From CHAPTER 4
HOW LOW SELF – ESTEEM CAN AFFECT YOUR LIFE
There are numerous factors that can affect the development of a healthy selfesteem; the most common ones are, a dysfunctional childhood, unhealthy relationships, and unrealistic standards and expectations of oneself and/or from others. When your self-esteem is ‘stunted’, dealing with day to day life stressors (an inevitable part of life), and developing genuine and healthy relationships become extremely challenging. Other aspects of your life such as, hobbies, social and vocational activities also become limited and even non-existent. Fear of failure and fear of rejection become influential factors in your every action and decision making to a point that it can restrict your life immensely.
When you fear rejection and rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms like avoidance and/or over-pleasing, it will have a negative effect on your relationships. Over-pleasing the people in your life in the most part is likely to result in a ‘win-lose’ relationship, with you losing out and the other person gaining the most from the relationship. When you are doing all the hard work to maintain this relationship only to receive very little in return, it won’t take you long to start feeling unvalued and resentful towards that person. A relationship that is mostly based on you making the other person feel valued and secure, is a toxic relationship that will damage your self-esteem further. The Self-Worth Theory 61 Many clients have said to me that they prefer to have someone in their life even if they are toxic than to be alone. When your self-esteem is low, you believe that you are not good enough to be accepted by others that you perceive to be better than you. Therefore, you are likely to accept people in your life that should not even be there. The kind of people that manipulate you, and have control over you, take advantage of you, put you down, and abuse you – toxic people. The belief that you have to be liked by everyone you meet is not always feasible. Some people may have issues that can stand in the way of developing a healthy relationship with you, others may have personality traits that you may not ‘click’ with – not being able to develop a genuine, healthy relationship with someone may not even be your doing.
Not only can low self-esteem affect your relationships, but it can also interfere in your social life. The fear of being rejected by others or as some of my clients put it, ‘being found out that you are a fraud’, can interfere with you opening up and interacting comfortably in social situations. Negative thoughts and concerns about being judged and/or rejected by the other person can cause you so much anxiety that you are likely to continuously avoid social situations, and therefore miss out on developing a sense of belonging – a very important factor in feeling valued.
Fear of failure can also be another indication of low self-esteem that can restrict you in life. Fear of failure can often be a barrier to bringing into your life, the things that can give you a sense of achievement, stimulation and purpose. Undertaking hobbies, volunteering, work, training and studies, can be very daunting for someone who expects to fail and not only feel like a failure but also be seen by others as a failure. Taking a step out of their comfort is liable to cause them so much anxiety, that staying within their comfort zone and missing out on ‘life’, can be for some an easier way of life. Unfortunately, living a life too within your comfort zone where you do not get the chance to acquire whatever it is you aspire to in life, or not taking on opportunities that you are presented with to prove your abilities, and/or to further develop your skills, can often result in the development of depression and an unfulfilling life.
People who suffer from low self-esteem will go to great lengths to hide their weaknesses. We all have qualities, and we all have weaknesses, but we all don’t have the same qualities and weaknesses. A weakness in someone else might be a quality within you. You might be uncoordinated while someone is, but you might be creative while that same person is not. Determining what your qualities and weaknesses are, is part of developing your own identity that cannot happen without trial and error. How can you know if you are creative if you don’t try something that will test this out? And what if you fail at that activity and find out that you are not creative. Then you just accept it as one of your weaknesses. People with a healthy self-esteem tend to accept their weaknesses and are comfortable sharing this information with others.
Continued in the print version of the book