Every person has their own beliefs about themselves, these beliefs are often disguised as facts or statements – even though they’re just opinions. How do we form these beliefs? Life experiences, and the outcomes of these experiences. If your experiences are mostly negative, you will likely have a negative opinion about yourself as well.
So, what causes low self-esteem? And how can you change your opinion about yourself?
Causes of Low Self-esteem
Most of the life experiences that help form our beliefs about ourselves occur early in life. The things that you heard, saw, and experienced as a child both in your home and in school have influenced your view of yourself. For some people, these experiences were mostly negative. Negative experiences that can lead to low self-esteem include:
- Failure to meet your peers’ standards (a.k.a. bullied) in school.
- Abuse, punishment or neglect by loved ones.
- Failure to meet your parents’ standards.
- Lack of warmth, praise, interest and affection from parents or loved ones.
- Being on the receiving end of another person’s stress.
- Always being the odd one out, whether you were at school or home.
While most people form negative beliefs about themselves early in life, it’s also possible to lower your opinion of yourself later in life. Maybe you were a part of an abusive relationship, were subjected to bullying in the workplace, or endured a series of traumatic events, so you shy away from meaningful relationships. Maybe you try hard to emulate your favorite celebrity because you’re unhappy with your own appearance, so you do everything in your power to look like them – laser hair removal, hair extensions, and wardrobe changes.
There are lots of factors that come into play in the development of low self-esteem.
How Low Self-esteem Develops
If you have low self-esteem as an adult, you may notice that you criticize yourself in the same tone that you were criticized in as a child, or you may make comparisons to other people in the same way that your family, friends or loved ones did. The experiences that you had as a child create a foundation that you base your conclusions about yourself on. These conclusions are known as “The Bottom Line,” and it’s considered the negative view of oneself – the heart of low self-esteem.
The Bottom Line and Biased Thinking
The Bottom Line is usually formed during childhood, which means that it’s typically inaccurate and biased. Why? Because these beliefs were formed through a child’s perspective. At the time, these beliefs and emotions made perfect sense to you because you did not have any adult knowledge with which to help you understand what was truly going on.
The Bottom Line then progresses into your Rules for Living, which are the strategies you create to cope with life. And the strategies are all based on the assumption that The Bottom Line is true.
As you may have guessed, your Rules for Living provide you with a set of rules that you must obey in life in order to avoid disappointment and hurt. The only problem with this is that it also reinforces The Bottom Line.
While your Rules for Living may help protect you from low self-esteem for a short time, eventually, you will find yourself in a situation where the rules will either be broken or are threatened to be broken. When this happens, The Bottom Line rears its ugly head, triggering low self-esteem. This vicious cycle continues until the underlying problem is addressed.
Treating Low Self-Esteem
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to overcome low self-esteem because it helps you break the cycle of negative thoughts. It focuses on your beliefs, thoughts and opinions, but it also provides you with a practical way to change your beliefs by changing your behavior.
Millions of people all over the world suffer with low self-esteem, but it is possible to overcome these negative internal beliefs to lead a happier, positive life that encourages you to go for and achieve your goals.