Are You Singing the Low Self-Esteem Blues?

Part 1 - Causes and Signs

One sign of low self-esteem is being needlessly unhappy about your appearance.
One sign of low self-esteem is being needlessly unhappy about your appearance. Peter Glass / Stockbyte / Getty Images

"People say that they liked my presentation, but it was nothing like it should have been. I can't believe they didn't notice all the mistakes I made."

"She didn't say hi to me when I came into the chat room. I know that means she is angry and doesn't like me."

"She turned me down for a date! I'm so embarrassed and humiliated. No one likes or cares about me. I'll never find a girlfriend. I'll always be alone."

"I got an F on the test. I don't understand anything in this class. I'm such an idiot. Who am I fooling? I shouldn't be taking this class. I'm stupid and I don't belong in college."

Do any of these statements sound familiar? Have you ever felt like an imposter where you act as if you are happy and successful, but are really terrified of failure? Do you live with the constant fear that you will be "found out?" Do you live with persistent anger about not feeling "good enough?" If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there is a good chance that you suffer from low self-esteem.

Many people who have bipolar disorder struggle with low self-esteem. It is a continuous struggle we face every day. So how do we get it and how do we end the struggle?

How Does Low Self-Esteem Come About?

Early experiences can greatly impact the outlook we have about ourselves. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment can influence self-esteem throughout our lives.

Being harshly criticized, being ignored, ridiculed, or teased, being expected to be "perfect" all the time either at home or at school can affect self-esteem. Low self-esteem can also come from inconsistent or critical parenting. People with low self-esteem were often given messages that failed experiences (losing a game, getting a poor grade, etc.) were failures of their whole self.

While things in our childhood may affect how we view ourselves, an experience later in life may also be the cause. Often those with a physical disability or mental illness -including bipolar disorder - feel as if they are lacking in some way or don't measure up.

Some people do not believe they are likeable, pretty, or successful. Even when given positive information, they still see the negatives in themselves. It becomes a never-ending cycle. Low self-esteem can also affect relationships if one depends greatly on the other to maintain their self-image.

Some Signs of Low Self-Esteem

  • Self-consciousness
  • Shyness
  • Over-sensitivity
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Attacking others or their character
  • Attention seeking
  • Aggression

Consequences of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem reduces your chances of success in life. It can create anxiety, stress, loneliness and increased likelihood for depression. No matter how badly you want to reach a goal, low self-esteem will hold you back every time. When you don't value yourself and lack self-esteem, it will work against you and undermine you. If you do not believe in yourself, who will?

Worst of all, these negative consequences themselves reinforce the negative self-image and can take a person into a downward spiral of lower and lower self-esteem and increasingly non-productive or even actively self-destructive behavior.

How Can We Build Self-Confidence?

From the UT Learning Center (with some adaptation).

  1. Accept yourself.
  2. Respect your own needs.
  3. Focus on things that make you feel good.
  4. Set goals you can reach.
  5. Focus on positive thoughts.
  6. Make a point to learn new things.
  7. Solve problems.
  8. Focus on your skills, not your weaknesses.
  9. Don't blame others for your own mistakes.
  10. Develop a good opinion of yourself.
  11. Accept that nothing and no one is perfect.

A healthy self-esteem is very important. Confidence in yourself goes hand-in-hand with reaching your goals. Self-confidence is an attitude that allows us to have positive yet realistic views of ourselves and our situations. Self-confident people are willing to risk the disapproval of others because they generally trust their own abilities.

They tend to accept themselves; they don't feel they have to conform in order to be accepted.

Beating low self-esteem is a wonderful thing, and it's much easier than you'd imagine. Learn how to develop your self-confidence by following the tips from this article. Notice the small differences as they happen.

Persevere and don't expect everything at once. However , if one can’t improve self-esteem on one’s own, it might be helpful to seek out psychotherapy.  Sometimes we need a therapeutic relationship to better understand what impacts our feeling as good about ourselves as we can.

Guest author biographies: Summersong and Snowflake

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