The origin of many human behaviors can be batted around in the nature/nurture debate. But when it comes to self-esteem, we know with absolute certainty there are always external causes of it.
No child is born with low self-esteem; rather self-critical thought patterns develop over time as a result of external stimuli and input from others.
Below are some causes of low self-esteem. However, remember low self-esteem can be improved and just listing out potential causes doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the individual causes of low self-esteem. That’s something that therapy can help explore.
OK. Without further ado, here are some causes of low self-esteem:
The most important influence in a child’s life is their parents. If the parents themselves have a healthy self-esteem they will be able to more easily pass it on to the child. Conversely, children of parents with low self-esteem will, more often than not, adopt this belief about themselves.
To help instill a positive self-esteem in their child, parents should always offer love, patience and encouragement and avoid criticism, unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations.
Negative Self Talk
When children receive too many criticisms, they may develop a negative pattern of thinking. If not adjusted, this pattern can turn into a destructive loop of negative thoughts like:
- I’m not good enough.
- I’m not pretty enough.
- Everyone is laughing at me.
- I’m not smart enough.
- I can’t do it.
These self-critical thoughts eventually become core beliefs, and the person’s behavior then changes to match those beliefs.
These are just a few of the causes of low self-esteem, but they illustrate that esteem is not an inherited trait like eye color or height, but rather a set of acquired beliefs. And, like everything that is acquired, self-esteem can be altered.
No matter what may have caused low self-esteem, there are ways to improve it.
1. Challenge Your Inner Critic
That self-critical voice must be silenced and replaced with a supportive one. How do you do this? First, when a negative thought pops into your head, simply become aware of it. Treat that thought like an object in a store and you’re deciding whether you want to buy it or not.
Next, challenge that thought by asking two questions:
- Is there any evidence that proves this thought is correct?
- Would my friends and family agree with this self-critical thought?
Chances are the answers you’ll get most often are “no” and “no.” When this happens enough times, you’ll start to believe that maybe, just maybe, your inner critic is entirely wrong!
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
So many people spend countless hours measuring their worth and value against others’ instead of embracing what makes them unique. You truly are the only you on the planet. No one else has your DNA or your life experiences, and that is incredibly special. It’s very important you stop spending time comparing yourself to others and start spending time sharing your unique talents and ideas with the world.
3. Stop Striving for Perfection
Only things that are finished can be critiqued and considered perfect or not. A cake is either perfectly moist or dreadfully dry. A building is either perfectly functional or a pointless eyesore.
Human beings are never finished. We are lovely works in progress, ever-changing and growing. And, since we will never stop evolving, we must never be critiqued in the same way as an inanimate object.
So, stop trying to be perfect and just be your awesome progressing self.
If you’ve tried putting some of these tips into action but haven’t noticed a difference in the way you feel about yourself, speaking with a counselor can help you determine what’s at the root cause of your low self-esteem and offers tools to fix it.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.