The way that people view themselves will have an impact on how they experience their life. Those who have low self-esteem struggle to find success and happiness, mostly because they do not feel themselves worthy of enjoying such things. Their lack of self-worth will affect every area of their life, especially their relationships with other people. Many of those who are dealing with low self-esteem will turn to substance abuse because it offers a temporary solution to their problems. Using alcohol and drugs to escape their feelings of low self-worth only leads to further misery and addiction.
Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to describe how humans evaluate themselves overall in relation to self-worth. It can be described as the confidence and satisfaction that the individual has with their own life. The terms self-esteem and self-worth tend to be used interchangeably; although feelings of self-esteem tend to be more fluid than self-worth.
The Causes of Low Self-Esteem
These are some of the most common causes for low self-esteem:
* If people have suffered from any type of child abuse, then this can severely affect the way they view themselves. Children lack the knowledge and insight to understand the situation, and so they end up blaming themselves for the abuse. This feeling of somehow being wrong stays with them into adulthood. Physical, mental, or sexual abuse can all have lasting consequences on a child’s sense of self-worth.
* If parents fail to make their child feel valued and important, then this can later lead to poor self-esteem. Often, it is not what the parents have said that is the problem, but what they have not said. Children are highly sensitive to their environment, and they need to be nurtured. If young people feel that they have failed to live up to their parent’s standards, it can mean they find it difficult to value themselves.
* Receiving too much criticism when growing up can leave behind mental scars. People who are always being told that they are a failure will start to believe this.
* The way people are treated by their peers is also important for self-esteem. One of the most compelling functions of a peer group is feedback on behavior. Consistent negative feedback can have a profound effect on a person.
* Being the victim of racism or prejudice will usually change the way people view themselves.
* Those individuals who have issues around their physical appearance can easily develop feelings of low self-worth. In the modern world, there is too much emphasis placed on physical beauty. The media is largely responsible for this obsession. Feelings of being unattractive will lead to low self-esteem.
* When people feel that they do not really fit in anywhere it will change the way they view themselves. This lack of connectedness with other people is common among people who are dealing with esteem issues.
The Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Those who are dealing with low self-esteem may experience many of the following problems:
* Failure to value oneself leads to a failure to take care of oneself. The person may not see the point of putting much effort into their bodies and minds. This means that they will be far more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health. Low self-esteem can lead to premature death.
* Not believing in oneself will limit one’s potential. A person may not be willing to put in the necessary effort to achieve their dreams, because they not believe it will bring results. Such people may be convinced that mediocrity is all they deserve.
* Individuals with low self-esteem are far more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of escaping their problems.
* People with low self-esteem often end up in abusive relationships. This is because they can inwardly feel like such relationships are all they deserve.
* When people do not value themselves highly they are more likely to bow to peer pressure. Many individuals who end up in dangerous cults suffer from low self-esteem.
* It can be hard for such individuals to trust other people. They may believe that anyone who is trying to help them has a hidden agenda. They can also go to the other extreme where they trust unworthy individuals too much.
* These individuals will be highly insecure in relationships. If they do not value themselves, then they will find it hard to believe that other people can value them.
The Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem
When people suffer from low self-esteem it will usually be obvious in the way they behave. These are some of the symptoms of low self-esteem:
* Such individuals live in fear of change and uncertainty. They are unwilling to take the risks that are necessary to find success in life.
* They will tend to assume that other people think badly of them. There is often no evidence for this assumption.
* People with low self-esteem tend to see everything in black and white. Things are either right or wrong. This type of thinking is problematic, because there are so many grey areas in life. Such a rigid way of thinking leads to ignorance, intolerance and feelings of unhappiness.
* Such individuals are always putting themselves down. A bit of humorous self-deprecation can be charming, but some people never have anything good to say about themselves.
* When people have low self-esteem, they will tend to always be suspicious of other people’s motives.
* High expectations of other people followed by disappointment when these individuals seem to let them down. It may often appear that people with self-esteem expect too much of others while expecting too little from themselves.
* Low self-esteem leads to jealousy in relationships.
* People in this category may achieve something, but will still not feel satisfied.
* They find it hard to deal with compliments and will doubt the sincerity of those who offer them.
* These individuals will often also be too needy, and this can put too much pressure on their relationships. They will also tend to choose partners who are unsuitable.
Addiction and Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is one of the characteristics of the addictive personality. When people first begin using alcohol or drugs it will increase their self-confidence. They become less concerned with what other people think of them. The individual begins to rely on these substances in order to cope with life. Addiction means that the person’s life begins to all apart as their self-esteem hits an all-time low. In AA, they describe the situation as, alcohol gave me wings but then it took away the sky. Lack of self-worth can then keep people trapped in addiction.
Underage Substance Abuse and Low Self-Esteem
Children with low self-esteem are far more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs. They will be more likely to bow to peer pressure when their friends start to experiment with these substances. They will also find the idea of escaping reality more appealing because it means getting away from who they are. Those individuals who use alcohol or drugs at a young age will have a far greater risk of developing an addiction later on.
How to Increase Self-Esteem
These are some things that people can do to improve their self-esteem:
* It can help if people become more aware of one’s inner thoughts. Mental chatter is often the real source of the problem. Practices such as mindfulness meditation can allow people to see what is going with their thinking patterns. Once the problem is identified, it becomes much easier to deal with. Loving kindness meditation is also another great way to increase self-esteem.
* It is vital that people learn to challenge their faulty thinking. For example, if they decide that another person does not like them, they need to objectively examine the evidence for this. Unless the individual has the ability to read minds, it is not possible to know what other people are thinking. It does not make sense to always assume that other people are thinking the worst.
* Helping other people is a wonderful way to build self-esteem. It makes the person feel useful and also means that they are spending less time judging themselves.
* It is possible for people to replace their negative thinking patterns with more positive ways of dealing with the world. They can do this by using a gratitude journal or deliberately focusing on the positive things in life. People need to question any ‘should’ statements that arise in their mind. This is usually just a means of making themselves feel guilty about the things they are not doing.
* Learning to accept other people as fallible makes it easier for the individual to accept their own limitations. Nobody is perfect.