If you often feel inadequate or depressed you likely suffer from low self-esteem. Studies show that low self-esteem can lead to depression.
Here are the ways low self-esteem drags you down.
You believe the mean things people say about you
When a person with healthy self-esteem hears a mean comment from someone, they filter the remark. First, they consider the source. They know it isn’t true about them, so they move on.
Not you. You'll obsess about that rude comment all day, even for years. You'll always remember that person in grammar school who said that you were ugly. You will carry around that hurtful remark for years to justify every rejection you experienced during your life.
You say mean things to yourself all day long
You are self-critical, and your thought process is brutal. It goes something like this:
You look in your closet one beautiful morning, and the negativity barrage begins.
“I can’t wear that, I’m too fat.” As you look through all the clothes you become more and more unhappy.
“There’s absolutely nothing I can wear. All I have is hand-me-downs.” Yet you don’t stop there. It gets worse.
“That’s because I’m poor and overweight. I don’t look good in anything.”
Later you look in the mirror and think, “Even my face looks bad. I look so wrinkled. When did I get so old?”
The entire day goes on in that way. When you pass someone on the street and they don’t say hello, you immediately go to the worst-case scenario.
“I’m so invisible. She didn’t even look at me.”
And when the time comes for a promotion at work, and you are passed over, you think,
“Of course they didn’t promote me. No one likes me.” And on and on.
You're your own worse enemy. You judge yourself in a way you would never judge others. In fact, you usually build others up, yet put yourself down. You believe your worth isn't as high as other people's.
You think you’re not worthy of love or respect
With such low self-esteem, you don’t believe you are worthy of love or respect. You remain small and are afraid to reveal your authentic self to others for fear it will be destroyed.
You apologize for everything, even things that are definitely not your fault. Someone just screamed and called you abusive names for an hour, and you’re apologizing that their dinner wasn’t on time.
You walk around on eggshells trying to please everyone else. Yet deep inside, you are suffering.
You believe you are defective
Deep inside you feel there is something wrong with you. Everyone else has their act together, except you.
You spend too much money trying to correct your flaws. You get plastic surgery because you feel you’re not enough. Yet, unlike people with healthy self-esteem, you’re never satisfied with the results.
Nothing can make you feel good about yourself — not makeup or beautiful clothes or all the accomplishments you achieve in life, because deep down you feel bad about yourself.
You had a dysfunctional childhood
If you were abandoned or abused by your parents in childhood, you likely have low self-esteem. A 2013 study in Baghdad showed that experiencing household dysfunction in childhood can negatively affect a child’s self-esteem.
When a child grows up with neglect and constant criticism, they internalize it and believe what they're told. They grow up feeling less than other people.
Some people will spend the rest of their life overachieving to make up for this lack of self-worth. They believe they must do better than everyone else to prove they are worthy. No matter how much they achieve, they never feel it’s good enough.
You downplay your accomplishments
You minimize your accomplishments and focus on your flaws. You easily list all the things you haven’t done in life and everything you’ve done wrong. It’s difficult for you to recognize your achievements.
“Yes, my short story was published in a collection. But it’s no big deal. It was just a story, not a book.”
Another person with high self-esteem would be proud of their published story and consider it a feather in their cap. They'd graciously accept the compliments and accolades. Not you. You feel like an imposter.
You remain in bad situations
When you have low self-esteem, it’s hard to feel like you'll ever succeed at anything. You give up on yourself.
You can't see a better life, and you have many excuses why. You admit you hate your job, but you never take action to get a better one. You're filled with fear of the future and afraid to take risks. You always assume you will fail.
If you compensate by becoming an overachiever, nothing will ever be good enough for you. No matter how many victories you have, you’ll still feel like a fake.
In relationships, you’ll stay in a bad situation long after the expiration date. You’ll remain with a partner who abuses and mistreats you because deep down you feel you deserve it.
You believe you can't walk away, and no one else would ever put up with you.
What you can do
If you know you have low self-esteem, you’ve already won half the battle. Now you can work at overcoming it.
You must believe that you are a valuable person, and always have been. Just because people said hurtful things in the past to you, does not make them true. You can choose to reject them. You can change the way you feel about yourself.
Change your inner dialogue from criticism to compassion. Begin saying uplifting and kind things to yourself. When a negative thought pops into your head, replace it with a positive one. Focus on strengths instead of perceived flaws.
Forgive yourself for anything you felt you did wrong in the past. Love yourself the same as you love others.
Develop your talents and skills. We all have talents. Do things you love to do, and become proficient at them. Realize your value.
Start listing all achievements, and accept compliments people give you.
If someone in your life forgets to say hello, don’t take it personally. They could be having a bad day. It most likely has nothing at all to do with you.
If you don’t get promoted, realize it wasn’t the right fit for you. Something better is coming along.
Take action to change circumstances. You never have to remain where you are in life. Don't take abuse from other people or settle for an unfulfilling situation. You're a valuable person, and you deserve the best.
If you can’t deal with low self-esteem on your own, don’t hesitate to get counseling or professional help with your situation. No one should ever go through life feeling inadequate. You can rescript your life and change your reality. The change begins with you.