Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem and 2 Influential Factors

Megan Smith
 min read

This article will explore the different symptoms of low self-esteem and the two main factors that influence our self-esteem.

Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem and 2 Influential FactorsFluctuating levels of self-esteem are natural, just like breathing or being hungry, and it is normal to have ups and downs in our relationship with ourselves.

Read on to understand how self-esteem is raised and lowered and what the different symptoms are of low self-esteem.

Symptoms of low self-esteem: Introduction

There are variations in self-esteem that are legitimate and useful. Indeed, they will inform us of the success or failure of our efforts, of our level of social acceptance or rejection.

These variations are valuable, and it is necessary to have self-doubt. However, we will always see ourselves either positively or negatively (this also implies, therefore, that we have a positive body image or rather a negative body image).

These fluctuations will allow constant adjustments between us and what happens to us. Self-esteem tends to vary like our breathing, heart rate, and mood.

How self-esteem can increase and decrease

Self-esteem varies according to what our daily life offers. Two things are essential and contribute to most of the raising or lowering of our self-esteem.

Social recognition

Social recognition has by far the most significant impact on self-esteem. This can manifest itself in two ways:

  • Directly: we get signs of affection or esteem, or
  • Indirectly: considered as self-recognition regarding the ideals we think we are close to.

Personal effectiveness

The feeling of personal effectiveness depends in part on social recognition. Indeed, being effective and recognized as such is as important as simply being effective.

This feeling has an autonomy in relation to recognition. For example, the pleasure of growing your own vegetables without using agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and eating them is good for your self-esteem, even if no one else sees or knows about it.

Recognition and effectiveness are essential for self-esteem

Both are necessary for our self-esteem. Being successful without recognition will lead to a feeling of emptiness that accompanies some social achievements. For example, one might ask:

“What is the point of making money if no one loves you?”

In addition, recognition without performance can also lead to frustration. For example, one might then think:

“All my relatives tell me I am intelligent and yet I can’t find an interesting job?”

With these two sources, how each of us nourishes our self-esteem will play a fundamental role in our personal well-being.

Of course, there are individual differences between high and low self-esteem. What counts is also how we will orient our existence in search of these sources of self-esteem.

However, the successes represented by recognition and effectiveness are also subjective: we can spoil successes or make up for setbacks, giving ourselves the illusion of controlling our environment.

In addition, it is important to highlight several sources of errors and problems that will influence self-esteem:

  • Observing and focusing on what is wrong instead of seeing the bigger picture.
  • Judging oneself according to criteria of requirement, severity, and perfectionism so rigorous that disappointment is the only possible outcome.
  • Comparing oneself and misusing these comparisons to reassure or devalue oneself and not to learn by observing the other.
  • Focusing on the eyes and judgment of others: constantly wondering what others think of us and our actions. And, above all, not only to ask but to answer these questions yourself through (false) assumptions.

Sometimes, self-esteem seems to evolve in a world disconnected from reality. Some underestimate themselves while endowed with merits and qualities, while others unrealistically overestimate themselves.

This is also why these variations of self-esteem can be:

  • Violent: we feel despair or euphoria.
  • Inappropriate: they are triggered by unimportant details or events that never happened.
  • Dreaded: they push the person to do everything to avoid feeling them through excuses or denial.

What are the symptoms of low self-esteem?

It is important to emphasize that all manifestations of low self-esteem suffering are normal as long as they remain occasional.

There will only be a problem if they become frequent, constant, intense, and disproportionate to what triggered them.

Here is a list of the different symptoms of suffering from low self-esteem:

An inner tension

One of the sufferings of self-esteem can come from insecurity in social situations, with an impression of mental wear and tear linked to the feeling of being watched by others and worrying about conformity.

A feeling of loneliness

When you lack self-esteem, you feel like a different person than others. We feel more fragile, less competent, more vulnerable, and more isolated.

Making life choices that are contrary to our desires, interests, intuitions

Even though these types of attitudes are not that common, they are still surprising. For example, some people have such low self-esteem that they will make life choices that are contrary to their aspirations.

Let’s take the example of women who marry men without loving them because they are afraid of ending up alone and think that no one would be interested in them.

Unfortunately, this situation shows that these people do not value each other, do not trust each other, and do not know or listen to each other.

It is essential to respect oneself in life, which requires good self-esteem.

Inappropriate behaviors

When we suffer, our self-esteem tends to decrease. As a result, it is possible to engage in inappropriate behaviors concerning:

  • Our interests: such as becoming unpleasant when we feel judged.
  • Our values: when we try to impress, to put down the other when it does not correspond to our personal values.

Some people may also do things that horrify, sadden or infuriate them.

Sometimes, indulging one’s “evil inclinations” can offer a sad and paradoxical pleasure. Indeed, it would seem to be an almost reassuring habit of self-defeat because it is familiar and inexpensive in terms of energy.

Feeling like an impostor, occasionally or frequently

At the slightest success or sign of recognition, the question is asked:

“Do I really deserve what is happening to me?”

We feel like impostors and think we don’t deserve these signs of gratification or success. This is also known as the so-called impostor syndrome.

Source: Wood, et al., Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory: Self-Esteem Differences in the Experience and Anticipation of Success, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005

A tendency to go into a negative spiral

Many studies have looked at people with low self-esteem who go haywire when they start to get the blues.

These people are so bad that they do nothing to get better. They feel that nothing could help them and prefer to isolate themselves.

An example of a self-aggrandizing tendency would be listening to depressing songs instead of music to boost the mood. It’s also about staying at home watching nonsense on TV instead of going outside and getting some fresh air.

This trend could be summarized as follows: The worse it gets, the deeper we get. So instead of wanting to get out of it, we seem to prefer punishing ourselves for something.

Source: Heimpel, et al., Do people with low self-esteem really want to feel better? Self-esteem differences in motivation to repair negative moods, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002

Worrying too much about social expectations

Another symptom of the suffering of self-esteem would be to depend on the norms and codes of the social groups concerning one’s physical appearance, fashion, the way of expressing oneself, material goods, or the implicit rules of good manners.

This dependency could be defined as always thinking it’s unacceptable to do something. For example, calling people during mealtime, asking a vendor for a discount, saying no, asking for help, saying you don’t know, etc.

It is essential to know that social codes vary according to time and culture. For example, in the past, people with low self-esteem were concerned with being respectable and decent.

Today, people with low self-esteem submit to other dictates: for example, they want to look young and have a dream body that conforms, i.e., skinny, thin, tanned (or pale depending on the culture), and without wrinkles.

Becoming self-obsessed

Another symptom: is being obsessed with oneself. Indeed, when a concern haunts us and is not solved, questions about oneself and one’s image and social acceptability can arise. These can then start to take an obsessive, heavy, or excessive place in our minds.

Our image and our social self become a concern for ourselves.

Finding it difficult to ask for help

Paradoxically, people with high self-esteem are more likely to ask for help from others. Indeed, these people do not feel devalued for having to do it because it seems that it is normal to help each other between humans.

People with low self-esteem behaviors find it difficult to ask for help for fear of being judged or rejected by others.

However, asking for help, especially at a difficult time in our lives, can block the invasion of dark thoughts and the desire to destroy oneself or to worsen one’s condition.

On the other hand, asking for help can take your mind off a complicated situation (without taking away any sadness). Still, feeling listened to and supported can boost your self-esteem to feel better about yourself.

Tendency toward negativity

We tend to put people down, to see only the bad sides, the pettiness, the dark, or sad things.

Among the objectives, more or less conscious of this strategy, one does not want to be the only one to be miserable.

Sometimes this tendency tries to find a justification and a cover in reason:

“I don’t get it.”

Intolerance to anything that challenges our values and certainties is sensitive to variations in self-esteem. Indeed, the more we doubt ourselves, the less we will support those who make us doubt, the naysayers, the strangers, and those who do not have the same opinion or life.

Pretending to be strong, weak, indifferent

To do this, one could call upon various social lies, most often by omission. For example, one leaves a favorable doubt about education, job, level of success, culture, etc.

It is also the trap of pretense from which one cannot escape. For example, suppose you once implied that you liked chocolate. In that case, people will continue to offer you chocolate, and you will have to continue to eat it and pretend to like it.

Pretending is like having a parallel life on the side. This is often underpinned by the quest to achieve maximum compliance.

Indeed, we ensure that we are accepted by trying to conform as much as possible to other people’s desires to see us as strong or weak. For example, one will tend to hide behind a social character, which one interposes between oneself and others.

But this character will prevent us from checking whether “the real thing” would be accepted or not. Indeed, by pretending, one will never know what could happen if the person really remains himself.

Lying sometimes goes to the end and even to the worst. There have been cases of people who, at first glance, looked happy and smiling and who, in the end, committed suicide. Often, these people are consumed by fears, doubts, and anxieties and do not tell anyone about them.

Pretending to be someone else takes a lot of effort to put on a show, to be competent and popular.

Negative emotions are excessive in frequency, intensity, duration, and impact

Low self-esteem can lead you to be overly emotional in your negative emotions, such as shame, anger, worry, sadness, or envy.

These emotions can be excessive in their frequency, intensity, duration, behavioral and relational repercussions, and the daily damage they cause.

Often the frequency of conflicts and tensions is with those around the individual. These conflicts can be out in the open or hidden: anger, disputes, resentments, etc.

When you have self-esteem issues, it often makes people “complicated.” Indeed, people might think that with this type of person, everything becomes more complicated and that avoiding them would be better.

Problems with questioning yourself

For people with low self-esteem, questioning themselves may be permanent and painful. In contrast, it may be difficult or impossible for people with high self-esteem.

Those with high self-esteem prefer to deny responsibility, look the other way, or “move on” instead of stopping to question their own values and certainty.

But how far can self-esteem problems go?

Self-esteem disorders can be great aggravators of all forms of difficulties.

Indeed, they are a risk factor when combined with:

  • Psychological illnesses such as depression, anxiety, phobias, etc.
  • Problems of self-control in daily life such as dieting, quitting smoking, succeeding in school and other challenging assignments, etc.

These problems block personal development and cause individuals to see their difficulties repeated without progressing.

Symptoms of low self-esteem: Conclusion

It is normal to have ups and downs in our relationship with ourselves. These variations in self-esteem are legitimate and valuable.

Two factors can raise or lower our self-esteem: social recognition and the feeling of personal effectiveness.

Having low self-esteem can cause symptoms of suffering in a person. However, the manifestations of suffering from low self-esteem are normal as long as they remain occasional.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More