Low self-esteem: Causes, consequences and tests – What can I do?
Learning to say “I love myself” is much harder than it seems. Test yourself. Through this article, we will explain the keys to developing a balanced and healthy concept of yourself, and how to raise your low self-esteem.
“Fall in love with yourself, with life, with what surrounds you, what you do and who you are. Walter Riso “
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the assessment or concept that we have of ourselves. It is created or formed through the negative and positive experiences we have experienced throughout our lives. Self-esteem will depend on the expectations we have of ourselves, and our own concept of self-worth.
Therefore, in order to succeed a high and good self-esteem is needed. Even though we all know the value of self-esteem, very few know how to take care of it, pamper it and keep it.
“The difference between where you were yesterday and where you are going to be tomorrow is what you think, say and do today.
Low Self-Esteem- Causes
Low self-esteem is a problem that affects a lot of people but curiously most of them are not aware of it. When we go to therapy for anxiety and depression in most cases what underlies is a low self-esteem. People are usually not aware of the impacts it has on our mental health.
Every human being walks a path that is unique and incomparable to others, therefore each self-esteem will be different. Self-esteem is formed gradually, and although personality has an influence, the experiences and the people with whom you relate are decisive factors. This can have two scenarios a good sense of personal worth or on the contrary of disability.
The first years of life are crucial for high or low self-esteem to form, but adult experiences can modify it. Among the many causes of low self-esteem we can point out the following:
- Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, especially at an early age.
- The expectations degree to which we were exposed in our childhood by our parents and teachers.
- Discrimination of any kind.
- Suffering harassment or bullying.
- Suffer a loss of a loved one.
- Social exclusion
- Coping with unemployment or precarious work situations
When a person goes through difficult times he unwittingly develops negative beliefs about himself. Whether it’s about your intellectual ability, your appearance, or your ability to succeed in life.
The experiences we live are important but so is our interpretation we give them.
The important thing about low self-esteem is that it is usually based on beliefs and not facts, and people’s belief systems can be modified and shaped.
So raising our self-esteem will be a key factor in feeling good about ourselves.
Low Self-esteem: The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
Have you ever taken enough time to think about yourself? I invite you to take this little test, called Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale, which will help you assess the degree of satisfaction you have with yourself.
Remember that this is a simple exercise to assess or guide and in no case is this a clinical diagnosis.
The Rosenberg Scale is a self-esteem test that allows you to detect if you have low self-esteem. This assessment is based on 10 statements, and you have to answer them as sincerely as possible according to this scale:
1: Strongly Disagree
4: Strongly Agree
- I feel as valuable a person as the others.
- I am usually inclined to think that I am a failure.
- I think I have some good qualities.
- I am able to do things as well as others.
- I do not think I have much to be proud of.
- I have a positive attitude towards myself.
- In general, I feel satisfied with myself.
- I wish I had more respect for myself.
- I really feel useless sometimes.
- Sometimes I think I’m useless.
From sentences 1 to 5, answers 1 to 4 are scored inversely from 4 to 1. That is, in reverse. For example: If you put a 4 in sentence number 1, you have to count it as 1.
From sentences 6 to 10, the scoring is normal.
- 30 to 40 points: High self-esteem, considered as normal self-esteem.
- From 26 to 29 points: Average self-esteem. It does not present serious problems, but it is advisable to improve it.
- Less than 25 points: Low self-esteem. There are significant self-esteem problems, consider searching for help.
Low Self-Esteem- Consequences
Low self-esteem has negative repercussions in all your life’s areas. The perception you have of yourself and your worth or lack thereof will inevitably influence your work performance, your personal relationships and your relationship with the world.
“We can not love others until we learn to love ourselves”
Loving yourself is much more complex than it seems. To know how to love yourself is to accept and respect yourself, to attend to your vital needs and to love you for who you are, the good and the bad.
A person who does not love himself and above all does not respect himself might end up in toxic relationships and be emotionally dependent on others.
Preventing is healing
Keys to Improving Low Self-Esteem
1- Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts
If you have low self-esteem, it is very likely that you send messages to yourself similar to “I can’t”, “I’m not good at this” “I’m going to fail” “I do not deserve to be loved”.
Even if you don’t do it consciously, these messages are presented in a more or less subtle way in your day to day. These thoughts impair your desire to start a new project and sabotage your personal well-being.
Make a list of your most recurrent negative thoughts, and next to it write another encouraging one to repeat to yourself when the negative thought is on your mind.
For example, “I am not good at this” the counter-thought would be “I am perfectly capable of doing this”. Whenever you are presented with negative thinking, stop it and face it with positive thinking. At first, it will be difficult, but if you practice the behavior will become automated.
“What you say to yourself can give or take away power, and only you can choose the words”
2- Do you have low self-esteem?
Usually we tend to magnify our defeats and mistakes, and attribute a good thing that happens to luck.
This is an unforgivable mistake. Surely in your life you have achieved great things that you no longer value as much. If you have low self-esteem, a good exercise is to make a list of the personal accomplishments you are most proud of.
- I finished the marathon
- I learned to play tennis
- I learned a second language
- I became a father
- I got the job in this company
Stick this list somewhere you can see it everyday to remind you that you have all the skills you need to achieve anything.
3- Accept yourself
Be realistic, do not try to change the impossible, and be aware of your weaknesses and your strengths. A good knowledge of yourself is the most effective tool to achieve success in life and develop your emotional well-being. Self-appraisals are always a great tool, however remember not to be to hard on yourself.
“Then you shall judge yourself,” the king answered. “That is the most difficult thing of all. It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.”-
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
4- Forget the comparisons and don’t feed your low self-esteem
Comparisons are despiteful and can be detrimental to self-esteem. Only when that comparison is used as an intrinsic motivation for improvement will it be positive for you. When you feel inferior or despise yourself for not having this or that in your life, remember that others would want to have or be what you are. Be grateful for your personal qualities and pay no attention by pressures imposed by society. Remember that each of our need pyramids are different try to follow yours without comparing yourself.
Be critical of your personal demands, and never despise what you already have.
5- Find the cause of your low self-esteem
A key step in solving any problem is to identify the root of the issue. Many times we try to solve the symptom but forget that it has a root that needs tending to.
Solving the symtom may give us short-term relief, but if we do not attack the true cause, the symptom will continue to repeat throughout our lives in different ways.
An appointment with a psychologist can help guide you to identify the root of the problem. Here is a creative video explaining the six pillars of self-esteem. Feel free to leave a comment below!
This article is originally in Spanish written by Cristina Martinez de Toda, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.