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10 Problems Caused By Low Self-Esteem

We are constantly told to ‘believe in yourself,’ (something I am guilty of saying too!) as the path to accomplish anything in life.

Not strictly true; no matter how much I believe eating dark chocolate will make me fit and healthy, the reality proves otherwise…

But there is an element of truth to the saying, and it is in the form of self-acceptance.

Accepting yourself for who you are is a hugely important factor in success, relationships and happiness and self-esteem plays a leading role in living a flourishing life.

Self-esteem provides us with belief in our abilities, motivation to achieve our goals and a more positive outlook on life. It is more than self-confidence and is related to how much we value, approve of, appreciate, prize, or like ourselves.

10 Issues Caused By Low Self-Esteem:

1. You people please

When you have low self-esteem, you are more likely to seek validation and approval from outside sources. This often manifests as people pleasing and relies on your ability to keep other people happy (often linked to the negative belief that you are less worthy than them, or that their happiness relies on you and your actions). Watch out for times that you change your mind, cancel your plans or have no opinion based on what the other person thinks.

2. You’re easily angered or irritated

Constantly judging yourself harshly or feeling like you don't measure up to your own high standards and leave you feeling frustrated or angry. The longer this continues, the more easily angered you can become. Even small triggers, such as someone sharing their good news, can send you into a negative thought spiral. Keep a look out for these emotions. When do you experience them? Are they associated with a particular thought, occasion or self-belief?

3. What you do is never good enough

Low self-esteem is often caused by previous experiences and observations on life that create negative self-beliefs, such as 'no matter what I do, I'm never good enough'. To prevent yourself from experiencing the pain of those beliefs, your subconscious has probably created a set of 'Rules' that you follow. These Rules often come with very high, and sometimes unrealistic, standards that you hold yourself to. Unfortunately, when you 'fail' to meet these standards, it just confirms your low opinion of yourself and the low self-esteem cycle continues. Try asking yourself, 'is it fair to hold myself to this standard?' Would you hold a friend to the same standard? If not, why not? Are you being too harsh with yourself?

4. You’re highly sensitive to other peoples opinions

A classic symptom of low self-esteem and one that relates to people pleasing and negative self-beliefs. Possibly you worry that in order to 'fit in' or be liked you need to be like other people, or live up to their standards. This causes you to change who you are on the surface, including your opinions and desires. Look out for changing your mind about something just to be like someone else, or times when you share your opinion but feel uncomfortable about it. Possibly you are using someone else's words...

5. You find it hard keeping relationships

When you don't love or even like yourself, you find it very difficult to believe that other people do. This can cause tension, conflict and eventually the loss of the relationship. You may even inadvertently sabotage it through your actions (such as pushing someone away) in order to protect yourself from future pain. The irony being that you end up causing the pain yourself. Do you struggle to maintain relationships? Have you noticed any patterns in your behaviour or in the events that led to their demise?

6. You avoid taking risks or trying new things

Part of keeping yourself psychologically safe (following those Rules!) means that you probably avoid any situation where you need to take a risk. This even extends to trying new things regardless of their importance. This behaviour is often driven by fear, worry and anxiety, which triggers your avoidance mechanisms or precautions. Ask yourself, what am I really afraid of? How important is that? What is a more realistic outcome of taking this risk?

7. You find it difficult creating boundaries

To set healthy boundaries, you need confidence in yourself and the inner strength to reinforce those boundaries when someone breaks them. This is very difficult when you experience low self-esteem, particularly when you have good-girl conditioning or people pleasing tendencies. Consequently it can feel like people walk all over you and you may start to feel like a bit of a doormat.

It's fairly easy to spot when boundaries - even those you aren't aware you have - are broken. You might become irritated, angry or start to notice physical symptoms in your body, such as tension in your shoulders or a knot in your stomach. Explore these feelings and identify which boundary has been broken. How could you communicate this?

Be prepared for some people to push back on your boundaries. Strangely, this is usually from the people we are closest to, such as family and close friends. They may find it hard to understand the change, or they may have preferred you when you let them walk all over you. Regardless, it's time to consider which relationships are worth keeping. The people who love and respect you the most, will respect your new boundaries and help you maintain them.

8. You struggle to say no

Linked, to boundaries, people pleasing and good-girl conditioning, this problem makes you susceptible to manipulation and coercion. You don't want to upset or offend people, so you probably say yes, often at the expense of your own wellbeing or personal needs. Explore where this need to say yes comes from. A desire to be liked? Fear of rejection? Fear of not being 'good' or 'kind'? Identifying the root of this problem is the first step to solving it.

9. You compare yourself with others and often you come in second best

Overly high self-criticism is often what fuels low self-esteem. As I said before, you set very high standards for yourself and become frustrated if you don't consistently meet them. Similarly, you probably find that you compare yourself with other people and find yourself wanting.

Maybe you feel they are more successful than you, or they are luckier, more popular, wealthier, prettier, fitter, more intelligent, and happier. There are a million ways you could compare yourself to other people, but you are not them and you don't really know them. They may be experiencing struggles you know nothing about, or they may work ridiculously hard for what they have at the expense of something else. Or they may just have experienced fortunate circumstances and had the courage to take a risk.

Like on social media, people usually only share the best bits of their lives and cover up or distort the reality. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, compare yourself to the past you. What progress have you made compared to last year? Or 5 years ago? Which goals have you achieved? How have you grown and developed? More importantly, where are you going and what goals do you have planned for your future?

10. You find it difficult asking for your needs to be met

As with saying no and creating boundaries, you probably put other peoples needs before your own and find yourself stuck at the bottom of the list. The longer this goes on, the more likely you are to foster resentment, bitterness and frustration. As Tony Gaskins said,

"You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce."

You are just as important and worthy of having your needs met as anyone else. It's time to explore what you want from your life, how you would like to be treated and to behave and create an action plan to get there!

How Can I Build Self-Esteem?

You can build self-esteem by:

  • setting small, reachable goals.

  • owning your strengths and lesser strengths.

  • acknowledging your achievements and recognising your mistakes as opportunities for personal growth.

  • actively challenging your negative thoughts and creating more positive ones.

  • recognising when you are talking negatively to yourself and changing your self-talk.

  • stopping comparing yourself to others.

  • by knowing yourself and being at peace with who you are.

The most powerful of these is the final one which comprises self-acceptance and self-awareness, particularly when combined with meditative self-exploration activities.

If you are interested in building your self-esteem, reprogramming your inner critic and transforming your mindset to create optimism, courage and inner-strength, take a look at my coaching program 'Everyday Confidence'.

Everyday Confidence’ is a 12 week coaching program designed to help you overcome self-doubt, anxiety, ‘Good Girl’ conditioning and other negative thought patterns that may be holding you back.

Our sessions will empower you to start to put yourself first, to create confident boundaries, to make decisions for your own reasons and to stop wasting your time worrying and over-analysing situations.


If you are interested in finding out your levels of confidence right now, and getting some tips about how to improve it, you can download my free Confidence Quiz here.


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