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effects of low self-esteem

The negative effects of having low self-esteem are numerous.

Are you aware of all the effects it has on you?

Sure, low self-esteem is an issue for some of us. We beat ourselves up for the mistakes we made. We feel unworthy and not good enough for others. But you know what’s good about this? At least, I know I have low self-esteem.

Knowing that I had low self-esteem helped me a lot.

Since I was a teenager, I was aware of the things that triggered my low self-esteem and the problems it caused. With this awareness, I could take appropriate actions to stop, minimize, or resolve my problem. In other words, I had control over my low self-esteem issue. I might not have the best solutions then, but at least I knew it was something that affected my life.

There are two situations which are worse than having low self-esteem:

  1. You don’t know that you have low self-esteem or you deny it.
  2. You are unaware of the problems caused by low self-esteem.

For the first situation, I have talked about how to identify if you have low self-esteem and its symptoms in one of the previous posts. In this blog post, the focus will be on the second situation.

How Does Low Self-Esteem Affect You?

Many times, when we see the problem, we only see the effects of the problem. We just see problems individually. We don’t see our problems holistically and the connections between the problems.

So for example, when we procrastinate in our work, we just see procrastination as the problem. We zoom in and find solutions to resolve our procrastination problem. We start setting routines for ourselves, implement more self-discipline, cut down distractions and etc. These are all good but what if procrastination isn’t the underlying problem.

Are you solving the right problem?

What if procrastination is just another problem caused by low self-esteem? Aren’t we solving the effect and consequence of a problem, and not the problem itself? We might be doing all the right things to prevent procrastination, but we still end up procrastinating. That’s because procrastinating less doesn’t help us to feel more worthy of ourselves.

Low self-esteem can lead to a lot of problems, some of which we aren’t even aware of. Understanding the effects it brings allows us to focus on resolving the main issue at hand and tackle many sub-problems in our life at the same time.

This is a more effective way of resolving our life problems.

What Are the Negative Effects of Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem dictates most of our actions. Something we perceive as positive may be an effect of low self-esteem too. For example, achievement and success aren’t bad to have. But if you are constantly striving for them and you realize you can’t stop even if you want to, low self-esteem may be the reason for pushing you so hard.

You may think that pursuing success is for your best interest, but you are actually doing it to avoid feeling unworthy. So in other words, you are controlled by low self-esteem. Your low self-esteem determines what actions you take, not you.

Below are some negative consequences and effects of low self-esteem. They are grouped as follow:

  • Work Issues (Item 1 to 3),
  • Relationships Issues (Item 4 to 5),
  • Mental Health Issues (Item 6 to 7).

This list is not comprehensive. But every time you are unsure if you are acting out of low self-esteem, you can ask yourself:

“Am I doing this to make me feel worthy or is this the best thing to do at this moment?”

If you are doing something which makes you feel worthy and good about yourself, most of the time it’s a low self-esteem issue.

Here Are 7 Consequences of Low Self-Esteem:

1. It can cause you to spend too much time at work.

Yes, it is true that some employers give their employees too much work to do and set unrealistic deadlines. However, sometimes spending too much time at work could be a result of our low self-esteem. Ask yourself:

  • Am I the only person who stays late at work?
  • Does my whole life revolve around work?
  • Are you afraid of making mistakes or letting someone know you make mistakes?

If so, your low self-esteem may be causing you to stay late at work. People with condition-based low self-esteem rely on their work to make them feel good and significant. They are afraid of letting others know they aren’t good enough. So they are perfectionists at work, avoiding making mistakes to cover their defects.

Doing a good job is necessary, but is doing it perfectly necessary?

There’s nothing wrong with being perfect. Certain jobs such as those in the medical and airline industry require the employees to comply with the procedures perfectly because lives are at stake. But are you being perfect at things which don’t add much value to your work? Are you creating more tasks for yourself so that you can avoid other areas of your life such as relationships and health?

Working late is not a problem, but if working late is not required and you are doing it at the expense of other areas of your life, then that’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

2. It can cause you to do other people’s work for them.

When you have low self-esteem, you tend to do other people’s work for them. They are several reasons why low self-esteem people do this:

  • Helping others makes you feel needed and worthy.
  • You are so used to putting other people’s needs over yours that you can’t say no.
  • You don’t have clear boundaries at work.
  • You think you are the only one who can do it. (This could also be true for high self-esteem people.)

Helping others is not the same as doing their work for them.

Helping others is great. But if you are helping someone do what they are supposed to do, then you are crossing the boundary. You can point them in the right direction, teach them, and provide them with resources without doing the work for them. What’s more, if you resent doing their work but you can’t say no, then it’s because you hadn’t value yourself enough to set boundaries at work.

Lastly, thinking that you are the only one who can do a certain task seems harmless. But the truth is most work can be done by others. If you are a manager or an entrepreneur and you find yourself doing the work which you have delegated away, it could be you haven’t spent enough time teaching others how to do it. Or perhaps you are just holding onto the job because that makes you feel good and competent.

[To learn more about setting boundaries, read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.]

3. It can make you procrastinate and feel unmotivated at work.

Both procrastination and doing other people’s work for them would cause you to stay late at work too. What’s ironic is when it comes to helping others with their work, we are so willing and quick to say yes. But when it comes to our own work, we tend to procrastinate and feel unmotivated.

On a logical level, we get it that when we do our job well, we are likely to get recognized for our success. However, on a subconscious level, we don’t believe we deserve to be worthy and successful, so we sabotage ourselves by procrastinating.

Our mind is full of contradictions.

We want to do well, but we are also afraid of the outcome. What if we put in so much time and effort, and it doesn’t turn out good? That will reaffirm that we aren’t good enough. Or what if we are successful? That will make us feel uncomfortable too because that’s not how we perceive ourselves. Plus, being successful would mean more challenges ahead, which means more risks of revealing our unworthiness. Isn’t it better to stay as it is?

You may not even notice your mind is full of these contradictions because they act on a subconscious level. But these contradictions are what cause your actions and inaction.

4. For relationships, it can prevent you from connecting with others on a deeper level.

When you have low self-esteem, you feel ashamed of who you are. It’s difficult to connect with others on a deeper level because you don’t want others to know the vulnerable part of you that you are ashamed of. You distance yourself from others because you are afraid of being hurt or exposed.

No one will understand you when you hide your true self from them.

The disadvantage of hiding your authentic self is it makes you feel disconnected from other people. People don’t get to know the real you and that’s why no one understands you. You can be in a crowded place, a party or with a group of friends and yet still feel very lonely. 

This loneliness is just an effect of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem makes you feel defective internally as though you are the only one who is unworthy. But in reality, many others feel the same way about themselves too. And just like you, they aren’t sharing their vulnerability with others, so no one knows.

When you compare your “inside” with other people’s “outside”, you are bound to feel more unworthy, different, and lonely.

5. It can cause you to have trust issues with yourself and others.

Trust is a big thing in relationships, especially intimate relationships. Imagine this. Your partner loves you for who you are. But you, on the other hand, don’t think too highly of yourself. How do someone who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love trust that another will love them?

Your mind can’t comprehend why someone would love a defective person like you. Whenever your partner compliments you or does something for you out of love, you will naturally be doubting if they are genuine or not. You will constantly seek confirmation from your partner or the things they do. What you end up finding though is “evidence” that he or she doesn’t love you.

Doubts create tension in relationships.

When we believe we aren’t worthy of love, our mind will look for evidence to reaffirm that belief. No matter how loving our partner is, we will still be able to find small, little things where they aren’t loving enough. For example, not taking out the trash bag, not knowing what we want or not remembering the details, etc.

This creates tensions in our relationships. Our partner will soon get frustrated by our lack of trust in them and nitpicking. People with low self-esteem yearn for love too. But ultimately, it’s our belief that we don’t deserve to be loved that will push our partner away.

6. With regards to your mental health, it can cause depression.

Depression isn’t always caused by low self-esteem. But if you have low self-esteem, you have a higher risk of developing depression.

With my own experience with depression, even though low self-esteem wasn’t the triggering event, it’s the one that sent me down a downward spiral and brought out all the painful feelings like shame.

Without low self-esteem, I probably wouldn’t have depression.

Low self-esteem is a negative perception of oneself, while depression is about feeling hopeless and apathetic about the future.

Low self-esteem causes depression when you can’t stop those self-loathing thoughts from attacking you. It creates a sense of helplessness, especially when you have tried different tools such as meditation and they don’t work for you. It makes you feel as though you have no choice but to listen to your thoughts.

When depressed, most of us focus on overcoming depression. But it’s also good to reexamine how you view yourself. Is low self-esteem affecting your life and making you depressed?

7. It can cause social anxiety.

Low self-esteem causes anxiety too. When you don’t feel good about yourself, very often you worried how others will view or judge you too. This creates anxiety and stress when you interact with others. You are afraid of saying the wrong things, being boring, or having nothing to say.

Low self-esteem creates a vicious cycle of anxiety.

And when you don’t perform to your expectations socially, you blame yourself for not being good enough, which in turn creates more anxiety next time you interact with others.

Improving your social skills and building confidence will help ease some of your anxiety. However, if you don’t believe you are worthy enough, you will continue to be too self-conscious and over-sensitive. Whenever someone says or does something, you will think they are talking about you when in reality, they aren’t. Or even if they are, they might not be saying something negative about you.

When we have low self-esteem, our minds pay too much attention to ourselves. It’s conditioned to look for more evidence of defectiveness in us. This is to build the negative self-image we have for ourselves.

Question: What other problems do you face as someone who has low self-esteem? Let me know in the comment section below.

Featured Photo Credit: Untitled / Silvia Sala