The Negative Outcomes of Having Low Self Esteem

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Volumes have been written about self esteem. Definitions given in self esteem literature run a yard long. But after cutting through all the verbiage, the question of self-esteem really boils down to something quite simple: How do you feel about yourself? If you feel good about yourself, you have a high self-esteem. If you feel bad about yourself, you have a low self esteem.

To tell whether you have a positive self esteem or not, ask yourself the following questions: Do I respect myself? Do I take pride in myself? Do I believe in myself? Do I take good care of myself? If the answer is "yes, " to these questions, you don't need to read any further, you have a good  self-esteem. Your self esteem should be independent of what others think or feel about you. 

Individuals with truly high self esteem feel good about themselves and continue believing in themselves regardless of what others think of them. Some people feel good about themselves only as long as others support them and approve of them. The moment another person criticizes them, or withdraws her or his support from them, they not only feel bad about themselves, they may even hate themselves. 

When you act like that, life can be hurtful for most of the time and you find yourself at the mercy of others.  When you don't have the emotional freedom and independence from the criticism and approval of others, your choice of action is limited. There may be options far superior and promising but you may be too apprehensive to choose them because you depend too much on other people's immediate approval. '

People who are unsure of themselves have trouble sustaining their relationships because their feelings get easily hurt. They are too quick to read insult and ridicule in the innocent remarks of others. Since they feel insulted, hurt, embarrassed, and ashamed without due cause, their reactions baffle and alienate others. They ride an emotional rollercoaster and some of them resort to alcohol and drugs. Addiction is not always in pursuit of pleasure. Many addicts are dissatisfied and  frustrated with who they think they are and what they feel about themselves. When the pain of living with oneself becomes hard to bear, addictions are born to drown the pain. When and if an addiction is formed, an individual with low self esteem does not have the self confidence or the will power to stand up to his or her addiction. 

Our ability to persevere and overcome hurdles is also compromised by low self esteem. For instance, a person with low self esteem may not stick to a challenging task long enough because a challenge is not merely a challenge, it is intimidation. Self doubting, a function of low self esteem offers many reasons why one should avoid the challenge. People with low self esteem shun the risk of a failure, as failure for them, once again, confirms their feeling of incompetence. When they are confronted with a new task, they underestimate their abilities and tend to say too quickly, "I can't do it. " 

If you have a low self esteem, you think about all the bad things that have happened to you and selectively forget many of good things that have happened in your life. Thinking too much about failure, sets one up for failure. Each repetition of a failure-thought pushes one's mind and body towards a dead-end. 

To understand this principle clearly, let's take a concrete example, such as of falling down. If you keep thinking you may fall, you are likely to fall. Such is the power of thinking. Whatever you think comes around. You may get so busy thinking what can go wrong that you may not have enough time to think about how to do it right.

Once I explained this principle to a friend of mine, it was like a light bulb flashed in his mind. He exclaimed, "No wonder! my golf ball keeps going into the pond. " Instead of thinking about the hole where he wanted the ball to fall, he would think about the pond. I don't have to tell you that the ball, each time, by some magnetic power, would find its way to the very pond he wanted to avoid. When we take aim at a target, we have better chances to hit it if we keep our eyes on it.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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