There are many reasons to suffer from low self esteem. And in all reality, it’s a combination of reasons, not just one in isolation.
Low self esteem is to have negative beliefs about yourself. This can be all the time, or can perhaps become apparent in short, sharp bursts that often manifest as anxiety attacks (also called panic attacks).
Your state of self esteem is influenced by experiences you’ve had in life. These can be during your formative, childhood years, or could be from experiences later in life. They can also be a combination of the two.
Examples of early experiences that might lead to low self esteem:
- Prejudice towards you, your family, or social group
- A childhood lacking affection, warmth, and/or love
- Being ‘different’ from everyone else – perhaps at school, at home, or both
- Feeling as though you never lived up to the standards expected by your parents
- Neglect, abuse, or systematic punishment
In adulthood, the following are examples of things that can affect your self esteem:
- Being bullied
- Traumatic events
- Being in an abusive relationship
- Persistent hardship
We take note of those who we consider to ‘count’
The thing is, we all have people whose opinions we value. Whether or not they deserve to be valued is a different matter – the fact is that we DO value them. So if these people tell us that we’re ‘stupid’, or ‘useless’, or that we’ve let them down – or any other kind of criticism, then we take this to heart.
Indeed, it might not even be verbal criticism. Simple things like constant sighs when we make a mistake (in their eyes), raising their eyebrows, ignoring you when you speak, belittling your comments… These are all behaviors that can, over time, erode our self esteem.
Childhood experiences are hard to break away from
It’s likely that if you suffer from low self esteem that this began in your childhood. These are your formative years, and if we’re made to feel negative about ourselves during this time it can be hard to break away from. This is because how we view ourselves in terms of value is set during this crucial time of life.
However, being formed during childhood often makes these self-held beliefs naïve, biased, and basically inaccurate – we’ve looked at ourselves through the eyes of a child. But nonetheless, we cling to them, and this becomes the basis of all we consider ourselves to be – and it lasts into adulthood.
It becomes hard to question what we ‘assume’ we are
This belief (or lack of) in ourselves becomes something that we just take for granted. The longer we feel this way, the harder it becomes to ever change. We’ll be really quick to spot anything in our lives that confirms even further our low self worth. In addition, we then distort the meanings of what happens in life to fall in line with how you think about yourself.
For example, someone says you look nice wearing a particular outfit, you’ll either think they’re being untruthful, or that other outfits you wear are not nice.
Management and treatment of low self esteem
Because such beliefs are ingrained, it’s necessary to break the cycle that’s become self-perpetuating. One method that’s proven successful is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBY). This works on altering your thoughts and opinions to ones that are more positive.
CBT provides a clear framework that’ll help you first understand exactly how your low self esteem developed, and then by helping you move forward with a practical approach to change those beliefs. It’s not a quick fix, but can – in many cases – provide a real and valid method of helping to raise your self esteem.
If you think you might suffer from low self esteem, take this simple quiz for a quick guide.
For professional, registered CBT therapists in your local area check out this list.