“No! I freaking don’t have low self esteem!”
“My co-workers have more experience, so I should just shut my mouth during meetings. What could I possibly say that they don’t already know?”
“My boyfriend was born into money and went to an Ivy League school. Of course, he’s amazing and I’m lucky to have him! Who cares if he doesn’t always listen to what I say? At least we’re together….”
“My sister’s job is so cool! I couldn’t have accomplished what she did. She’s just smarter than me. No wonder she’s dad’s favorite. I could never compete with her.”2
Have you ever said these things to yourself?
Has someone ever told you that you’re such a pushover? A doormat? Needy and clingy?
The Internal “Why Do I Hate Myself” Battle Of People with Low Self Esteem
You don’t deserve praise. You shouldn’t speak your mind because your ideas are no good anyway.1
Or should you?
Deep down inside your heart, you know you’re worth much more. But you’re constantly denying it.
Is there something you can do to change your knee-jerk reaction to praise and attention?
Can you really break through the invisible shackles of low self confidence so you can finally speak your mind?
Are their ways of overcoming low self esteem that don’t involve cheesy positive reinforcements?
First, identify the signs AND accept that you exhibit these symptoms.
Warning: Do You Exhibit Symptoms of the “Why Do I Hate Myself” Syndrome?
1. You Watch People’s Words and Actions Towards You Like a Hawk
Everyone wants to feel loved and understood.
What causes low self esteem in most people? In a word: uncertainty. You often question other people’s feelings, words and actions toward you
You have a certain negative belief of yourself—that you’re unworthy and unlovable. And you go out of your way to observe others around you. You pay attention to their tone of voice, choice of words, mannerisms and mentally keep score of how they treat you.
Of course, your conclusions usually confirm the worst about yourself. But how can you be so sure of your conclusions if it’s all in your head?
You won’t learn how to overcome low self esteem unless you talk to the people you’re observing. Ask them, “What do you think of me?” or something specific, “What do you think of (your actions/appearance/)?”
2. You Compare Yourself To Everyone, Even If There’s Nothing To Compare
You have a habit of comparing yourself to others: your siblings, parents, boss, colleagues, classmates, friends, and even random strangers.
While there’s nothing wrong with this, excessive and unfair comparison will just bruise your already fragile ego.
Resist the urge to compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. Even if you share the same age or background, you still don’t know everything about them. Tons of unseen variables are at play here, so comparing yourself to them is useless.
Next time you catch yourself comparing, redirect your focus to your own journey. Consider these questions:
- “Where am I now?”
- “Why am I comparing myself with this person?”
- “Is there a concrete basis for my comparisons?”1
3. You’re Defensive… To A Fault
You get defensive of everything.
A coworker asks you a question about the project you’re working on, so you answer him. When you hear a “no” or a “but” from him, you clam up. You sob and cry in the bathroom stall, whining about your mean coworkers. Why are they picking on you?
You get in a row with your friends when they criticize the guy you’re going out with. Then you cry at night before sleeping. You begin questioning yourself and your friends’ loyalty. Why can’t they just understand you?
In reality, your friends and coworkers are just concerned about you. But you fail to see that because you think everyone’s out to get you.
Next time someone criticizes you or questions your choices; try counting to three before you respond. Consider the other person’s point of view before formulating a response. Repeat this to yourself: They’re not out to ruin your job or sabotage your happiness.
4. You Try to Avoid Conflict By Pretending Everything’s Okay
Your everyday conversations are filled with white lies. Lots of them. Your friend asks what you think of her dress, so you say it looks great on her even if it doesn’t fit her at all. Your partner asks you if it’s okay to get Thai food for dinner and you say yes—even if you’re sick of Thai food.
Afraid of pissing off your friends, you say whatever will make them happy. Your fear of confrontation and desperate need for acceptance suppresses your true identity.
If telling the truth scares you, start with something small and say things in a non-confrontational way, like “I don’t think that shirt suits you, but maybe this will.”
By beginning your truth with “I think” and ending it with a suggestion “but maybe ___ will,” you emphasize what you’re saying is just an opinion and not a personal attack. Adding a possible alternative also softens the blow.
In reality, your friends won’t think too much of what you say. To them it’s just a simple statement of opinion, not a scathing attack worthy of a fight. Try it and see for yourself.
5. You Say “Sorry” Way Too Much
How can you tell if a person isn’t confident about themselves? They say “sorry” too much, even for things that are not their fault.
Apologizing is important but you should reserve it for your mistakes. And by your mistakes, I’m not referring to when someone bumps into you, you sneeze, not having a lighter or pen when someone asks for it, and sending your soup back at the restaurant.
6. You Often Call The Fruits Of Your Labor “Good Luck” or a “Blessing”
What’s your immediate reaction when someone praises your work?
“I was just lucky”
“It’s God’s blessing!”
“My team did all the hard work”
God might have blessed you and your team might have helped you but you contributed, too. You deserve the credit.
People with low self-esteem don’t handle compliments well. The reason for this is twofold.
- You have a low opinion of yourself, therefore view anything you could do that’s worthy of praise must’ve been successful because of somebody else’s doing.
- You blow your failures out of proportion to the point that it’s already ingrained in your identity. You often rehash past failures in your head, “I can’t finish what I start”, “I can’t lose weight no matter how hard I try”, “I’m gonna fail this exam again!”
It’s tough and depressing to live a life like this.
Next time someone praises you, accept it. Don’t think of whether you deserve it or not—just don’t go there. Immediately say “Thank you” instead.
And when you fail, think of it as a temporary setback, like one failed battle in a year long war. Whatever that failure is, it’s nothing and it’s not part of your identity.
7. You Put Others Down And You Enjoy It1
This is the ugly side of having a low self esteem. Because you don’t feel good about yourself, you make fun of people weaker than you in an effort to make yourself feel better.
Because you don’t feel confident enough to work alongside tenured employees at work, you hang around with the newbies. And you bully them. You belittle them due to their lack of skills or experience at work.
You’re passing off your insecurities to them.
Ask yourself, what do you get out of bullying someone obviously lower than you in the food chain?
You get nothing! So why bother?
Help them instead. It’ll make you feel better about yourself, and they’ll look up to you as well. That will boost your self esteem 10x more than any insult you can throw at them.
Finally, A Word Of Caution On Positive Reinforcements
Research findings show that positive reinforcements like repeating, “I am a lovable person” actually made those suffering from low self esteem feel worse.
Constantly showering someone with attention and praise, when they already feel bad about themselves won’t work either. It will just make them feel worse once they see through the superficial compliments.
Confront your emotions instead. I know it sounds unbelievable but the baby steps described here will teach you how to deal with low self esteem. It’ll also arm you with a better sense of reality—what people really think of you—instead of all the negative assumptions you’ve cooked up in your head.
No more endless comparisons. No more white lies to avoid conflicts. No more senseless apologies for mistakes you didn’t make.
You can finally feel confident of yourself.