“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.” – Maxwell Maltz
When you don’t think very much of yourself it shows. It puts you at a great disadvantage in every aspect of your life. Those with low self-esteem tend to be approval seeking, and experience fear and anxiety when they feel that they are being judged by others. They are highly critical of themselves, have poor self-talk, doubt their abilities, believe that being themselves isn’t good enough and engage in self-harming behaviors.
In relationships they tend to choose partners whose opinions of them match their own. Because they don’t value themselves they will subconsciously seek out partners that don’t value them. They accept poor treatment and believe that they have to be exceptional in some way, by giving, caring, doing, or earning more than the competition, just to be accepted.
In business they tend to not lean in, a term coined by Facebook CCO Sheryl Sandberg. They downplay their achievements and abilities and often feel like they’re not qualified during interviews or promotions.
In friendships they are often everyone’s cheerleader, yet they receive less support than they give. They may find that they have friends that hog the spotlight and tend to be selfish and take them for granted.
In interactions with family they often find themselves the recipient of unwanted criticism. They are usually singled out and met with disapproval and judgement.
Predatory animals target the weak in the herd. Sadly, humans are no different. The world is filled with unhealthy people looking to exploit and take advantage of those who won’t stand up for themselves. If you’ve ever wondered how others know who they can take advantage of and who they can’t, it isn’t some pheromone they’re sensing, there are very telling behaviors in people with low self-esteem.
Though this is not a fully comprehensive list, people with low self-esteem tend to exhibit many of the following traits:
-They are self-deprecating to others, and have poor self-talk.
-They either don’t react and accept poor treatment, or they are overly reactive and act out emotionally when faced with injustice or unfair treatment.
-They are self-harming. They abuse substances, food, money… They don’t take good care of themselves with exercise, healthy nutrition, sleep. They self-sabotage and don’t treat themselves as a person of value.
-They suffer from anxiety, fear and doubt.
-They put on a show in order to get people to like them, sometimes exaggerating the truth, or creating a façade or image that they wish to portray.
-They feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.
-They fear failure and embarrassment so they don’t try – yet they dream about it constantly.
-They feel like they are not good enough and have a hard time believing that just being themselves is enough
-They people please by over giving, over complimenting, being overly nice and helpful.
-They hide and try to not stand out.
-They daydream about the person they wish they were.
-Some are cutters.
-They keep people at arm’s length, not trusting anyone to get to know them intimately
-They have a “poor me” attitude.
The truth about self-esteem is, that at a very vulnerable age, you were feed a lie, by someone you loved and trusted. This person, likely a primary caregiver, was unhealthy and did not know how to parent effectively. You believed the lie and started to gather evidence to prove to yourself that it was true and at the same time your caregiver kept repeating it, kept pointing out your flaws and before you knew it, you accepted what they said as truth.
As an adult, you now have a choice, you can keep believing the lie, or you can choose to believe something else – that you are a person of value, that you are special, important and unique and that all you have to do is be you and that is enough.
No one gives you self-esteem as an adult, in fact unhealthy people relish in ripping it from you. What you have to figure out, for yourself, is that people and things can’t give it to you – that only you can decide that you are worthy – only you decide that you have value.
There is no ceremony, no certificate, or magic beans. When you decide that you are good enough, all by yourself – you just reach out and take it. You own it and you start acting like it – even if it doesn’t feel right at first.
You stop criticizing yourself and beating yourself up – the world is full of people that will do that for you. Be your own champion and remember that what you allow continues, so stop engaging with people that don’t treat you right. Just stop engaging with them – it’s that easy.
Always practice self-care, even if you’re not used to it. Sleep, eat well, move, take care of your finances, meditate, have fun, laugh often, be good to you and do what you enjoy.
Stop trying to get people to like you, or to approve of you, instead, adopt the attitude of, “I don’t care what you think.” Let your own inner compass guide your thoughts and behavior and let that be enough. Don’t try to win people to your side, don’t try to explain yourself, just stop caring, or trying to convince people that you’re right. Let the notion that you believe you are right, be enough. Practice being yourself and see how that feels. Be brave, step out from your comfort zone and do things that you have always wanted to do, but were too afraid to do. Stop dreaming about it and do it. Get control of your inner critic and get in the habit of telling it to “f” off – refuse to listen to it or give it any power. Change your attitude from feeling powerless to powerful, unloved to loved by all, not good enough to infinitely worthy. Your self-esteem is utterly and completely up to you. It always was – all you have to do is reach out and take it, own it, protect it and make the decision to do so every single day.
Thank you warrior in training for your kind words. He’s definitely a narc but at times seems almost self aware. I know I’m definitely better off without him but struggle with the idea of no contact ever again. It doesn’t help that he will check in every few months even when I don’t respond. I thanked him for his apology and told him I didn’t want to continue to communicate. He said he understood. It’s hard. My feelings for him won’t seem to go away entirely even after a very long time. I can’t bring myself to even think about dating yet I feel very sad at the prospect of spending the rest of my life alone.
Layla, it feels really hard to do but you will feel better when you block him completely and cease contact entirely. Remember that “checking in every few months” is only checking that you are still (in his eyes) potential future supply. Any reply from you signals (to him) your availability. I urge you to do whatever it takes to block him and focus relentlessly on your own life. It may seem very lonely but will force you to shine the light into your own resources even if at rock bottom like Savannah said last week. Then you can sort yourself out and know what you want and where to go. t’s all up from there. It may take time but please know you are not alone. Countless numbers of us here are on the same journey.
Your great article came with excellent timing for me.
I am going through a nasty divorce with an extreme narcissist who is
Accusing me of lies and untruths with no proof, of course.
My question is this. My atty is not responding to my email questions about certain items she told me she was to do, ie, subpoe a bank he may have accounts at, contacting other banks regarding a restraining order against him, or even what her strategy will be for my case going to pre-trial.
I have sent her emails asking for a meeting to,chat as well as answers to the above questions. She doesn’t reply.
I get the feeling like I am ‘bothering’ her, but I am also paying her big bucks. What do I do? I look at myself and ask if I’m being too pushy… but don’t feel I am. I just want to know whats going on with my case.
After reading your article, I feel like I am doing the right thing, but get no response. What do I do?
As always Savannah, your articles are very timely for me. I’ve been doing well with no contact for quite some time but still not really happy feeling like I’ll never have love again. I contacted my ex and he was actually very sweet and apologized for the horrible ending we had to our relationship. He’s accepted that he can’t maintain a healthy relationship as have I. Although it gave me some closure and I felt better at first as the day progressed I fell into a deep depression I haven’t experienced in some time. Today is a new day and I’m trying to get back to normal with some difficulty. I feel that I will never be truly happy again.
Stay strong Layla, it’s darkest before dawn. Try not to contact your ex, you’re just making your recovery harder and longer. Practice self care – that means taking the the shortest route from A (where you are) to B (thriving). Meditate, do affirmations, get out in nature, read Savannah’s posts. Know we are with you on this journey (even though you feel totally alone, we are routing for you). I’m not out the other side yet myself, but I’m on my way. If your ex is a narc, try to internalise the knowledge that you are better off out of that relationship. Good luck x
Thank you for this post. Self-hatred is so sneaky and virulent. I have had to battle to change that voice in my head. I have a tip that works for me. Every time I start that awful self-bashing I say out loud, “Stop!” (when I am alone.) I am still using this technique and it is amazing how different my inner self-talk is. Recently, I had a run-in with my landlord. I had to really stand up for myself to get the heater fixed. She doesn’t like me now and that used to me something I would have been in misery over but now I feel mild discomfort and a high level of tolerance: I can’t win with her because she just didn’t want to do what was right. It is so good to not really care and to simply be happy I stood up for me and didn’t passively-aggressively suffer and complain for weeks instead of facing and fixing the problem.