What impact does low self-esteem have on our personal, social and mental health?

Having low self-esteem (LSE) can really affect many areas in life. It feeds into our self-efficacy (how well we think we can do something) and how we interpret situations, as well as our mood and social evaluations. With this in mind, let’s look at the wider impact LSE can have.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Consider this! We spend a lot of time in our heads. As people, we take time to process, evaluate and reflect on information on a daily (and nightly!) basis. Now imagine if the mind was a very negative place, full of regular self-criticisms and self-doubts. The emotional and mental impact this would likely have. It quickly becomes understandable if those with self-esteem issues also have poor mental health and wellbeing.

LSE and mental illness has what we call a ‘Bidirectional relationship’. What we mean by this is LSE can be a risk factor of mental illness, and a symptom. For example, LSE can create persistent feelings of sadness and low mood. It can trigger thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness, thus eventually leading to a depressive episode or even a diagnosis. Similarly with anxiety those with LSE focus on their limitations and weaknesses. This is a key component of anxiety, outlining how self-esteem issues can develop into feelings of anxiety, especially those charcterised by failure.

Building relationships

Our ability to initiate and build healthy relationships also requires our own boundaries and fair expectations of others and ourselves. Those with LSE may struggle to establish these boundaries. Those with low opinions of themselves may feel the need overcompensate within their social relationships. This then makes them more vulnerable to priortising the needs of other’s excessively, whilst ignoring their own. This can lead to an abusive situation whereby others take advantage. Signs of this can include the LSE individual having their troubles dismissed during conversation and others having unreasonable expectations of the amount of time and energy the individual should be willing to provide.

In this way, having a healthy self-esteem arguably helps others manage their expectations of you. The amount of time and attention you have for them isn’t assumed to be more than what is needed for a healthy relationship.

What impact does low self-esteem have on our personal, social and mental health? Brighter Life Therapy

School/ work performance

Having low self-esteem can also impact our work ethic and subsequent performance. A lack of self-belief plays into a negative outcome of what we call the ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy‘. This theorises that whatever we expect from ourselves plays into what we are able to achieve. If we expect a poor result, thoughts of hopelessness and ‘what’s the point’ begin to crop up. As a result, our expectations impact our behaviour – we delegate less time and effort into the very thing that needs it. As a result of not trying our best, a poor result is achieved, reinforcing the previous belief- ‘I am not good enough‘. This on a wider scale can really damage academic achievement. Career-wise, those with LSE may be more likely to avoid and miss out on job opportunities if feeling unable to do it well enough. As as result their career may become a little stagnant- once again feeding into their negative self-beliefs.

What impact does low self-esteem have on our personal, social and mental health? Brighter Life Therapy
A summary of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Hobbies and spare time

Having hobbies and being productive is, of course, good for you. It can boost your mood and creativity as well as help you build upon a skill that matters to you. However, having low self-esteem is synonymous with repeatedly criticsing oneself, and being pessimistic towards ones own abilities. So even in the case of hobbies, an individual with LSE may find it emotionally draining, or that it triggers low mood. This may be because very high expectations are set by themselves, whilst responding unreasonably negatively after inevitably not meeting those goals. As a way of avoiding negative emotions, the individual may avoid doing the hobby at all.

Other than our day-to-day life, low self-esteem impacts our core beliefs and self-prescribed rules of living. Read on to find out more…