The Low Self Esteem Epidemic

Sofia Cannon, Health & Relationships Editor

Self esteem is a big part of a person’s life. On the other hand, low self esteem can take a negative toll on those who suffer with it. People with low self esteem can have a sensitivity to criticism, a tendency to experience social withdrawal, an attitude of hostility, an excessive preoccupation with personal problems, and even can undergo physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and headaches. 

The development of self esteem depends greatly on the experiences of one’s life. Childhood experiences especially can heavily determine how high or low your self esteem is. One aspect is being both spoken to and listened to as a child. These two simple demonstrations of attention show you are worth being noticed and therefore deserve affection. The creation of our self-esteem continues to form after our younger years as we grow into adults through our successes or failures and how the messages we receive from our surroundings affect us (the influence of family, teachers, peers, work colleagues, partner, etc.). The environment is key because how we are nurtured teaches us what we deserve to feel towards ourselves. We form an “inner voice” which repeats these messages we recieved when we were younger later in life, either in an accepting and reassuring form or in a heavy, blaming or punishing form. This inner voice can take a lot of control in our lives and the actions we choose so it’s vital that it be the one who speaks only positive, uplifting messages.

Also, successful relationships among friends or romantic partners strongly help in forming high self-esteem. This is the concept of social acceptance where you feel valued by your peers. On the other hand, rejection and loneliness are responsible for the sentiments of self-doubt and contribute to low self-esteem. This is portrayed time after time in a variety of novels and movies where the character ostracized by their social environment is insecure and self-deprecating. Other factors that are often studied as various aspects of lower self-esteem are: physical appearance or weight, bullying or peer pressure, socioeconomic status, and mental health issues. Weight is a big one because according to the National Organization for Women, 78% of girls are unhappy with their weight by the time they reach age 17. Self esteem relating to body is also seen as an issue regardless of gender when 50% of teens are “self-conscious” about their bodies. Personality-wise, adults who tend to be more emotionally stable, conscientious, and extroverted seem to experience higher self-esteem. 

Both physical and mental states play hand in hand when it comes to self esteem along with childhood experiences, but if someone is suffering from a low self esteem, it’s important to know that it isn’t necessarily permanent. There are many ways to be proactive and change your pessimistic way of thinking. It helps to think about the conditions or situations that seem to deflate your self-esteem. There are certain environments or people that may take a toll on how you feel about yourself. Another is to become aware of thoughts and beliefs because by knowing that the negative thoughts are exactly that can change your perspective. On the contrary if you don’t know there is a problem, it’s hard to fix it. A good rule of thumb is to think about how kind your words are because if you wouldn’t use them towards a friend then you shouldn’t use them towards yourself. Next is to challenge negative or inaccurate thinking by doing things such as mental filtering or differentiating feelings and facts. Just because someone may feel like a failure doesn’t mean they are. Last is to adjust your thoughts and beliefs with hopeful statements to encourage yourself is also helpful.  

A low self esteem is common, but fixable. The thing is that you have to want to improve. No one can give you a high self esteem if you are not willing to want it and work to get one for yourself. Having a high self esteem can give you a new outlook on life, but it’s all about being in control of your thoughts instead of them controlling you.