Self Esteem problems are one of the most important issues facing adults today. Many people have a negative outlook on themselves and their lives that was inherited from their parents, friends or significant other.
While post people are familiar with the idea that you are the average of the 5 people you spend your time with, they fail to realize the impact this can have on their internal life and their mental well being. It’s easy to see that you might have clothes, a car, or a job that is similar to your friends. The idea that their beliefs and attitudes might have rubbed off on you seems a little more abstract.
One thing that is important to realize is that most people are not born with distructive beliefs and thought patterns. The majority of people slowly inherit these beliefs by being told that they are true over and over. Some times it is enough to have one influential person sell you a belief that you adopt as your own.
This is more insidious then it sounds. By simply allowing a thought to enter your mind with no objection you are more or less allowing your sub conscious to be open to suggestion. In effect, this can cause your sub conscious mind to be literally re-programmed.
After hearing or seeing something over and over, you slowly start to take the ideas presented to you for granted. After all, everything in your environment is telling you that that’s just the way things are.
If you don’t believe me, spend some time with the short list of addictive negative behaviors I have compiled below. If you don’t think you have been influenced by the ideas of others check your ideas and attitudes against this list. After all, if something you didn’t believe was true was present in your environment, you would probably ignore it.
Similarly, if something you didn’t like was present in your environment you would probably remove it. Only the person that has been sold on their own helplessness or inability to be self sufficient would accept the behaviors and attitudes listed below.
For the most part, these are behaviors and attitudes that are adopted by listening to too many people who have been discouraged and have lost faith in their own sense of agency. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself you are in luck. Unlike the majority of people you have a clear set of behaviors you can work toward eliminating and a guaranteed rout to enhancing every aspect of your life!
Without further ado, a short list of the behaviors and attitudes and beliefs you must eliminate to have a fantastic outlook on life.
Indecision and Procrastination:
Oh man, where to start with this one. I have a personal vendetta against this as I have been guilty of it on far too many occasions. Indecision stems from a fear of making the wrong decision.
This can be due to the fear of failure itself, the fear that potential changes that success can bring, or a fear of doing something that other people do not expect or approve of.
Often times this fear will manifest itself as perfectionism. Someone who is a perfectionist generally wants to be above criticism or beyond reproach. These people actually fear being criticized by the people they deem themselves as superior to.
As you can see, this is a particularly dangerous reason for indecision as it requires a bit of self delusion in regards to the actual amount of value you are putting on the opinions of others. Another problem with perfectionism is that it allows you to fool yourself into thinking aspiration is driving you instead of fear.
Another important issue that needs to be reiterated is the problem of fearing doing things that people do not expect. While the media is quick to talk about the fear of disappointing people, it is the more nuanced fear of doing something people do not expect that really scares the hell out of people.
This probably has to do with some tenant of evolutionary biology that says people are hard wired to fear rejection from a group. Whatever it is, people are scared as hell to act in defiance of what is expected of them.
Whatever you want to chalk it up to, indecision is one of the most debilitating and addictive behavioral patterns of a person with low self esteem.
Self Pity is the attitude and belief that will lead your life into a sad state of affairs ASAP. Self Pity comes from that beat down place in your heart where you actually believe you are not capable of making changes in your life.
Self Pity is known by many as being a (insert expletive here). The main thing to remember about self pity is that you have bought the idea that you are helpless.
Self pity is an indulgence in your own sense of learned helplessness. You are essentially giving in to the tide of helpless feelings you have and letting them wash all over your face.
Instead, what you must do is recognize your feelings of helplessness for what they are and learn to deal with them. There are an infinite number of potential causes for feelings of learned helplessness. Similarly there are an infinite number of solutions for dealing with learned helplessness.
The important thing is that you recognize that you have these feelings and find a good enough solution to deal with them. There is no need to pinpoint the exact cause, childhood trauma, getting locking in a closet, hormonal imbalances ect….. While all these things are important, you will eventually deal with them if they are still effecting your mood or life later on down the road.
Right now, if you are pitying yourself or feeling helpless, like you can’t do anything, you need to find anything you can to remove or replace that feeling or refute that idea.
Usually the easiest path is to simply refute the idea that you are helpless by taking immediate action. Take some action that allows you to affirm that you are in fact in control of your life.
The positive response from action is one of the reasons people get addicted to strange things like drugs or endurance exercise. It allows you an immediate positive response that shows you that you are powerful enough to change your state, or how you feel.
You bought the drugs, or you ran the X amount of miles real fast and now you feel like a God… You did that. It makes you feel like they are in control and its addicting.
While I wouldn’t recommend drugs or chronic endurance exercise for most people, something as simple as finding a reasonable supplement stack that gets you going in the morning could be a slightly more benign (and legal) way to feel like you re in control. Similarly sticking to an exercise routine, for one day, one week, or one month will make you feel in control.
Stephen Guise’s Mini Habits is a fantastic book that discusses how sticking to something makes you feel in control. In his book he outlines the highly publicized mini habits method of starting a habit or program of behavioral change.
Guise’s book is based largely off the work of Stanford professor BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits Academy (THA). While his THA focuses on the “for fun and profit” aspects of building habits, things like starting a yoga program or writing that book you’ve always had in you, the program is perfect for anyone looking to break out of a cycle of learned helplessness and self pity.
Long story short, self pity is a believe in your own lack of self sufficiency. Once you recognize it in yourself eliminate it.
Complaining and Blaming
Complaining and Blaming is a clear sign of low self esteem. People who blame other people and circumstances are essentially refusing to accept responsibility for their own lives.
Many people use complaining as a means to feel better about themselves. By showing an outrage or disdain for the behavior of others, they set themselves apart as superior, better or more deserving.
While its true, shit happens, it’s also true that most people have a bunch of positive and negative events in their lives. If you feel like the world is crashing down on you or that things are unfair, it’s important to take this as a sign that you need to re-asses your point of view.
I have had plenty of experience with blaming and complaining. I’m glad to say I got a bunch of it out of my system early in life and am usually able to identify blaming and complaining as my own desire to shift responsibility off of myself.
An important thing to keep in mind is that even when it seems objectively true that something is not your fault, it’s still more useful to simply accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility at least allows you to think about what you might do different in the future to prevent a similar misfortune. Saying it’s not your fault negates any opportunity to learn something from a situation.
Finding Problems With Other People
Finding problems with other people is a sure sign of low self esteem in a number of ways. First of all it requires you to take the position that you are right and the other person is wrong.
In the moment that you criticize someone else, it allows you to think that you are superior for knowing right and doing right. By creating the idea that the other person is wrong or acting incorrectly it allows you to feel better about yourself.
Another truth of criticism is that it often comes from a place of self-criticism and doubt. If you pay attention you will notice that the things that you are most turned off by in others are the things that you do not like about yourself .
If you don’t notice this happening, keep in mind that finding fault with others is almost always due to feeling that other people are wrong for not complying with our world views or beliefs.
Needing To Win or Be Right
People who need to win, be right or appear superior to those around them are likely to suffer from low self esteem. This has to do with a need to feel like there is no way you will not be accepted by those around you.
The paradoxical part about this type of acceptance is that you are trying to get it from the people you feel “better” then. generally people who need to feel like they are right or they have one suffer from the same problem as those who need to look better then others or superior.
These people feel that by being right their opinions and by extension they themselves are beyond reproach.
Need For Approval or Attention
This is the more general extension of the above. people that need constant attention or approval suffer from low self esteem. This has to do with the fact that these people do not feel like enough on their own.
These people therefore have a compulsive need to derive acceptance from others in the form of attention and affirmation. These people will go to great lengths to get attention, approval and the acceptance of those who are close to them and even strangers.
This type of attention seeking behavior differs from a normal need for attention and affirmation in that it is more ceaseless and compulsive then a normal need for a little recognition here and there.
Anytime we feel that we have not lived up to our own or others expectation for us we open ourselves up to feelings of depression. This happens as we start to feel out of control or as if we cannot make substantial changes to our lives.
The frustration and anxiety that results from this feeling of being out of control can cause a negative cascade of feelings. These feelings along with a sense of helplessness are the cause of low self esteem associated with depression.
Lack of Close Friends
People who have low self esteem will go to great lengths to live their lives apart from others. They due this in a number of ways. The most common way is to eschew close relationships with friends or significant others.
Low self esteem and lack of close friends can also manifest itself in being overly confrontational or difficult with the people you interact or work with. This has the same affect as isolation as you prevent people from being close enough to you to get to know you.
In either case the basic reason for the lack of closeness is that the person does no like themselves enough to let other people into their lives to share themselves or let others see them as they are.
Greed and Selfishness
People who are greedy and selfish may seem to feel as though they are worth others. While this may be true it is often because of a lowered sense of self worth and self esteem that other people become overly concerned with their more basic needs.
This sense of greed and self indulgence often stems from their own drastically inflated need for gratification which is needed to compensate for a seriously lowered sense of self worth. As cliche as it sounds this need for gratification is used to fill the void these people have in their own sense of self worth.
Frontin or Putting Up False Fronts
Putting up false fronts usually involves lying to impress others. This becomes a serious issue when someone starts lying about multiple aspects of their lives. The person will start to have a serious personality crisis as the stories they tell others about themself begin to become increasingly less plausible and even contradictory.
A false front usually involves someone acting out using possessions an overly outgoing personality or even loud and exaggerated mannerisms. The person does this to cover up what they feel is an inadequate personality underneath all of their possessions and mannerisms.
Overindulgence or Gluttony
People who overindulge in drugs, alcohol, food or any other substance or behavior are usually trying to cover up a bad feeling they have about themselves. usually this has to do with an inability to face something that has to change in your life.
Someone who regularly overindulges in any of the above mentioned categories of “opiate” related substances or behaviors is generating a temporary high. This high is used to distract them from some aspect of their life or habits that needs to be changed but is currently to painful to face.
Instead of acknowledging this habit or behavior or aspect of lifestyle that needs to be changed, the person uses some form of opiate related indulgence to push off whatever they are starting to consider. As soon as the pain comes into their awareness they do anything they can to push it out.
Whether the painful object is a thought, behavior pattern or interaction with someone the result is the same. In fact the causes of overindulgence can include a relationship that needs to change, a career that has worn its course or a habit that is no longer useful. Generally it is some large aspect of someone’s life that will not be easy to change but needs to.
It’s pretty easy to see how anything big that needs to be change can cause the requisite amount of pain to cause people to create strong diversions in their lives.
As a recap, the above guide should be used to highlight the main causes of low self esteem. It is unusual for someone to not experience any of the causes on the list.
This is because most people have something that damages their sense of self esteem to some extent. The best way to use this list is to become more aware of your own behaviors and thought patterns. By becoming aware of the major sources of low self esteem you will be better able to detect and eliminate these instances of low self esteem activity in your own life.
If you are interested in learning about related topics you can check out this post on learned helplessness. This post discusses ways to detect and eliminate learned helplessness in your own life.
If you want to see some of the ways that people commonly delude themselves or put off decision they need to make you can check out this post on common sources of cognitive dissonance.
In that post I discuss some of the most common faulty thinking patterns that people use to justify continuing some of the behaviors that they know they need to change. One of the methods I discuss that can be used to bring more awareness to your life is meditation. I discuss how meditation can be used for behavioral change.
Finally I discuss how meditation can be used to cure attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. In this article I cite a bunch of studies that support the use of meditation and attention training to cure a number of different pathological cognitive disorders including ADHD.
As always, thanks for reading and let me know if there is anything you would like explained further about this subject in the comments.