaders of their lives. Psychologists say that parents who warn their children of danger at every turn are squandering the self-confidence of their kids. Because of their growing fear of losing their kids, parents do everything they can to protect them. These parents are undoubtedly doing their job, but they have insulated children from healthy risk-taking behaviour, which lowers their self-esteem. Psychologists reveal that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, he will frequently have phobias as an adult. 

If a child is raised while being constantly criticized and not appreciated no matter how hard he tries to do things right, this child will grow up into an adult that constantly doubts his/her worth, trying to please others. If parents informed their child that he is unconditionally loved, sharing with him the relevant mistakes they made when they were his age, the child will learn to maintain full confidence in his ability and value. Constant criticism makes children spend their entire childhood hating who they are and wishing they were different. 

Peers are also a crucial factor that affects one’s self-esteem. Students encounter various problems in the school environment and some of those are experienced among friends. According to Pacer.org, 20% of all students are affected by peer bullying at school. Generally, peer bullying has been grouped into physical bullying, verbal bullying, and cyberbullying. 

Being overwhelmed by irrational beliefs is another key root of low self-esteem. The media has created an avalanche of lunatic beliefs and principles. People nowadays are being bombarded with images and messages from the internet, television, magazines, and newspapers. Societal messages also come from industries such as beauty, health, and fitness. Advertisers have worked hard to create images that make people feel as if they are always lacking something so that they want to buy new products. Media also controls how people’s personalities, talents, and achievements should be. Failing to receive likes on social media posts or receiving backlash makes people feel like they are the most miserable humans on earth. Teens spend an average of 9 hours a day using some sort of media, and the more time people spend on social media sites comparing themselves to others, the more unassertive they get. People with high self-esteem do not have to check their social media right away while people with low self-esteem do.

Low self-esteem can result from perfectionism – a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Obviously, perfectionism causes the mind to go over situations (crucial or insignificant), wondering why they happened, what the person did wrong, and whether it could have been better and how. That is why psychiatrists have agreed that perfectionism keeps people paralyzed by fear and robs them of happiness because perfectionists always feel that they are not qualified enough. Perfectionists experience more guilt and, therefore, give up more easily. According to NCBI, perfectionism is increasingly being seen as a risk factor for suicide. 

How to Raise your Self-Esteem?

Note the negative thought patterns that flow inside your mind and acknowledge the fact that you are not a confident person. You might even note them down in your diary. Afterwards, try to think about these ideas from an objective perspective, judging their accuracy. For example, if you think that nobody cares about you, start thinking about the people that you know and ask yourself, “is it true that no one at all cares about me.” You might find some rock-solid reasons that you have some caring people in your life, such as the friend who calls you to have dinner every week, or your brother who phones you every day, etc. 

Write down some positive traits about yourself, challenging the negative thoughts you already know, such as “I might be a slow learner, but I’m always keen to learn.” Aim at improving yourself by adopting some healthy habits, such as reading, playing sports, helping others, volunteering, or learning a new language. 

Remind yourself that nobody is flawless and that as humans, our beauty lies in being vulnerable and imperfect. 

Tell yourself that all people mess up and learn how to forgive yourself. In his book, The Inner Civil War, Carl Jung describes how people sometimes focus on helping others, loving their enemies, and giving a hand to the poor, as religion and ethics require; however, Jung asks what if the poor other that you are required to love is inside yourself? “I feed the beggar, I forgive an insult, I love my enemy {…} All these are undoubtedly great virtues {…} But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yeah, the very fiend himself, that these are within me,” stated Jung. 

Therefore, dedicate some time to make yourself happy; there is nothing silly about looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “I’m fabulous” as long as you are endeavouring to be your best self. 

Learn to say no to whatever fails to make you feel comfortable and stop asking for people’s validation. And the famous saying goes, “do things from love, not for love.”