It seems that low-self esteem affects far more people than we might imagine. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, an estimated 80% of people experience low self-esteem at some point in their lives. The study also found that low self-esteem is more common among women and young people than other groups.
Low self-esteem can be overwhelming in its effects, having a significant impact on a person's life because it begins internally, being rooted in a lack of self-acceptance, a feeling of inadequacy, and being worthless. For example, because people with low esteem tend to dislike themselves, feeling inadequate and unworthy, they often find it difficult to form relationships, succeed at work or school, and simply enjoy life. In some cases, low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
As to helping a friend in this situation, it is difficult to encourage or ‘help’ anyone who has low self-esteem because the very fact that they do not believe in themselves, and perceive themselves as unworthy means that they will find it hard to accept anything positive that you might say. Self-esteem grows out of self-love, which starts from how we were treated in childhood, whether we were appreciated or not, or shown real value for just being ourselves.
Thus low self-esteem is a rejection of the self, a loathing for who we are, and when we don’t like ourselves, it is difficult for us to appreciate that others actually like us, perhaps thinking they are being insincere, and would always be questioning that love. In fact, it becomes hard work after a time trying to convince someone of low esteem how wonderful or amazing they are, because they can only see their perceived ‘faults’, and have no self-belief in their talents or goodness, hence why your friend has to help herself, because whatever you do is likely to be doubted or rejected.
People who have low self-esteem tend to be perfectionists who seldom measure up to their own high expectations in their own eyes. They are constantly comparing themselves to others, constantly beating themselves up for any little perceived error or fault, believing that everyone else is better than they are. In short, their life is dominated by FEAR, which is fed and maintained by the negative experiences they might have had, and a marked absence of trust, which fuel their suspicions, especially a fear of never being good enough. Based on an unrealistic assumption of perfection in others, this fear pushes them to place themselves below others, always comparing themselves in a futile way which makes them seem even more unworthy in their own eyes.
Only the low esteem person can change their situation. What they need is an acceptance of their own fallibility; to give themselves some slack; to stop the impossible expectations, stop beating themselves up for any mistakes, and stop finding constant fault with themselves. All you can do in the meantime is to reinforce any positive thing they say or do, while deliberately ignoring the negative ones.
For example, encourage your friend to be more positive about their life, especially giving gratitude for the people and blessings they have. Pay her regular compliments, and keep affirming him as a valued and worthwhile friend. But make sure that when you react to anything that is said, you react mainly to positive, enhancing things, and remain deliberately silent on any negative action that maintains the status quo. In that way, they should hopefully welcome the positive attention you give, which should make them want to act in ways that get them even more of it.
But helping people of low self esteem is no easy task, because the responsibility for their feeling and actions lies entirely with them, not with anyone else.
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About the Creator
British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.