More often than not, some of us find ourselves trapped in an endless loop of pessimistic thoughts about self. With each passing day, our thoughts become this permanent voice in our heads which doesn’t let us be at ease. After a point, we become so used to the self depreciatory kingdom we build for ourselves that our self-esteem seems to be lost in a pitch dark cave. So dark that we lose our trust in ourselves. We become incapable of handling our daily problems. It reduces our ability to attain our maximum potential and deteriorates our physical and mental health.
Self-esteem is the way we think about ourselves and the value we put on ourselves. It is fundamentally associated with our mental health. Positive self-esteem is a basic feature of mental health. It contributes towards better health and positive social behaviour through its role as a shield against wrecks of negative influences. However, poor self-esteem poses a potential risk factor in the development of an array of mental disorders and social problems.
SOURCES OF NEGATIVE SELF ESTEEM
Development of self-esteem during childhood and adolescence depends on intra individual and social factors.
1. Approval and support from parents and peers
If you grew up hearing that whatever you did wasn’t good enough and were criticized no matter what you did or how hard you tried, it becomes difficult to feel confident and comfortable in your own skin later. The shame forced on you for perpetually "failing" can feel blindingly painful.
2. Uninvolved caregivers
Attachment and unconditional parental support are crucial during phases of self-development. When that is lacking, it later leaves you feeling that you are not accountable to anyone, or you may believe that no one in the here and now is concerned about your whereabouts, when that's actually a carry-over feeling from the past. Feeling unrecognized can result in the belief that you are supposed to apologize for your existence.
3. Family discord and dysfunction
When parents constantly get involved in arguments and children absorb the negative emotions and distrustful situations that have been modelled for them. It's scary, overwhelming, and disorganizing. This experience can also occur when one parent is deeply distraught or acts unpredictably around the child. When you were subjected to excessive conflicts between authority figures, it can feel as if you contributed to the fights or to a parent’s painful circumstance. Intense conflicts are experienced as extremely threatening, fear driving, and you may believe you caused it. This feeling of being “tainted” can be carried into adulthood.
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse may be the most striking and overt causes of low self-esteem. It can make you feel like nothingness. In an effort to gain control of your circumstances, in your head, you may have convinced yourself that you were complicit or even to blame.
5. Discrepancies between competing aspects of the self
Contrasts that might exist between self-perceived or the lack of approval or support by parents or peers may lead to a sense of worthlessness.
Positive or negative self-worth can be a result of how one evaluates their own behaviour in context to their peers or standards set by significant others.
OUTCOMES OF LOW SELF ESTEEM
Self-esteem is a psychological characteristic which influences personal goals, aspirations and interactions with others. Low self-esteem yields the following changes:
Internalising characteristics - depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc.
Externalising characteristics - educational exclusion, aggressive behaviour, violence etc.
Risky health behaviour - drugs, alcohol etc.
As a result of which, one -
Stops trying new things
Avoids social occasions
Avoids potentially challenging situations
Develops social problems or risk behaviors
Develops psychiatric vulnerability
Develops a self-defeating attitude
Doesn’t accept compliments
HOW TO BUILD A HEALTHY SELF ESTEEM?
1. Be mindful
We can’t change something if we don’t recognize that there is something to change. By simply becoming aware of our negative self-talk, we begin to alienate ourselves from the feelings it brings up. This enables us to identify with them less. Without this awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of believing our self-limiting talk, and as meditation teacher Allan Lokos says, “Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just - thoughts.” Challenge these thoughts as they come. Note them down on a sheet and burn them, because that’s not who you are.
2.Recognize your strong suits
Note down your strong points in your journal and go through them now and then to remind yourself “that’s who I am.” If it’s difficult for you to identify your distinctive talents, ask a friend to point them out to you. Sometimes it’s easier for others to see the best in us than it is for us to see it in ourselves.
3.Be kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself not only includes taking care of your diet, sleeping schedule, stressing less and not being harsh on yourself when you feel self-critical, but also to remove toxic people from your life. Being around the ones who value and appreciate your presence sends through positive energy.
Many studies have shown a correlation between exercise and higher self-esteem, as well as improved mental health. “Exercising creates empowerment both physically and mentally,” says Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, “especially weight lifting where you can calibrate the accomplishments. Exercise organizes your day around self-care.” She suggests dropping a task daily from your endless to-do list for the sole objective of relaxation or doing something fun and discovering how that feels.
5.Start saying 'NO'
People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to other people, even when they do not really want to. The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed. For the most part, saying no does not upset relationships. It can be helpful to keep saying no, but in different ways, until they get the message.
We all feel nervous or worried to do things at times. But people with healthy self-esteem do not let these feelings stop them trying new things or taking on challenges. Set yourself a goal, such as enrolling in an exercise class or going to a social event. Accomplishing your goals will help to increase your self-esteem.
It's challenging, but not impossible to be able to spot the light at the end of a tunnel. The sheer ignorance of uncomfortable situations will only make us feel safe in the short term, but in the long run, it will backfire, reinforcing the underlying doubts and fears. It will teach us that avoidance is the only coping mechanism, which is untrue. The best way to go about and through is acknowledging and facing what bothers us, for it's the simplest way to rise above our apprehensions.