Do you criticize yourself constantly, or have a hard time standing up for yourself, or even just wish you were someone else entirely because you aren't happy with yourself? If any of these sound familiar, you may be suffering from low self-esteem. We don’t always actively think about our self-esteem, but it’s an important part of how we view ourselves and can impact many areas of our life. In this blog post, we will explore what self-esteem is, the signs and causes of low self-esteem, and how it can impact your mental health.
What Is Self-Esteem
Before we discuss low self-esteem, let’s talk about self-esteem in general. We’ve all heard of self-esteem, but what exactly does it mean?
Self-esteem refers to the subjective beliefs, perceptions, and feelings we have about ourselves and of our value or worth. Healthy self-esteem can often consist of things like self-acceptance; a strong personal identity; a sense of belonging when it comes to community, peers and/or family; a feeling of overall competence; and a sense of security and safety. Combined, these elements can foster positive mental wellbeing and a quality of life that is often hard to achieve if you don’t feel comfortable with yourself or believe you have value.
What Is Low Self-Esteem?
Unfortunately, not everyone has a healthy view of themselves. Some people suffer from low self-esteem, which can cause you to consistently judge yourself harshly, not value your own achievements, feel that your needs aren’t important, and fail to see your own strengths. Over time, it can impact your thoughts, feelings, and your behaviour.
Everyone experiences negative thoughts about themselves from time to time, and this doesn't necessarily indicate that you have low self-esteem. It is completely normal to feel embarrassed, guilty or doubtful about decisions you've made, feel self-conscious physically, or negatively compare your achievements to that of others, for example. The big difference is that these thoughts and feelings are most likely short-lived, and you will think more kindly of yourself the next day or week, whereas those who struggle with low self-esteem have a more chronic and persistent negative self-view that can taint their perceptions of themselves, others, and the world and lead to unhelpful behaviours.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Now that you know what self-esteem is, you might be wondering how you can tell if you have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is complicated and experienced differently by each person, but it can manifest in a number of ways. Some signs that you may have low self-esteem are:
Being uncomfortable asking for help or expressing your needs
Thinking that other people are better than you
Concentrating on your weaknesses rather than strengths
Struggling to say no or to set healthy boundaries
Constant self-doubt, worry, and indecision even about seemingly small issues
Feeling like you don’t have control over your life
Blaming yourself when things go wrong
Struggling with a persistent negative view of life
Consistent negative self-talk
Constant fear of failure—even on a small scale
Difficulty accepting positive feedback or compliments
Thinking that you don’t deserve happiness
Putting the needs of others before your own
Low self-esteem may involve experiencing all of these signs, a few of them, or others that aren’t on this list. Try to become more aware of how you view yourself, how you talk to yourself, and how you present yourself to others. If you find an overall negative theme, you may be struggling with low self-esteem. However, keep in mind that many of these signs can also be signs of other things such as depression or social anxiety. If you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to speak to a mental health professional. They can lend a supportive ear and talk through your concerns with you.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem can be difficult to live with and can have a significant impact on those suffering with it. It can also leave you wondering how your self-esteem became so fragile in the first place. But figuring that out isn’t always so simple. There are a wide variety of challenges and experiences that may undermine your self-esteem including:
Peer pressure, being bullied, or being emotionally or physically abused
Experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma, including racism
Losing your job or difficulty finding employment
Unresolved trauma (in childhood or adulthood)
Unrealistic expectations from parents or caregivers growing up
Difficulties at work or school
Physical and/or mental health challenges
Relationship conflict, separation, or divorce
Concerns about your appearance and body image
Feeling pressure from social media
If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, some of these experiences may sound familiar, but these are by no means the only reasons for low self-esteem. It could even be due to a combination of reasons. Things aren’t always black and white when it comes to getting to the root causes of low self-esteem, or any other mental health concern for that matter. Try to confide in someone you trust or a mental health professional if you think that something is chipping away at your self-esteem—even if you’re not sure what the cause is.
How Does Low Self-Esteem Impact Your Mental Health
When struggling with low self-esteem, you are often convinced that you’re the worst version of yourself. Unfortunately, even if those negative things aren’t true, your perceptions eventually become your reality if you keep telling yourself that same story. Over time, as you can imagine, this can significantly impact your life in many ways.
Low self-esteem is linked to isolating yourself from others and increased feelings of loneliness. It can also make establishing new friendships or maintaining romantic relationships more difficult. Your work and career can be negatively affected and low self-esteem may make it harder to get promotions or even perform consistently at work.
Because you may struggle with boundaries, low self-esteem can often leave you stressed, exhausted, and at a much higher risk of burnout due to helping everyone else before yourself. You may also be more prone to people-pleasing or ending up in codependent relationships.
Finally, low self-esteem can also contribute to the development of more serious mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, eating disorders, stress, anger, and various others.
It is clear that low self-esteem can have an immense impact on many aspects of our lives. While it may not always seem or feel like a priority in your life, it absolutely is and the warning signs should not be brushed aside or ignored if you want to protect your mental health.
Self-esteem is so important to your personal happiness and quality of life! If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, it can be extremely challenging and may sometimes feel like you can’t change your mindset. But with commitment and effort, you can absolutely improve your self-esteem and gain a healthier view of yourself—and you’re worth the effort!
If you are having persistent negative feelings about yourself and aren’t sure what to do, consider seeing a mental health professional. A therapist or counsellor can help you explore the causes of your low self-esteem and help you work to change your views of yourself. If you’re looking for a therapist in Barrie, ON or you’re interested in speaking with a therapist virtually, contact us for a free consultation or more information. We offer various options for counselling services in Barrie and would love to help you on your journey back to a happier and healthier you!
Our team of online and Barrie therapists provides quality and effective counselling services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.