What is Low Self-Esteem?

Categories of people vulnerable to having low self-esteem

  • Children who were verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually abused
  • Children who were not loved and accepted unconditionally either at home, at school or in the community
  • Children of parents or grandchildren of grandparents who came from a co-dependent or dysfunctional family system
  • Children of dependent parents (alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex)
  • Children of workaholic parents
  • Children of mentally ill parents
  • Children raised in a high stress environment
  • Children raised in an environment where feelings were not openly expressed, experienced, or welcome
  • Children who have experienced the divorce of their parents
  • Children who have experienced the loss of a parent or significant other in their childhood
  • Children raised in an absolutist or fundamentalist environment
  • Children raised in a family headed by a single parent due to divorce, death, or absence due to career
  • Children who were abused emotionally or verbally in a school environment
  • Adults who have been hurt badly in a relationship, in marriage, in school, at work, or in the community
  • Adults who work in a co-dependent work environment
  • Adults hurt in a relationship at work or in the community with someone and/or married to someone who is dependent (alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex
  • Adults in a relationship with someone or married to someone who is a workaholic
  • In a relationship with someone or married to someone who comes from a co-dependent family or work system
  • Members of a family in which a child with a developmental disability is born and reared
  • Members of a family in which a chronically ill family member is cared for
  • Members of a family or work environment in which a compulsive individual lives
  • Compulsive or dependent individuals once they are treated and enter recovery

Negative consequences of low self-esteem

Some of the negative consequences of low self-esteem to your lifestyle are:

  • Insecurity about who you are and lack of belief in yourself
  • Inability to open yourself to others and inability to trust others
  • Inability to make decisions because of confusion and fear of making a mistake or of disappointing others
  • Anxiety in the face of the need to change and the fear of change
  • Inability to have spontaneous fun or the inability to play for relaxation and pleasure
  • Problems in establishing intimacy with others and problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Lack of objectivity and openness to a variety of alternatives in decision making, and a tendency to resort to “black and white” judgments
  • Problems in handling anger, either by denying its impact on one’s life or by not being able to control it, thereby experiencing chronic hostility
  • Chronically affected by the need for approval and acceptance by others; affected by the fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, and disapproval
  • Excessive use of masks to hide true feelings; the use of exaggeration and lies in order to avoid conflict or disagreements
  • Inability to take direction from or to be controlled by others, rather to seek to control self and manage or direct others
  • Chronic seeking out of others for whom one can feel responsible
  • Inability to feel like one has done “good enough” on the job or at home; a tendency to be a workaholic
  • Inability to say one deserves “good things” in one’s life; a tendency to always place self last
  • Chronic sense of depression, discomfort, or inadequacy
  • Chronic sense of feeling different from others; keeping away and isolating oneself from others
  • Inability to reward oneself for one’s own goodness and accomplishments
  • Addiction to novelty, challenge, differences, risks, thrills
  • Addictive or  compulsive behaviour. e.g., alcoholism, chemical dependency, food, gambling, sex, excitement, money, shopping, smoking
  • Being overly serious, unable to see humour in one’s plight as a human being
  • An overriding sense of guilt and inadequacy
  • Inability to forgive and to forget past harms and hurts from others
  • Meeting others with similar problems and matching up with them in relationships
  • Inability to let go of problems, such as fear, guilt, anger, or other negative aspects in one’s life
  • Inability to tune into one’s own feelings, but usually able to identify and to be sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Inability to face one’s problems and the need to change, a tendency to use denial
  • Overreacting to things and acting impulsively, often getting oneself into problem situations which need lots of work to straighten out
  • Can be meticulous, fastidious, over demanding, and perfectionistic; or can be slovenly, lackadaisical, and irresponsible
  • Can become frustrated when realizing the magnitude of problems and the immensity of effort required to solve them
  • Often looks quite successful, happy, contents, healthy, and together to others; it comes as a shock to self and others that one actually has a problem and needs help

Low self-esteem as a illness

Low self-esteem meets the criteria for an illness or disease because:

Low self-esteem  is uncontrollable in nature: People with low self-esteem feel insecure. They are not sure what normal is, and they are not comfortable with themselves or with others. They are experiencing behaviour over which they have no control, just as a person with cancer has no control over the cancer. This uncontrollable nature of the behaviour makes it an illness; therefore, the behaviour is “sick” behaviour.

Symptoms of low self-esteem have commonality and predictability: There is a commonality between people who behave this way based on their families of origin or current relationships, and there is a degree of predictability surrounding these behaviour patterns. Commonality and predictability of the symptom behaviour make it an illness and a condition to be treated as such.

Low self-esteem’s life cycle is describable: There is a describable and predicable pattern of the life cycle in persons with this condition. This pattern of life cycle makes it understandable as an illness or a disease, just like heart disease or cancer.

Low self-esteem is related to other diseases: One of the negative side effects of low self-esteem is that its victims often suffer high stress illnesses, such as ulcers, colitis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Because there are other diseases related to this behaviour, it fits the definition of an illness or disease.

Low self-esteem can be treated: There are definite treatment modalities, which, if applied, can lessen the symptomatology of these problems. Because it is susceptible to amelioration by an applied treatment, it fits the definition of an illness or disease.

Transgenerational transmission of low self-esteem: Low self-esteem as a state or being can be handed down and transmitted across generations. The ability to cross generations makes this an illness or disease that is highly contagious.

Low self-esteem is described in terms of severity of condition: This condition can be described in terms of degree of severity, just as a physical illness or disease. This is another reason why it is described and treated as an illness or disease.

Some conditions of low self-esteem are resistant to treatment: Certain strains of low self-esteem can be resistant to treatment or amelioration and, as such, require more dramatic interventions. Because these behaviours are not always amenable to a stereotyped treatment, it is an illness requiring an individualized approach to treatment.

Low self-esteem is a progressive condition: There is a course in the history of the illness from (1) incubation, (2) acute stage, (3) chronic state, (4) expiration. Because there is a progressive nature to this condition it fits into the illness or disease model for consideration, discussion, and treatment planning.

Low self-esteem can be a terminal condition, resulting in death through suicide, murder, accident, alcoholism, drug abuse, food disorder, heart disease, cancer, stroke, or some other form of physical breakdown. Because it can be terminal, it fits the description of an illness or disease.