Self Esteem

What is low self esteem?

Self esteem is defined as the thoughts, opinions, and feelings we have about ourselves. Self esteem is therefore dynamic and can change over time depending on the way we think. Our thoughts and opinions about ourselves are greatly influenced by a variety of factors, including childhood experiences, health, peer pressure, social media, beliefs and religion, family and friends, romantic relationships, and work or school environments. Over time, habits of thinking negatively about ourselves can lower self-esteem.

Self esteem tends to vary more during life transitions, and with the changes and challenges associated with adolescence, it is no wonder that research has found that up to half of all adolescents struggle with low self esteem, particularly in early adolescence. The effects of low self esteem are often temporary. However, if not addressed, it can lead to more significant issues later in life, including depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviours, or eating disorders, to name a few. Additionally, adolescents who suffer from low self esteem tend to do more poorly in school and have fewer friendships.

Common causes of poor self esteem can include:

  • Criticism or neglect from significant caregivers
  • Stressful life events including frequent moving, conflict or parental separation
  • Bullying
  • Negative peers
  • Trauma or abuse
  • Mental health difficulties
  • Poor academic performance

Unrealistic expectations of the individual by themselves or others
Good self esteem is important, not only because it helps adolescents feel good about themselves, but it also encourages them to tackle new tasks, take healthy risks, and problem solve. Someone with healthy self esteem is more likely to demonstrate more independence and responsibility in their actions. Likewise, they are more likely to take pride in their work and accomplishments and tolerate and manage positive and negative emotions effectively.

Symptom Checklist

General signs that your child is experiencing low self esteem can include:

  • Avoidance of trying new things
  • Walking with their head down
  • Being dismissive of compliments
  • Avoidance of eye contact when communicating
  • Low levels of interest and motivation
  • Blaming others for their own shortcomings
  • Difficulties tolerating normal levels of frustration
  • Negative self-talk
  • Frequent comparisons to others
  • Frequent involvement in teasing, name calling, or gossiping
  • Persistent fear of failure and embarrassment
  • Difficulties making and keep friends
  • Feeling unloved and/or unwanted
  • Excessive bragging about themselves and their achievements
  • Constantly apologising even though they are not at fault
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