Self- esteem refers to your ability to value yourself and to retain this value even when it’s challenged by others. Your sense of self-esteem and your mental health are closely related. It’s not always clear whether low self-esteem causes mental health problems or whether mental health challenges cause or contribute to low self-esteem.
What is known is that low self-esteem is a common problem that can have a negative impact on your life. The way you feel about yourself affects your life, particularly your emotional and mental well-being.
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Characteristics and Causes of Low Self-esteem
Your thoughts and feelings about yourself develop throughout your life and are influenced by different people and experiences. Your family environment when you were a child, including the way you were treated by your parents and other relatives, is part of what affects your sense of self-esteem, but there are also other influencers including teachers, peers, and religious leaders.
If you were treated with neglect, abuse, rejection, constant criticism or ridicule, you may believe you’re flawed or unworthy of love. Some characteristics of low self-esteem include:
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Comparing yourself negatively with others
- Avoiding situations or tasks because you believe you’ll fail
- Being very critical of yourself
- Having a hard time accepting praise
Problems with self-esteem can also be caused by ongoing stressful life events, such as financial problems, being bullied and difficulties in relationships. Some of the same factors that cause low self-esteem can also contribute to the development of mental illness.
Mental Health Conditions and Self-Esteem
Mental health conditions develop not only in people with troubled childhoods but also in people who grow up in a loving and stable environment. Depression is a condition that is characterized by persistent sadness, often accompanied by a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and low self-esteem. Conditions such as bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders can cause unpredictable mood swings, which can make day-to-day life challenging. Borderline personality disorder and other personality disorders can make it difficult to relate to others or have healthy relationships.
When you’re having a hard time interacting with others or facing day-to-day challenges, you may feel incompetent and question your own value. You might conclude that you can’t trust your own feelings or decisions, and this self-doubt leads to a pattern of self-esteem issues. Having any form of mental illness is often stigmatized, and this can also affect how you feel about yourself. Negative beliefs about yourself can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or self-harm.
Improved Mental Health and Improved Self-Esteem
The first step toward improvement of any mental health condition is getting an accurate diagnosis. The treatment you need for mental health challenges can vary depending on the underlying cause, and many forms of treatment for mental health challenges can also help to improve low self-esteem.
Medication may be part of your treatment plan for some conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder. Antidepressants or mood stabilizers may contribute to improving your ability to see the world and yourself in a much less negative and less distorted way.
Psychotherapy is very effective in treating many mental health conditions and can help you to learn to have a better opinion of yourself. There are many forms of psychotherapy that are all intended to help you improve your emotional well-being. Therapy can be done on an individual or group basis and often involves identifying and challenging negative beliefs, including beliefs about yourself.
Learning to love yourself is a crucial part of becoming mentally healthy. Changing deep-rooted feelings about yourself may take time but will ultimately lead to improved self-esteem and a happier and more fulfilling life.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a low self-esteem or another mental health concern, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.