Nobody is shielded from having a sense of low self esteem. However, it is important to differentiate between feelings of low esteem from sadness, or from the effects of a string of bad days. There are a couple of symptoms of low self esteem that you can look out for if you feel that you or a loved one may be suffering from the effects of consistent low self esteem.
First, it is important to realize that unlike sadness or feeling like you woke up from the wrong side of the bed does not automatically constitute low self esteem. Low self esteem is characterized as a consistent negative belief system about the self, with persistent attitudes that these thoughts reflect in the decisions and choices that person makes every day. Destructive habits and addictions erode self esteem which may put a person in a cycle of depression. This enduring low self-image can permeate into a person’s every activities, as it is at the core of a person’s conception and belief of his or her self-worth.
One of the first symptoms of low self esteem is constant self-deprecation. One may find that a person with low self esteem will easily say bad things about his or her self, passing comments even about how they are not worth any effort. They may also talk about their incapacity to fulfill their duties or get things accomplished. Many times they will be very critical of others as they are of themselves.
In addition to self-deprecation, people suffering from low self esteem will constantly express unhappiness about their bodies and how they look. Poor self-image is one of the most telling signs of low self esteem. They may constantly be paranoid and sensitive about what people may judge them about how they look. What’s worse, some of them may respond to this bad self-image through some form of eating disorder or addictions.
People who suffer from low self esteem may be obsessed with order and controlling behaviors, forcing themselves to comply by an impossible standard of perfection in whatever task they are involved in. This may make them work slower than others, and may make them more vulnerable to feelings of not doing well because of their own impossible expectations. This feeling of failure (despite the fact that they did not fail, except by their own impossible, perfectionist standards) helps further feed their bad perception of their own self-worth.
They may also be extremely eager to please, depending very heavily on the approval of others in order to feel good about themselves. They find no pleasure in completing and succeeding in tasks unless they are recognized by the people whose opinions they believe matter or are important.
They may even be all too eager to compare themselves to other people they have high regard to. However, it is important to note that these comparisons, fulfill the function of the negative ego highlighting what they lack and what flaws they possess. When they see flaws in themselves or in others they may respond with self anger or lack of self acceptance.
While there are those who withdraw from society as a result of their low self esteem, there are those who respond by uninhibited anger lashing out against themselves or other people. They may express this either by hurting themselves or the people around them, even if these people are not those who triggered feelings of anger. After all, because of low self esteem, these people begin to hate themselves and direct hatred to the people around them. They are also likelier to suddenly explode in anger over very little issues at the drop of a hat, or when they feel that they are being cornered or humiliated. These are extreme cases of negative ego gone amok that is running mental and emotional fear programs.
Self-esteem is a human psychological need and that to the extent this need remains unmet, pathology (defensiveness, anxiety, depression, difficulty in relationships, etc.) tends to result. Self-esteem formally is "the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness", and while others (parents, teachers, friends) can nurture and support self-esteem in an individual, self-esteem relies upon various internally generated practices. To be responsible to take care of oneself is one way of building self esteem. In Nathan Branden's framework, there are six "pillars" of generating and building self-esteem:
- Living consciously: the practice of being aware of what one is doing while one is doing it, i.e., the practice of mindfulness.
- Self-acceptance: the practice of owning truths regarding one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; of being kind toward oneself with respect to them; and of being "for" oneself in a basic sense.
- Self-responsibility: the practice of owning one's authorship of one's actions and of owning one's capacity to be the cause of the effects one desires.
- Self-assertiveness: the practice of treating one's needs and interests with respect and of expressing them in appropriate ways.
- Living purposefully: the practice of formulating goals and of formulating and implementing action plans to achieve them.
- Personal integrity: the practice of maintaining alignment between one’s behaviors and convictions.
Branden distinguishes his approach to self-esteem from that of many others by his inclusion of both confidence and worth in his definition of self-esteem, and by his emphasis on the importance of internally generated practices for the improvement and maintenance of self-esteem in every day life.
By identifying the symptoms of having low self esteem, you will be able to determine the best course of action in order to appropriately respond to people and all life circumstances. If you or someone you know scores positively in terms of these symptoms, then it may be good to seek support strategies to clear negative ego and intend to build improved self esteem. There are many tools on this website to clear negative ego attitudes and negative emotions (fears) which also help to reprogram one's mind to find healthier beliefs and start to strengthen one's self esteem.
(Adaption from Wikipedia:Nathan Branden and Building Self Esteem)