What causes low self-esteem?
Low self-esteem is not something anyone is born with. Rather, we develop it over time; it often stems from early negative experiences. Factors that contribute to the likelihood of someone developing low self-esteem include:
Negative childhood experiences
Childhood experiences of abuse, bullying, neglect or punishment can be a major influence in establishing low self-esteem in a person. In fact, children who have gone through these things often come to believe that they actually deserved these ‘punishments’ and that they really are bad.
Failing to meet expectations
Some people develop low self-esteem as failing to meet the expectations of others makes them feel as though they are not good enough. An example of this would be failing to meet the expectations of your parents – regardless of whether or not these expectations were fair or realistic, to begin with.
Peer pressure and self-esteem
Peer pressure can have a significant impact on our self-esteem. Adolescence can be a particularly trying time for many of us in this respect, as we begin to inform our identity. We all want to belong and fit in, but it’s not something that comes easy. Being made to feel the odd one out or different can have a terrible impact on our self-esteem. When we are made to feel unpopular or an ‘outsider’, we can come to believe that, as individuals, we are not good enough. If these negative experiences aren’t counterbalanced by positive ones, then this is a recipe for self-esteem problems not just in adolescence, but into adulthood.
Barriers to a good sense of self-worth
There are, unfortunately, many factors in today’s society that can hinder our self-worth. We constantly have the media subtly or not-so-subtly tell us what the ideal body is, the ideal clothes are, even the perfect place to live or the ideal job can be supposedly ‘decided’ for us. The thing is, having a good sense of self-worth encompasses the idea that those things don’t matter; our value as a person is not based on what we look like, what clothes we have, where we live or what we do for a living.
A person with a poor sense of self-worth might criticise themselves for not having the latest clothes or having the same body type as those they see in the media; someone with a healthy sense of self-worth simply won’t let that kind of thinking factor in.