Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Everyone has regular ups and downs, but there are some instances in life that can have a profound impact on one’s sense of self-worth. Whether real or imagined, these situations can wreak havoc on a person’s confidence. Some of these issues can be fixed through actions while others can only be repaired from introspection (see Wikipedia definition). Here are eight factors that can affect self esteem negatively and how you can tackle them.
There are several major factors that affect self esteem. These factors include appearance, employment, financial difficulties, possessions, age, relationships, education and family. There are other external factors that may influence self-esteem, but these are the most important.
For most people, self-esteem, according to VeryWellMind is primarily related to how they perceive their own appearance. Appearance is indeed a major factor that affects self esteem, particularly women, according to this article by Susan Harter. In her article she outlines how this problem often begins in adolescents, and especially in girls who compare their perceived attractiveness to that of others. One surprise of her research was that she found that even young children between 4 and 7 years old often begin to form self esteem on the basis of physical appearance, and that it appeared to be the top influencing factor.
Each person has unique physical qualities, but mainstream media hypes their own skewed versions of acceptable norms that are anything but normal. this is especially true for women and often influences how women want to look. Meanwhile back in reality, you have beautiful flaws that are all your own. If you accentuate your amazing features and let your own style shine through, people will gravitate towards your positive demeanor.
Employment Status, can it affect your self esteem?
Does employment status affect self esteem? It is commonly stated that it does, and this would seem logical but is it true? According to Shamir (1986), although this appears to be accepted without question, there have been very few studies done on this. It also appears that the studies that have been done, do not seem to back up these claims. For example, Hartley’s study found no clear link between unemployed and employed managers, and no expected decrease in self esteem for those managers who were unemployment for a longer period.
Too many people let their employment status affect the way they see themselves, in other words, self image. Often, many people seem to define themselves by their job. It’s one thing to truly dislike your job, in which case you can move on to something else. It’s quite another to not feel good enough because of it. Remember, your job does not define you as a person. If it’s just a means to a paycheck, then do your best always, and know it’s temporary until you reach your goal. If you’re unemployed, consider temporary work that could open doors to a permanent position.
When trying to make a change to a completely new job, or when going for promotion at work, it is extremely important to practice self acceptance, which means accepting who you really are and not pretend to be something you’re not.
Financial Woes Affect your Self esteem
Mounting debt and struggling to make payments can take a toll on anyone regardless of social status. There is a connection between finances and self esteem. Carrying around the heavy burden of bills that never get paid off can cause depression and loss of faith in yourself. Figuring out a realistic way of getting those outstanding bills paid off is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself.
The actual connection between finances and self esteem is one of coping, as this study shows. If one feels overwhelmed by financial problems and there seems to be no way to manage this, then self esteem can take a tumble. Its really not about the financial woes, its more about the test that this puts you through and how you feel you cope with the challenges and diff’culties.
Material Possessions are Important for Many
Directly related to jobs and finances, some people use material possessions to boost their feelings of worth. Material possessions are one of the main factors that affect self esteem because they indicate status. However, this only applies to those who believe that material possessions improve how we are accepted by others (see this article published in the Journal of research in Personality).
The harsh reality of depending on material possessions is a short-lived high until the next lavish source of happiness comes along. Instead of getting caught in this thankless cycle, begin to embrace living with less and concentrate on non-material sources of pleasure such as family, friends, traveling or even volunteering. When you start to feed your soul, instead of accumulating more things, you’ll find true joy with yourself.
Your Age Is Only a Factor that Affects Your Confidence If You Allow It to Be
Girls especially seem to show a drop in self esteem with age which is connected to body image, and how they believe they look (See this study published in the Journal of Applied developmental Psychology in 1996). The study also showed that children do evaluate their appearance and weight more negatively as they get older, while adolescents are more concerned with their appearance.
One of the most difficult facts of life is that everyone ages. While some age gracefully, others struggle terribly. Generally, irrespective of culture, nationality, race or economic status, self esteem is high in younger children, it drops during adolescence, rises steadily in adults but falls in old age (see Global Self-Esteem Across the Lifespan, 2002) .
During older age, people may feel like they’ve lost their lustre and can’t compete with the younger generation. The more this become a technological world with increasing competition in work-related areas of life, the more this could be expected to continue or even increase.
Since you can’t change your age, work on your outlook instead. It is important for each of us to accept ourselves, and this includes our age. However, this should not only be seen as a negative as there is much value in experience and wisdom gained through the years.
Now’s the time to really appreciate all you’ve achieved and decide what else you want to accomplish. Age is not a limiting factor, You can still get into shape or do that travelling you’ve always wanted. Age is just a number and you’ve got experience on your side, so go out and show the world how it’s done.
Lack of a Relationship
If you’re single or have just gotten out of a relationship, it can seem like everyone has the perfect relationship except you. This illusion can create doubts and fear that you are unlovable as a person. The reality is that your ego has taken a hit, but your worth is not based on another person or their opinion of you. Taking time to get to know yourself should be your priority now. When you really learn self-love and appreciation, the right people will come into your life.
Education can boost self confidence
There comes a time in life when most people either wish they’d gone further with their education or had chosen a different path entirely. Not being qualified for a certain job and seeing others advance in their careers can affect a person’s morale. The beauty is that you can return to school, or take online classes, no matter how old you are. It’s never too late to get that degree or become certified in something that really interests you and takes your job to a new level.
I personally, got a master’s degree a few years ago and it really gave me new confidence in what I was doing. I have experienced the powerful effect of education on my confidence and level of self esteem.
Having years of experience of teaching, I know how influential teachers can be. Teachers can promote confidence and encourage students to think, communicate and express themselves much more confidently which can build self esteem. Education, in my opinion, is not just about learning facts, it is about what they mean and above all, it is about improving yourself.
The Value of Support from Friends and Family Should Never Be Underestimated
As much as people work on their self-confidence, having support from a spouse, family or friends certainly helps, but what if you’re alone? Those without the important support that friends and family can give have an extra challenge. This is when it’s important to reach out to distant friends through phone calls and social media. If possible, make every effort to find new friends by getting involved in activities that you’re passionate about.
So many external factors in daily life can negatively influence our self esteem. Of course, ultimately, it is actually our negative reactions to external factors such as breakups, arguments, perceived failure, temporary setbacks and so on.
We need to be careful about the state of our self esteem and thinking as this can directly affect our mental health and well-being.
Whether you’re affected by one or more of these personal dilemmas, each can be resolved through positive self-reflection, or actively seeking a solution. The steps you take can help you navigate a path toward developing a more positive outlook on yourself.
- Ben-Zur, H. (2002). Coping, affect and aging: The roles of mastery and self-esteem. Personality and individual differences, 32(2), 357-372.
- Cherry, K. (2019). Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem. VeryWellMind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-esteem-2795868
- Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2011). Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study. Journal of personality and social psychology, 101(3), 607.
- Harter, S. (2000). Is self-esteem only skin-deep? The inextricable link between physical appearance and self-esteem. Reclaiming children and youth, 9(3), 133.
- Hartley, J. F. (1980). The impact of unemployment upon the self‐esteem of managers. Journal of occupational psychology, 53(2), 147-155.
- MacDonald, G., Saltzman, J. L., & Leary, M. R. (2003). Social approval and trait self-esteem. Journal of research in personality, 37(2), 23-40.
- Robins, R. W., Trzesniewski, K. H., Tracy, J. L., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2002). Global self-esteem across the life span. Psychology and aging, 17(3), 423.
- Shamir, B. (1986). Self-esteem and the psychological impact of unemployment. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61-72.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.