According to Kendra Cherry (2021) self-esteem refers to a person's overall sense of self-value. It is essentially your opinion about yourself. It can encompass a range of factors such as your sense of identity, your self-confidence, feelings of competence, and feelings of belonging. It plays an important role in a variety of areas in life, which is why having low self-esteem can be such a serious problem.
Self-esteem is about more than just generally liking yourself—it also means believing you deserve love and valuing your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, interests, and goals. It can affect your motivation to go after the things you want in life and your ability to develop healthy, supportive relationships.
According to webmd.com signs can include the following:
- Sensitivity to Criticism
If you have low self-esteem, you may be extra sensitive to criticism, whether from others or yourself. You see it only as reinforcing your flaws and confirming that you are incapable of doing anything right.
- Social Withdrawal
Declining invitations to go to a party or meet up with friends, canceling scheduled plans last-minute, and generally not wanting to be around others are signs of low self-esteem.
For someone with low self-esteem, lashing out or becoming aggressive towards others is a defense mechanism. If you feel that you are about to be exposed or criticized, attacking whoever might criticize you can be a sign of low self-esteem.
- Excessive Preoccupation with Personal Problems
Consistently worrying about your own personal issues takes up a lot of time for someone with low self-esteem. You may struggle to help or empathize with someone else’s problems because you are too preoccupied with your own.
- Physical Symptoms
Blog.zencare also adds the following signs:
- Difficulty speaking up and prioritizing your own needs, wants, and feelings
Perhaps you convince yourself that what you really want doesn’t matter in the moment, in the face of someone else’s needs. It’s understandable why you don’t speak up! While caring for others is a personality strength, when it comes at the cost of your own needs, wants, or feelings, it becomes a hindrance.
- Saying “I’m sorry” and/or feeling guilty for everyday actions
Is the word “sorry” at the top of your vocabulary? Do you feel guilty for things like taking up space or apologize for things that you have no control or responsibility over? This could be a sign that you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong -- chances are you have nothing to apologize for, but it’s become a habit!
Not “rocking the boat” describes the tendency to follow along with what others are doing, saying, wearing, and going. This is another example of a strength becoming overdone -- being flexible is a good thing, but when it means that you seldom carve your own path, it may be a sign of low self-esteem.
- Not feeling deserving of, or capable of, having “more”
Whether “more” means deserving better relationships, a higher-paying job, or the common decency of others, when you feel like you deserve better, you won’t go seeking it. This can lead to unfulfilling (or even toxic) relationships, unsatisfactory or low paying jobs, and overall lower standards.
- Difficulty making your own choices
A lack of confidence can show up in feeling torn between choices or having difficulty making your own choices. It’s much easier to let others decide, but do they always know what you want or need? If you do make a decision, do you have trouble standing by them? This is a sign of low self-esteem, not believing that you can make good decisions.
- Lack of boundaries
Having a lack of boundaries may leave you feeling vulnerable or hurt, whether that’s the intention of your loved ones or not. Low self-esteem shows up in feeling insecure that speaking up about your needs will cause people to look down on you.
- Doing things or buying gifts excessively for other people
Everyone loves receiving gifts -- which is the point. By giving people thoughtful gifts, you’re relying on the joy of presents to bolster your reputation. Even for those who wouldn’t appreciate it, you buy them gifts in order to feel wanted, needed, recognized.
- Negative self-perception
Negative self-perception means that you don’t think that people would like or accept you for who you are. This often stems from a lack of acceptance from yourself and is a very common sign of low self-esteem.
- Critical, abusive internal dialogue
Questions to Consider:
Which of the contributing factors described in this section resonate the most with you?
What specific experiences in your life do you think had the biggest negative effects on your self-confidence?
Next Step: STOP LIVING IN THE PAST.
According to Ashdown in thriveglobal.com, people with low self-esteem often hold on to their old mistakes. They replay them in their minds again and again, wishing they could do things differently. But the problem is that you can’t change the past.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.