3 Main Causes of Low Self Esteem and their Effects on People

causes of low self esteem

I have found that the causes of low self esteem fall into 3 main areas and I am going to discuss those areas during this article.

Most of us are familiar with the law of cause and effect, many times what we focus on are the effects of low self esteem i.e. the signs of low self esteem and symptoms of low self esteem instead of focusing on the root cause of low self esteem.

Generally, we are all born with a healthy self esteem but somewhere along the line something happens. Children are born believing that they can be and do anything until life begins to happen to them, we are also all born with the belief that we are deserving of love until we experience something that makes us feel otherwise.

From as young as the age of 6 we can begin to feel incapable and unloved as a result of the things that happen to us and as we begin to experience life.

These "things" that happen to us is what I have categorized into the 3 main causes of low self esteem.

1. Something negative is done or said to us in our childhood i.e. verbal, sexual or physical abuse

One of the causes of low self esteem is when you go through some kind of abuse. For example, the abuse can be verbal in the form of criticisms. It might be your parents or other people like teachers, family members, friends, peers etc saying negative things to you as you grew up and as a result, those negative things they said to you have shaped the way you see and feel about yourself.

If you've been told that you are ugly, useless, incapable, stupid, foolish, over and over again, and you grew up hearing those things about yourself, you eventually end up believing it and it damages your self esteem, you begin to feel like there is something wrong with you and it affects your life, your relationships, and your ability to pursue your dreams.

Other causes of low self esteem that fall into this category also include physical and sexual abuse, as well as not being shown affection and love and being abandoned as a child.

When you are physically or sexually abused, beaten, punched, thrown down the stairs, raped, molested etc, it makes you start to question yourself, you feel like "if I'm a person of worth, why I'm I being treated like this, I must not be worth much" it crushes you on the inside, it destroys your spirit and damages your confidence and the way you see yourself.

You might even blame yourself for the abuse and think you deserved it; low self esteem will make you feel like it was your fault.

Or if you were neglected by your parents, may be you were raised by your mother and have never known your father, you could start to feel unloved and wonder why your father never wanted you, you begin to feel like what's so wrong with me that he didn't want to stick around.

These are some of the root causes of low self esteem which can follow us into adulthood and have a negative impact on different areas of our lives.

2. Misinterpreting what someone has said or done to us.

The second category of causes of low self esteem is misinterpreting events and things that people have said to us.

Sometimes, the root cause of the low self esteem isn't so much what was said or done to us but how we interpreted it. When we give a negative interpretation to something someone innocently did or said to us, it can result in developing low self esteem and it makes you devalue yourself.

For example, your manager at work tells you that you performance isn't as good as it could be, but you interpret it as "he thinks I'm incapable" or "he thinks I'm not good enough" or "he thinks I'm rubbish at my job" but all your manager is saying is that you could do better.

When you attach a negative meaning or interpretation to something that has been innocently done or said to you, (like in the example above) it can destroy your confidence. You start to feel incapable and your performance drops even more until it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and you are made redundant from work.

It is important to rightly interpret the things that are said and done to us and not assume the negative interpretations we associate with them.

3. When we feel we don't match up to the ideals created by the media and society

The final category of the causes of low self esteem is when we feel that we don't match up to the ideals created by the media. I once went to a Tony Robbins seminar, and he said something along the lines of "people feel unhappy with their life when their reality doesn't match their ideal" and usually it's the media that creates their ideals.

For example the media ideal when it comes to physical appearance for women is a skinny size 0 model and for men, a guy with big pecks and ripped abs and when your physical appearance and body image doesn't match up to that, it can lead to low self esteem. This is why some are struggling with eating disorders and other health and psychological issues because they have become victims of the media ideal.

Another ideal the media has created is in terms of what it means to be successful, the media paints a picture that successful people have a certain kind of job or business, they earn a certain amount of income and drive a certain type of car and live in a certain type of house etc.

Again if your reality doesn't match this media ideal that you've adopted, then you will have a poor self esteem because you have hung your ability to feel good about yourself on the obtaining of those ideals.

If you want to change the way you feel about yourself then the best thing you can do in this kind of situation is to do a soul search and find out what is really important to you, and what is really important in life - you will discover that the answers you come up with will be different from the shallow ideals that are often portrayed through the media.

Once you free yourself from the pressure of trying to live up to media ideals you will find that you begin to see yourself in a more positive light.

Other Recommended Reading

The Self Esteem Book by Dr Joe Rubino.

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