Is Low Self-esteem at the Root of Your Problems?
As a therapist that has been helping men for 16 years, I can safely say that low self-esteem is at the root of many of my client’s problems. Clients start to see me for a variety of reasons; the most common being anxiety, depression, feeling lost, and relationship problems. At the end of the day though, low self-esteem is underlying most issues.
What is the Difference Between Self-esteem and Confidence?
Self-esteem and confidence are often conflated. An easy way to understand the difference between these 2 topics is to think of self-esteem being about who you are as a person and confidence is about believing in your ability to do certain things.
Having good self-esteem might come from such things as having good morals and values, believing in your worth as a person by virtue of having been born, believing you are a good friend, or seeing yourself as someone who is reliable. Good self-esteem will feel like you like yourself as a person and you like who you see in the mirror.
Confidence is more about the things that you do. This will take the shape of achieving education and career goals, being good at sports, having a specific skill that you excel at, having a certain amount of money in the bank, accomplishing tasks, etc.
I believe most people look to ‘things’ to improve their confidence and might put too much emphasis on this area. In many cases, it would likely be more helpful to work on improving their self-esteem instead. The natural confidence that is likely to come from liking who you are as a person will be an added bonus.
What Are the Causes of Low Self-Esteem?
There are many different causes of low self-esteem, but some are more common than others. Some of the most common causes of low self-esteem are an unhappy childhood, a serious disappointment such as losing a job or relationship, a traumatic event, and being in an unhealthy relationship.
An unhappy childhood is often caused by parents, teachers, and other people you look up to being extremely critical of the things you do and say – often causing you to feel you will never be good enough. Boys are also greatly impacted by not having a father around – or by the men in their life being neglectful or abusive. This does not mean that an abusive mother or other female caregiver doesn’t have a major impact on boys’ self-esteem – they most surely do. But it is important to note that boys will begin to get their sense of identity through their interactions with their father and other male role models. If these relationships are not healthy, it can often result in a boy having an underdeveloped sense of self which follows him into adulthood in the form of poor self-esteem and confidence. Even if the female caregiver(s) are supportive and caring, if a boy does not have a good male father-figure or strong male role model in their life, their self-esteem will likely suffer. I have seen this be the case time and time again with my adult male clients.
Low self-esteem can also be caused by poor academic or physical performance in school, feeling like you don’t fit in, not being able to make friends easily, or having difficulty with dating/relationships. Being involved in an abusive relationship can cause low self-esteem due to poor treatment from your partner, friends, siblings, parents, or co-workers. This happens because consistently negative interactions will chip away at one’s self-esteem. Other instances that can cause low self-esteem include medical issues, physical disabilities, and mental illness such as depression or anxiety disorder, or difficulties finding a solid career path which allows a man to earn a good wage.
The Negative Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem diminishes your quality of life. Having low self-esteem can cause you to have negative feelings and creates problems in most of your interpersonal relationships. Constant criticism can lead to negative feelings including anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, guilt, or shame. Problems in your relationship could stem from anger displacement – bullying someone or making someone else feel bad about themselves because you feel bad about yourself.
If you have low self-esteem, you may often avoid challenges because you have a fear of failing, feel worthless, and worry that you will never live up to other’s standards. Other negative effects low self-esteem can have on your body and overall health include lack of self-care, self-harming behaviour, low resilience, and fear of judgement.
I personally believe that we are all worthy of working on ourselves to improve our self-esteem and innate sense of self-worth. All other aspects of your life will start to improve if you begin to like yourself.
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