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Last Updated on December 11, 2020

Symptoms Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes of It

Symptoms Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes of It

People who have low self esteem are always hard on themselves. Sometimes they even cannot truly accept compliments because they would second guess people’s intentions.

    In this article, we’ll look into the symptoms of a low esteem person and what you can do if you find yourself having self-esteem issues.

    Symptoms of a Low Self-Esteem Person

    Some symptoms of having low-self esteem are obvious, while others are hidden. Here’re the common and lesser-known symptoms of a low self-esteem person.

    Common Symptoms

    • Unable to trust your own opinion
    • Always overthinking
    • Afraid to take challenges, being worried you wouldn’t overcome them
    • Hard on yourself but lenient with others
    • Frequent anxiety and emotional turmoil

    Lesser-Known Symptoms

    Being a workaholic

    At work expectations are set clearly. Even if there’s pressure in the workplace, compared to relationships or the social world where so much is unknown and uncontrollable, work is more straightforward.

    It’s easier to meet the expectations and perform well at work. Therefore, some people with low self-esteem would shift their focus to work and put all their energies there.

    Overachieving or underachieving

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    Many of us have already heard that people with low self-esteem tend to be under-achievers as they’re too afraid to take new challenges and not confident enough to fully utilize their talents.

    However, there’s another extreme. Some of them are too anxious of failure and being rejected, so they will try their very best to be outstanding to prove their worth.

    Causes of Low Self-Esteem

    Most of the time it stems from our childhood. Here’re some negative early experiences that lead to low self-esteem:[1]

    • Frequent punishment
    • Frequent neglect
    • Chronic abuse
    • Harsh parental standards
    • Being bullied/boycotted
    • Being on the receiving end of someone else’s stress or despair
    • Lack of praise, warmth and affection
    • Staying in a family or group where other members are prejudiced towards

    Childhood is when we form our “Bottom Line” and “Rules for Living” which affects the way we think, that’s why all the negative early experiences can have a very long-lasting effect on our adulthood.

    How “Bottom Line” Affects Your Self-Esteem

    “Bottom Line” is how you usually feel about something, based on your early experience. For example, “how you felt when you first left home becomes the emotional bottom line for when you leave other things in your life.”, according to therapist Robert Taibbi [2].

    When we talk about self-esteem, the bottom line is about how people around you treat you, as we grow up taking the voices of people who are significant to us. Did they say you’re adorable, or you’re always not good enough? Did they neglect you that made you feel worthless?

    That largely affects the way you view yourself and hence affect your self-esteem.

    How “Bottom Line” Determines Your “Rules for Living

    Based on the “Bottom Line”, we would form our “Rules for Living”, which are the strategies for dealing with life. For example, if you have the belief that you are always inferior to others, your Rules for Living would be “better not to speak up and to keep a low profile”.

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    How Low Self-Esteem Affects Every Aspect of Your Life

    So what are the consequences of having low self-esteem?

    It Makes You Confuse Love with Low Self-Esteem

    Having a low self-esteem, you expect people to treat you badly.

    When people are being just quite nice to you, you feel overjoyed and have unrealistically good feelings for them. This can be easily mistaken as love and also scare people away who might be just interested in being friends with you (at first).

    It Makes You Have a Lower Hand in the Relationship

    As you think your partner is too good for you, you bear things that you shouldn’t stand for.

    Sometimes you even confuse love with self-esteem. Are you giving in really because you love him/her so much or you just dare not to speak up and bargain?

    It Makes Your Employers Feel That You’re Not Talented

    People with low esteem sometimes are actually gifted. But they don’t know how to show it and “sell” themselves.

    During meeting, they keep quiet, during presentation they speak weakly, during daily conversation they say “sorry” and “maybe” too often…As a result, employers and other colleagues perceive people with low esteem as people without much talents.

    It Can Lead to Depression

    Over time, low self-esteem can lead to depression according to a study done by University of Basel researchers.[3] Psychologist Dr. Lars Madsen added that low self-esteem is “a key factor in both the development and maintenance of depression”.

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    How to Improve Self-Esteem

    As we can see, low self-esteem is a deeply rooted issue and leads to lots of consequences. To solve it, it’s not an easy task, but it’s possible. The key is, to use the right ways.

    1. Ignore All Those “Positivity” Advice

    Very often, we hear people say “Stay positive”, “Hey cheer up!”. People with depression know all these do not help. It just makes them feel worse.

    Same for low self-esteem, simply telling people “To me you’re wonderful!”, “You’re actually awesome”, “Why don’t you appreciate yourself more?”, or even worse “Hey you should be more confident” does not improve their self-esteem. Instead, they would feel inadequate or even guilty of their behavior.

    2. Focus Elsewhere

    “Healthy self esteem needs to emerge subtly.”[4]

    Same as happiness, you don’t immediately feel happier when you tell yourself to be happier. You need some concrete ways to do so like pursuing a goal that truly matters to you, like spending quality time with your loved ones.

    When you want to improve your self-esteem, don’t try too hard on thinking of ways to do so. There’s no direct way to improve it. It should be a by-product of our overall life’s satisfaction.

    According to psychologist Abraham Maslow,[5] to live a fulfilling life, you should take care the 5 levels of human basic needs. To help you understand more about this psychological model we made a video to explain it:

    Or you can refer to the graph below:

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    5 Levels of Human Basic Needs

      To focus elsewhere, we’ve summarized the above items and put them into this list for you:

      • Deep connection with loved ones
      • A healthy body
      • Sense of control
      • A meaningful life purpose
      • Recognition and respect from others
      • Sense of security
      • Creativity

      As you gradually equip yourself with the skills to fulfil the above needs, you’ll forget about self-esteem and suddenly you’ll find that you just feel proud of yourself when you know so much that others don’t.

      Bonus Tools to Help Increase Your Self-Esteem

      To help you gradually build your self-esteem, here’s a list of the best self-help books that can help you fulfil the goals:

      1. How to Win Friends & Influence People
      2. Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell
      3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
      4. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
      5. The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health
      6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
      7. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
      8. Thinking, Fast and Slow
      9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
      10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

      Articles related to self-esteem:

      The Bottom Line

      If you find yourself having low self-esteem, don’t be hopeless. Have faith in yourself that you can regain self-esteem and become a confident and successful person.

      How?

      Understand the root causes of your low self-esteem and overcome these causes with the advice in this article.

      Featured photo credit: Joe Gardner via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Chloe Chong

      Chloe is a social media expert and shares lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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      Published on April 15, 2021

      How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

      How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

      When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

      “I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

      Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

      Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

      Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

      “Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

      Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

      Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

      I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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      “Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

      Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

      What Is Optimism?

      The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

      However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

      What Is Positive Mindset?

      The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

      Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

      Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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      To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

      She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

      She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

      3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

      Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

      1. Use the WOOP Model

      Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

      Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

      1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
      2. Imagining a good outcome.
      3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
      4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

      Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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      Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

      2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

      Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

      I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

      Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

      1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
      2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
      3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
      4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

      3. Recognize Negative Thinking

      When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

      The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

      When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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      Final Thoughts

      As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

      Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

      Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

      “True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

      More Tips on Being More Positive

      Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
      [2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
      [3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
      [4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
      [5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
      [6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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