Growing up, you probably asked a lot of “why” questions. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why does the sun shine?
I even remember getting a book one year for my birthday entitled The Big Book Of Tell Me Why, so I must’ve been a pretty nosey child (or curious, if I want to put a positive reframe on that).
It was actually my desire understand why I did things a certain way that lead me to the field of psychology, which later became the foundation for my career as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
So it should comes as no surprise that I often find myself wondering about the answer to the question, “Why do I have low self esteem?”
Perhaps you’ve noticed you have some signs of low self esteem. Or maybe someone close to you has commented they feel like you might have low self esteem. Whatever scenario prompted your search, you’re likely wondering the answer to that same question, “Why do I have low self esteem?”
Self esteem is tricky, and as I mentioned in my previous blog post, you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly it is, but you know when you have it and when you don’t.
Why might you struggle with self esteem while your friend doesn’t?
1. Your relationship with your parents
That’s right… it’s all comes back to your mother. While today mental health professionals and lay people alike joke about Freud and the seemingly overreliance to blame our issues on our parents, how we grew up with our parents, or any caregiver for the matter, plays a huge role in our self esteem development.
Imagine if you brought your report card home from school, with straight As except for one B in a particularly tough subject. If that was all your parents noticed, you might begin to interpret their actions as the subliminal message, “You need to be perfect.”
Conversely, some children grow up in homes where negative messages from parents are more overt: “You need to do better in school.”
These messages eventually become our self talk, which eventually shapes our self esteem.
2. Social conflict
“Mini golf is a metaphor for life. [sic] Do you take it seriously? Too seriously? Do you enjoy it?” – Emily Giffin All We Ever Wanted
You’ve probably already guessed that if your parents influence your self esteem development, then parts of your childhood did too.
Think about what your social system was like growing up. Were you well liked? Bullied? Did you have a strong social support system?
This isn’t to say that individuals who have difficult social experiences as children grow up to have low self esteem. Children are incredibly resilient and can overcome a variety of obstacles. Again, it’s about the messages we created from these interactions with our peers, whether they were overt (think being told you’re ugly by a mean classmate) or covert (when no one made room for you on the school bus to sit next to them).
3. The Media
This one probably impacts our self esteem more as adolescents and adults than as children because we can begin to really hone in on those differences. “He’s better looking than I am, he goes on more dates.” Or “She’s smarter than I am, she’s in all advanced placement classes.”
Facebook, Instagram, and the rest of our current social media applications create a false sense of reality for those who use it, both the curators and the viewers.
While we might see only gorgeous pictures of our friends island vacation, we might not see the debt they’re in to take such a vacation. Or the fight they had on the airplane.
It takes lots of mental strength to view such images and remind ourselves “My life is perfect just as it is”. Or to even acknowledge that maybe we want more out of life and we’re not afraid to get it.
If you want to learn more about your personal self esteem triggers and resolve to have higher self esteem, I’d love to be your guide and companion on that journey. You can reach me at 561-331-1715 or [email protected].