Symptoms of low self-esteem
- feeling worthless
- feeling incompetent and unrealistic about our abilities
- feeling unloved
- being overwhelmed with fear and negative thoughts
- being unrealistic about goals
- being drawn into destructive relationships
- fear of change
- distorted views of self and others.
What causes low self-esteem?
Our esteem develops from our experiences and relationships from birth. Negative experiences and troubled relationships lower it, and good experiences and strong bonds raise it. No single event or person determines your level of self-esteem, it develops over time and can change with time and events.
The foundations are laid in childhood. The feeling that we are valued and understood, and that our worries can be soothed, gives us an internal picture of our own worth and the feeling that the world is a safe enough place. This in turn gives us a default position which allows us to be realistic about what we can manage, without damaging ourselves. We can recognise stress and destructive relationships as being uncomfortable and seek to put things right. We can learn to trust our instincts and that they will help us protect ourselves. Early nurturing teaches us to nurture ourselves and develop a resilience to deal with lifea��s knocks and blows and protect ourselves from encountering too many.
Healthy self-esteem allows people to be realistic about goals, accept criticism, learn from mistakes and be adventurous but not reckless. Low self-esteem makes people fearful and unrealistic about goals and risks, which further dents their self-image. They also compare themselves unfavourably with others and have little natural ability to protect themselves.
Negative experiences and troubled relationships can lower self-esteem but it is constantly changing. Some people may be less resilient to recover from set-backs and may need to find an external source of strength to help them change. Counselling, a self-help group or religious group might be useful to help them establish a secure base from which to explore.