What Is Low Self Esteem?

The subject of self-esteem is a favorite of the amateur analyst, the pulp magazines, and often a favorite of group gatherings or even just plain old gab sessions. The topic might be under the guise of pride, arrogance, or basic shyness. Human nature being what it is folks like to talk about self-esteem as it relates to some person other than themselves. Is the subject too close to the raw to view as it relates to self? Is there something not quite right within? What is self-esteem and how do we spot shortcomings and try to remedy them?

Traits of Low Self Esteem

The American Heritage Dictionary gives the definition of esteem as “to think of with respect”, so it follows that self-esteem is to think of oneself with respect.

Note that self-esteem is a concept, an idea, an intangible that lacks a physical presence and cannot be measured, weighed, or physically altered, as can for example a kidney or a heart. The science of psychotherapy relies upon certain traits or actions that are the opposite of thinking of oneself with respect, which is then labeled low self-esteem. Commonly accepted traits are:

  • Resentment of authority
  • Fear of confrontation and adversity
  • Prefer to be alone rather than with others or a group
  • Antisocial behavior and others are uncomfortable around you
  • Inordinate amount of waking hours spent analyzing and thinking about yourself
  • Unable to set and achieve meaningful goals in life
  • Prefer to leave things as is and are unwilling to take any risks
  • Distrustful of people in general
  • Seldom smile and avoid direct eye contact
  • View life as basically pessimistic and self-talk is very negative
  • Rigidly unforgiving, both toward yourself and toward others

Treatment for Low Self Esteem

The easy response is to think and do the opposite of all of the above traits and bing, problem solved and no more low self-esteem. Not only is such a view not helpful, it is also far from what needs to be done to improve self-esteem. There are recommendations for an improvement process that take time and concentration but will result in a better frame of mind.

Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” and think about the good things you have in life rather than things you did not get in the past, things you may not get in the future, and things somebody else has that you want.

Expect success or a positive outcome to whatever you undertake, and do not allow self defeat through your own actions. For example, say you are building a nice patio set that a certain magazine will publish instructions in six consecutive issues. Your set is coming along great through issue four and a positive outcome appears to be at hand, and through negativity you fail to buy issues five and six. The final patio set results in shoddy workmanship.

Think and focus on the present, do not spend much time thinking about the past or the future.

Improve and maintain positive self-talk. The self-talk is nothing more than your thoughts which can be habit forming, for the positive or for the negative – your choice.

Avoid speaking about yourself negatively to other people – expressions such as “I cannot possibly…, I never get a chance to…, I do not deserve …”.

In conclusion, you were born without any esteem, high or low. Fortunately, whatever degree of esteem you have at any point in your lifetime can be changed by your own process without the need for medications, expensive equipment, or treatment.


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