Emotional Symptoms & Consequences of Low Self-Esteem
Most cases of depression are the result of low self esteem, not
the other way around, as our diagnostic manual would have us believe. This
is not the only cause of depression, as some people have chronic depression
not related to self esteem and which may require medication; overcoming depression
due to low self esteem seldom requires medication and then only for a short
period. Most individuals who suffer from low self esteem have differing degrees
of situational depression at different times in their lives--some have consistent
depression for years and until they go through the recovery process.
Discouragement is a common emotion of those with low
self esteem who have
unusually high expectations of others and who have either unreasonably high
or nonexistant goals for themselves. Striving for unreachable goals is a
recipe for feeling like one is failing. Others with LSE are too discouraged
and fearful to try anything new, to initiate relationships, or even to attempt
to develop new skills. They remain complacent willing to accept what life
brings rather than trying to better themselves.
Fear and Anxiety
Fear and anxiety are the cornerstone of low self esteem. Based on early life
experiences, people develop a perspective of how they fit in the world: whether
they are adequate, lovable, worthy, and/or competent. If their view of themselves
is negative, they go through life fearful and anxious, on guard, disappointed,
anticipating the worst, and unable to relax until they recover from this devastating
issue of low self esteem. This anxiety is extreme and permeates everything
in the person’s life including the ability to make sound decisions, the ability
to maintain ambition, the ability to bounce back after disappointments, the
person’s basic emotional stability, the person’s sustainability, the person’s
energy, the person’s ability to learn from his mistakes, the person’s openness
to developing new skills, the person’s ability to be introspective.
Those with low self esteem have four basic fears:
- The fear is of doing something that will confirm their own inadequacy.
- The fear is that others will see what they've done and also recognize their
- The fear is of losing what one has; fear that success cannot be sustained;
fear of abandonment.
- The fear is of once more experiencing humiliation, depression, devastation or despair.
Through recovery these fears are gradually dispelled and the person becomes able to respond in healthy ways to the situation in his life.
Overly sensitive, those with low self esteem frequently
get their feelings hurt, are easily offended, are quick to become angry or defensive, and are
easily provoked. They tend to be overly self-focused and can appear insensitive
to the feelings of others or can inaccurately look as though they are narcissistic.
Basically they are constantly looking for signs that others are rejecting or
disapproving of them and then conclude this is happening even when it is not.
Those who suffer from low self-esteem find their emotions
fluctuating frequently and without warning. They may “think” that someone is rejecting or disapproving
of them and then feel hurt and despondent, or they may respond with anger.
Also, they may at one moment feel confident, worthy, and self-assured and then
take a downturn at a perceived slight from someone. At times they may feel
competent only to question and berate themselves and then become depressed
when they make a simple mistake. Thus the tumultuous roller coaster ride of
life is one of unexpected emotions and reactions, usually ending in negative
(Similar but different from panic attacks)
Often mistaken for panic attacks, Self Esteem Attacks
are always related to how the person feels about himself or herself: inadequate. These attacks then
lead to depression and feelings of humiliation and devastation. Common to some
degree to all who suffer from low self esteem, self esteem attacks occur when
a person perceives she has made a mistake in front of others or that others
will hear about and begins to berate herself, to hate herself for her own perceived
stupidity. She then not only reacts to those incidents but dreads the possibility
of a situation where another mistake is made and such self-loathing reoccurs.
Reacting to this fear, she may then: a) isolate or refrain from new activities
to avoid looking foolish or inept, b) stay quiet and not share ideas or perceptions
for fear of saying something "wrong," c) not initiate with others
for fear of rejection, and d) not look for a better job because of feelings
of inadequacy, or e) remain in a destructive relationship because of feeling
too inadequate to be alone.
"Self Esteem Attacks" occur whenever a person with low self esteem does or says something that he afterwards deems to have been inappropriate, stupid, rude, obnoxious, off target, or inaccurate. At that time, the person may experience immediate remorse, excruciating anxiety, his heart racing, his face turning red, a sinking feeling of embarrassment, depression and/or devastation. Wishing he could sink into the floor or disappear, he may immediately look for a way to escape. He may feign illness, sneak out without saying anything, or just become totally silent, hoping not to be noticed. He will believe that everyone saw his blunder and is thinking poorly of him, maybe even laughing at him. This is a full blown Self-Esteem Attack that may last for minutes, hours, even days during which he berates himself, is fearful of seeing anyone who was in attendance at the time he made his "mistake," and remain seriously depressed.
All people who suffer from low self-esteem have these
attacks though they vary in degree of severity and in length depending upon
how serious the person judges his gaffe, how highly he values the opinions
of those in attendance, and what he surmises the repercussions will be. As
people go through recovery, these attacks gradually become less frequent, less
severe in their intensity, and shorter in duration. The goal of my Recovery
Program is that those with LSE would get to the point where they rarely have
a self esteem attack, and that if they do they can control it within 10 minutes;
thus it would not control the person’s feelings and behavior.
It is not unusual for those who have low self-esteem and who have been abused,
abandoned, or literally to have been treated as being in the way, to be unable
to recognize what they feel. Having suffered from many emotionally charged
and hurtful situations, they automatically feel a need to shield themselves
from more such experiences. Having practiced denying their feelings or even
acknowledging them. They now find themselves unable to know what they fee.
Having been hurt repeatedly, whether verbally, emotionally, or physically,
they may also lower their expectations of others and of life in general. They
may be available but never initiate with others; they may feel they have little
or nothing to offer and above all, are unable to risk rejection.
(Appearance of) Shyness
Low self esteem and shyness are different from one another. A person can be
shy and not have low self esteem. A person can have low self esteem and not
be shy. Shyness has more to do with introversion and learned behaviors that
are contrary to a casual and social society. Shyness is not a sign of dysfunction.
Are you suffering from low self esteem?
Take the Sorensen Self Esteem Test and find your score!
Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view this PDF