Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Your self-esteem is how you see yourself as a person. It develops throughout life from a combination of positive and negative experiences. How low self-esteem affects your life varies from person to person because we all walk a different path and interpret experiences differently.
Low self esteem affects your life negatively. It can cause you to feel unworthy of love and respect. Low self esteem affects your self confidence and can also negatively impact your communication skills, relationships, and career prospects.
Basically, then, low self esteem affects your life in negative ways and can prevent you from successfully facing the major challenges that lie between you and improvement. On the other hand, those who believe in themselves are more likely to lead happy lives and overcome challenges. Let’s look at the effects in more detail.
The Risks and Consequences of Low Self-Esteem
The Problem of Self-Hate
You are often your worst critic. Think about it, how often do you hear that voice of cruel judgement in your head? It’s your own voice, and it can be unforgiving! The problem is that your inner critic can become very powerful if you let it. Criticisng yourself and engaging in negative self talk can destroy your self confidence and turn into self-hate. It’s difficult enough to deal with the challenges of life as it is, but when you are also fighting yourself, it can become impossible.
In order to deal with this problem, you need to change your self talk so that it supports you. You need to stop hating yourself, and start to be kinder to yourself.
There is not a person alive who doesn’t wish they could change themselves. But this change will only happen if you move ahead in a positive direction. Forget self criticism, you need to embrace positive thinking and action.
Yet, when you don’t feel like you’re good at anything, it can get dangerous. Self-loathing is another term for self-hatred. It is when you internalize the negative feelings you have about yourself and those pent-up emotions turn into dangerous acts of self-harm.
People who self-loath might overeat, stop caring for themselves and even use drugs and alcohol. If you’ve witnessed signs of self-loathing, you should get help. Visit a place like Forward Recovery, a Beverly Hills recovery center for drug and alcohol treatment, talk to a therapist, or speak with your doctor.
Low Self esteem Causes Social Isolation
When you don’t feel good about yourself, you slowly begin to remove yourself from the things and people you once enjoyed. Through isolation you don’t have the burden of having to prove yourself to others, fit in, or show your vulnerabilities to the world. However, being in isolation isn’t fun. You miss out on companionship and building relationships that make life worth living.
In a sense, social isolation limits the joy in your life. Friends that may have once supported you are no longer there. The negative thoughts can grow in your head with no one to stop them. You may also become bitter and lonely.
Ending social isolation needs courage and confidence, both of which may have been destroyed by a lack of self esteem. It is important that you work to build your self esteem and self confidence in order to socially engage with the world again.
Broken Relationships Become More Common
The effects of low self-esteem can destroy your personal relationships and life satisfaction. Those who struggle to see themselves as valuable or worthy end up becoming emotionally dependent upon their partner. They look to their relationship to make them feel needed, wanted, and important. They latch onto their significant other in an unhealthy way and expect them to be responsible for filling their personal void.
Fear that they’ll be cheated on, left out of something important, or rejected pushes the relationship to unhealthy levels. This becomes burdensome to your partner and though they may care for you, it can be difficult to be your only source of happiness and validation of worth.
Relationships break down when one person is taking and the other is giving. The strongest relationships involve equal shares of giving and taking so that each person feels loved and respected and self esteem levels are maintained. Low self esteem of one or more people can upset this balance, and that person can start to feel worthless in the relationship.
Building self esteem enables a person to ask for respect and attention from the partner, and enables a healthy sharing of thoughts and opinions. Low self esteem, on the other hand, can cause a person to accept mistreatment or worse, physical or mental abuse.
Finally, low self esteem can affect your choice of friends and those you spend time with. Others may take advantage of you and you may accept the wrong people into your life. Boost your self esteem and you will have the friends you truly deserve, those who will respect you and support you.
Lack of Self Confidence Results in Poor Performance
Whether in the office, gym, or elsewhere, when you feel incapable, you don’t perform well. You’re constantly striving for perfection, crippled by fear, and stressing over the worst case scenario which makes it impossible for you to be productive.
When you feel so low that you don’t believe you’re good at anything, you need to turn things around.
Low self esteem can lead to alcohol problems
There is quite a bit of evidence including this study to connect low self esteem to excessive alcohol use, especially in women.
Often when things don’t look good alcohol seems to offer an escape. It is a false friend. It is easy to get addicted to alcohol and since it takes our minds off our troubles, it can be tempting to continue drinking.
Low self esteem can lead to addictions
According to this study, low self-esteem may cause some to try drugs or alcohol, as an escape for the mind. Excessive use of Facebook has been linked to lower self-esteem and satisfaction with life (see this study from 2016). In the same study, the link between Internet addiction and self esteem is shown to be quite significant. For young people especially, addictions such as these can be quite common for those suffering from low self esteem.
Here is a case of a 64-year-old who fought addiction for more than two decades. Again this report shows the connection between low self-esteem and drug addiction.
Addictions can take many forms, not just to drugs but to many other things. An addiction is allowing something else to have control of you. An addiction has power because you made it powerful. Taking control of addictions requires self-control and determination.
If you have a drug addiciton, start by getting help, whether by going to a drug rehab and addiction therapy program. It may take time and sustained effort to beat this kind of addiction so facing it alone is especially difficult and not recommended.
How Does Rehab Help People
Some people question how rehab helps addicts overcome their addiction, but the important thing to recognize is that these treatment centers offer proactive support and customized treatment to help each patient overcome their internal struggles, including the battle with low self esteem. A good rehab program serves as a backstop for someone who is dealing with addiction, as an out of control addiction can lead to a loss of a career, family, friends and an entire social network and the loss of confidence and self-value that can result. That’s why it’s so important for anyone dealing with addiction to seek help from a rehab center that uses healthcare and mental health professionals to support the recovering person and help restore confidence after addiction.
Rehab is Not Easy!
Some people have the impression that going into rehab involves just going to a luxury spa for a quick getaway, while nothing could be further from the truth. A quality rehab center will take a client through a detox process initially, and this process should be overseen by experienced healthcare professionals who can supervise the detoxification and ensure the safety of the client during the withdrawal. Common withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be dangerous, as they include diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations and seizures, which can be life-threatening. This is why professional supervision is essential.
Building self esteem can make you stronger and less likely to be affecting severely by addictions. Reading inspirational books, setting new goals, making new friends, or practicing self-love are all good strategies to combat addiction and improve the quality of life.
Once you learn to see yourself for the truly wonderful, unique, talented, and worthy person you are, and once you make the right decision to get help, the rest will follow.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem?
Everyone goes through difficult times, but each negative circumstance can cause the mind to assess how we value ourselves. After negative life events, doubt and negativity can attack our self-esteem.
Sexual or physical abuse as a child, bullying at school, neglect by parents, or social isolation, all can have a lasting impact on emotional well-being. Effects can include believing you’re worthless, incapable, or unworthy.
What can you do to improve your self-esteem?
Whatever your level of self esteem, it can have serious negative effects so please do something about it today. There’s lots more helpful information on this website. You could start by testing your level of self esteem here.
- Greenberg, J. L., Lewis, S. E., & Dodd, D. K. (1999). Overlapping addictions and self-esteem among college men and women. Addictive behaviors, 24(4), 565-571.
- Błachnio, A., Przepiorka, A., & Pantic, I. (2016). Association between Facebook addiction, self-esteem and life satisfaction: A cross-sectional study. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 701-705.
- Walitzer, K. S., & Sher, K. J. (1996). A prospective study of self‐esteem and alcohol use disorders in early adulthood: evidence for gender differences. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 20(6), 1118-1124.
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.