Low self-esteem often has its roots in our childhoods.
Growing up, with no strength or skill attached to our names, we had to totally depend on those around us to learn.
Whenever we do something great, they applaud us. That’s how we know we should keep doing it. And when we are wrong, we get punished.
Slowly, we come to trust these people as our guardians. We see them as demigods who cannot be wrong. This is all good if your guardians always have your back.
But unfortunately, not everyone gets lucky. Some fall into the hands of the wrong guardians where they get told that the color of their skin, the shape of their heads, or their gender isn’t good enough; that they are not good as they are. Some even get abandoned.
Because of this, most people form a pattern of self-abandonment. Subconsciously, they carry on that wrong story for most of or the rest of their lives. How can you spot such people? Here are 6 characteristics to look out for.
Chronic Approval Seeking
A prominent trait of people who have low self-esteem is that they don’t have an internal metric of self-evaluation.
They look at the nature of the response they get from others to determine their own worth and the value of what they do.
Because people with low self-esteem cannot validate themselves, they do anything to get a good evaluation from others.
They may do this by saying yes to things they don’t want, smiling at jokes that aren’t funny, or by hanging out with people they don’t like. They avoid getting into any conflict to defend themselves.
Usually, people with low self-esteem are people who have been shamed or embarrassed for being themselves. It might have been about their looks, they might have been bullied for the height or the color of the skin.
Because of that single experience, they now find it difficult to embrace themselves in their totality. As an article in PsychCentral explained,
As a coping mechanism, some individuals become people-pleasers who are afraid to be their true selves or take care of themselves. A lot of them don’t even know who they really are, what they actually feel, what they truly think, or what they like.”
Social Media Addiction
The truth is that we all love attention; they make us feel great. But a person with low self-esteem is overly concerned about the likes and the nature of comments on their social media posts.
There’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to celebrities who committed suicide, some, at the very height of their fame. Why? Some of them couldn’t handle the negative and sometimes harsh reactions of their fans on social media.
The thing is, people with low self-esteem have a distorted sense of self. They have to be told by people that they are okay for them to feel good. As a result, they stay glued to the likes and comments on social media.
For them, if everyone says they are great, then they are great. If others say they are too fat, thin, or pale, everything goes downhill for them.
This is why when bad comments start rolling out on their social media pages, their whole delicate world gets shattered.
Inability to Spend Quality Time Alone
According to the mental health advocate and Psychology Today journalist Sarah-Len Mutiwasekwa, one of the ways to spot low self-esteem is a person’s tendency to be unable to stay alone to confront their own thoughts.
Low self-esteem people always look for distractions. As she wrote,
If you find yourself often gravitating toward distractive recreational activities you may be avoiding dealing with the reality of what your life really is.”
The major reason most of us find it difficult to spend time alone is that it exposes us to ourselves. When you are alone, all the contents of your mind come up to the surface.
All your fears, weaknesses, past failures, wins, losses, bad experiences from ten years ago, the bully from grade school, might begin to pop up on your mind.
For people with low self-esteem, their mind becomes a cinema for worst-case scenarios and bad past events. And as such, they do whatever they can to avoid time alone.
There’s an ancient maxim by the Greeks that says “Know Thyself.”
One of the reasons the Greeks highly recommended this maxim, and why it’s still popular today is that knowing yourself is one of the most important things in life.
Why? Firstly, if you don’t know yourself, others will tell you who you are.
People who have a low self-image never spend enough time understanding themselves.
Instead of having quality time for self-discovery, they’ll rather spend time fishing for compliments from others or likes from social media. This in turn makes them more fragile and insecure.
Why? People are quite erratic, and as such you never quite know what to expect from them.
One of the major characteristics of people who have low self-esteem is that they often find themselves oscillating between ecstasy and depression.
Why? People’s opinions and evaluations of you are unpredictable.
Here’s the thing: People who have low self-esteem base their self-evaluation on the opinions of others. And as such, when people feel good, they get the good end of their nature.
But the downside of this of course is that no one feels good all the time. And when the bitter side of people’s nature comes up, they also get a taste of it.
This is often how some celebrities end up committing suicide.
Because they depend on the opinions of their fans — which they usually get in hippy spoonfuls — to evaluate themselves, they begin to lose their heads when fans begin to give harsh comments like “You are too fat.” “Your voice sounds horrible.” “You are too thin.”
As Sarah Mutiwasekwa further explained in Psychology Today, people with low esteem often become rebellious because of their fragile egos.
Though they may pretend that opinions that mean anything to them, they still go to great lengths to prove themselves to others. As she wrote,
Rebels often feel the need to go against the laws because it makes them feel in control… They often pretend that other people’s judgment and criticisms don’t affect them when in reality, it makes them want to prove themselves even more.”
A person who has low self-esteem may want to prove toughness to others because deep down, they care deeply about their approval and don’t want to be perceived as weak.
This is the psychology behind bullying. A bully puts on a tough facade and pretends that they don’t care. Meanwhile, at heart, they are just so afraid of being perceived as weak by others.
Low self-esteem thrives on low self-knowledge.
The idea is simple: If you don’t know yourself and what your life is about, others will decide for you.
Therefore, countering low self-esteem starts with going inwards. Learn to confront yourself and understand what makes you unique as a person.
More importantly, understand that depending on other people’s evaluation of you means putting your emotional and mental wellbeing in the hands of others. That’s too great a risk.