Low Self Esteem's Surprising Side Effects and Why Balance Needs to be Found

We talk about low self esteem, almost as if it's not a common thing, but really, I think nearly everyone has experienced it. Who hasn't doubted themselves and their abilities? Yet at what point does it become such an issue as to affect your life? After all, it's apparent that many manage to balance out those self depreciating habits and not let them spiral into something worse.

It's ironic that those with the biggest self esteem issues actually unwittingly behave in ways that compound their situation. Even introverts enjoy human company, yet their lack of confidence in approaching people can leave them seeming as if they are aloof, don't like people or don't want to interact with people. Fear that people are judging them badly or don't like them means that they might avoid acknowledging people or making eye contact, because they are unsure how to interact in a way that won't come across badly. They don't always know what to say to other people when they do interact with them and this can become hard work for the other person. They may believe themselves inferior and place everyone else above them, thus feeling intimidated by everyone and undeserving of attention, affection or friendship.

These things create a situation where the people around the introvert avoid interacting with them because they themselves then struggle to talk to someone who doesn't engage back with them. This then increases the introvert's impression that they are not likeable and so it continues to spiral downwards without intervention or them somehow realising what they're doing and being able to break the cycle.

Breaking this cycle involves stepping back and taking a look from an outside perspective. It can help to acknowledge that few people are as confident as they seem and that they are no more likely to be judging you than you are them. Okay, that's not entirely accurate, because we all make judgements. However, we don't generally dismiss someone entirely on those judgements.

In those people who are more outgoing they often come across as confident, but the way they build that confidence is by proving themselves to be the best at everything and/or the most victimised. They are usually either the hero or the victim and they will never admit to being wrong. If you've got a black cat, theirs will be blacker. If you've had a bad experience, they'll have had one worse. If you've done well in something, they'll have done better. You've likely encountered someone like this at some point, if not several people.

Sometimes it's obvious that they really aren't the best at everything and they can be laughed about behind there backs, but some of them go out of their way to prove themselves as better all the time. The problem with actually being the best at everything among friends, is that it doesn't leave anything for them to be able to feel like they have validity. So they reach the point where they will stop enjoying being around that person.

These types are what is commonly known as a narcissist and come across to others as being stuck up, selfish and uncaring. Meanwhile, the narcissist feels abandoned and wondering why no-one likes them when they have proved themselves as special or superior in many ways. After all, it's obvious that many are drawn to and admire talented and powerful people or they flock to sympathise with victims. Indeed, initially many people are drawn to them and find them charismatic, but there will be a point when the narcissist will start to feel threatened by them and need to regain control in their usual way by proving themselves or bringing the other down a peg or two. Ironically, they see in others and dislike the bad behaviour that they themselves display, but struggle to see it in themselves and their fragile self esteem really doesn't cope well with that behaviour being pointed out in them.

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Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship will probably recognise this. It can range in severity from psychological manipulation to physical violence. Some do try to stop their cycle, but while they can improve there will often be signs of the patterns which stick with them.

What is particularly ironic with these types of people is that they are taking some of the very advice often doled out to help people overcome self esteem issues, but not necessarily in the best way.

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Sadly, the problem with this kind of self sabotage is that it doesn’t just harm the one with self esteem issues, it harms those around them as well, often exacerbating self esteem issues in them too, another reason for them to cut ties with the narcissist for their own protection. It's one thing to realise that as a quiet person, you may be inadvertently keeping people away from you, but to accept that your behaviour is also harmful to others must be a much harder pill to swallow. Unfortunately, no changes can be made without acknowledging first that the problem might be yourself.

When it comes to solvable mental health issues, as opposed to actual psychiatric conditions, the road to improvement cannot be made by someone else for you. They can support you through it, but they cannot magically do it for you. They also can only support you and guide you if you accept that change is needed and choose to do what it takes to get yourself to a more stable place. I hesitate to say the word ‘recover’, because it can give the impression that you can completely leave low self esteem and the accompanying depression and anxiety behind, when none of us truly does. We can, however, find a better balance, but may still occasionally find ourselves taking steps back again.

So what sorts of steps can you take if low self esteem is causing real problems for you?

By stepping back and looking at yourself from the outside, you can gain a bit more awareness of how your actions might be affecting the people around you and their responses to you. Would you entirely dismiss someone on your behaviour and attributes if you were the one looking at yourself? If so, what about yourself do you find so deplorable or uncomfortable? Can you change that?

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Not everyone is going to connect with you as a friend. We all have different likes and dislikes, but we can still live with each other. I’m sure you are acquainted with plenty of people who seem to be nice enough people, but they aren't any more than passing acquaintances, because you may not have many interests in common. Do you judge them badly for not being your personal friend? Probably not and the chances are they don't judge you either. They are just getting on with their lives.

Another thing that can help is seeing things in others that you worry are off putting in yourself and assessing whether that actually does seem to put other people off them. Particularly as teenagers, we can tend to focus in on what we perceive as faults in our physical features. Perhaps our nose is larger than we think it should be for us to be found attractive. Then one day you might come across another person with an even bigger nose and you realise that, while you're glad yours isn't that big, they are not unattractive, because their nose is merely a part of a whole. When we look at others we don't focus on them as individual features, but as a whole. Faults are balanced out by other attributes and we all have good and bad.

So putting some emotional distance from ourselves can be a useful tool to start with. Asking for or accepting help is incredibly important as well, because while I've said that no-one else can make your journey for you, it's also true that it's going to be super hard to make it without help.

Expect it to be a lifetime journey. Your self esteem is with you for life, but it's up to you how you will let it impact your life. Nuture it as you would a child. It's not going to be an easy journey and it may even get worse before it gets better, but it will get easier.

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A beautiful post Mini - we've talked about narcissism before and the people in our lives that show these traits and it's a fascinating one. How can they help themselves if they aren't able to see it?

And of course, we are all on a spectrum, aren't we, of self esteem 'issues' or at least a relationship with ourselves about value and worth, that can stem from many things: childhood trauma, abuse, PTSD, depression and anxiety and so on. People have different processes and 'act out' in various ways to cope, from extreme introversion (becoming a self fulfilling prophecy as you say) to apparent extroversion and 'big noting' or acting with superiority or trying to 'prove' themselves by putting someone else down. Definitely not good for friendships!

Really enjoyed this post - I'll be doing the admin on the badges soon and I'm sure this post is well deserving of the first star for the #mentalhealthawareness badge! Thanks for writing.

Yes, I've had so many interesting conversations with quite a few people and the more I learn and the more I think about it, the more I realise just how similar 99% of the population is. It is only how we deal with our internal thoughts that make us different on the outside.

This post has been in progress for a while now. When I learnt October was metal health awareness month, I thought I'd post it then, but I never did get it finished! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'm glad I finally got the turmoil of thoughts down in writing.

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 3 months ago 

Then one day you might come across another person with an even bigger nose and you realise that, while you're glad yours isn't that big, they are not unattractive, because their nose is merely a part of a whole

The judge actually credits this toward my community service hours.

🤣 Now you've got me looking at your profile pic to see if you have a big nose! 😨

Some time ago a psychologist told me ''my job is not to solve anyone's problems, my job is to convince people that they have the solution. And yet, they convince themselves...'' and it makes a lot of sense. Throughout my life I have suffered from low self-esteem, but if there is one thing I will admit, it is that I have had a lot of strength to face these problems.

People have to understand that there are many alternatives to motivate, but only motivate the work of this self-help process. And that sometimes it is necessary to open up a little to receive help from others. Although I know that it is difficult to trust people, but others who also have problems like everyone else and that it is necessary to support each other.

I love this article and I congratulate you for what you have done. It is a great truth and a boost for those of us who need support in difficult situations like what we are going through. Thank you for sharing it. Blessings.

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

I'm so glad you've been strong enough to face your issues and you're so right, you have to be strong to do so. It's an incredibly hard place to drag yourself from. I wish you continued strength and love to continue your journey into the future.

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Congratulations, wonderful post.
Fortunately, I don't suffer from "low esteem issues", but my youngest sister was "shy" as a child.
As she grew up, it became quite evident to my parents it was more than just shyness.
She had problems in school, never had many friends and was almost invisible in a room full of people.
Once an adult, her problems became bigger issues that led to alcoholism.
As you stated, no one can fix your problems, you can ask for help, but ultimately it's up to you.
My sister did ask me for help and agreed to a 30 day stay in a rehab center.
Once she was clear eyed, she saw the benefits of talking with a counselor .
She still sees her "friend"/ counselor once week to this day. She has become a better balanced person and helps others to reach a better place.

Thank you.

That's a hopeful story and you must be so proud of how she's turned things around. It can't have been easy, especially having to conquer addiction. I can kind of see how it could lead to alcoholism too. I was so shy and alcohol just made it easier for me to talk to people. Thankfully, it wasn't something I used unless going out, which was never more than once a week. I was probably also lucky in that the school I went to attracted a specific type of family who were very none judgemental and accepting, which rubbed off onto most of the children who attended. So the other kids didn't reject or ignore me.

I would probably also have been more likely to be invisible in a room full of people had I not had red hair! 😆 Occasionally I still was, anyway. I remember going to a party or two at other people's houses where I'd only end up talking to someone if they'd been abandoned by their friends like me. It was that time of life when all the boys and girls were hooking up and I was the "no mates" in the room. If I'd been drinking I could just say 'sod it' and dance the rest of the night away, after all, sometimes desperation for company can actually be off putting to others.

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A red head huh? Yeah, it was probably hard to not get noticed.👩‍🦰
My sis deserves all the credit in the world, she's had it tough.
But she has come a long way .
Thanks for the feed back.

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Well thank you very much!

Acknowledging that you have a problem is always the first step in solving the problem. Whether you're addicted to something or have any other issue, you can't start to change your behavior, and no one else will be able to approach you in an attempt to help you resolve the problem until you come to the realization that you need help.
One of my favorite lines from a movie was spoken by Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure. "The Lord helps those that help themselves."
No one else can truely resolve your issues, but yourself. Others may be able to assist you, but you need to be the one to take the first step!

Gosh, the Poseidon Adventure! Incidentally, we recently saw the remake of that. I don't often say this, but I think I preferred the original.

I've heard that quote said a few times and always thought that it's a very good statement. There's no arguing with it really. It reminds me of the joke about the man praying every night to God to grant him a lottery win, until God replies one night telling him to buy a lottery ticket, because he needs something to work with!

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Truly awesome post! This issue is so common that I think most of us just ignore its implications and take it as a natural part of personal development, when in fact it's precisely its commonality that makes it such a huge problem. Very important to draw attention to it and also offer insights on how to tackle it! Thank you!

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You're welcome @minismallholding, nice post!