Relationships and Self Esteem

  • People with low self esteem often expect others to be critical of them, and this expectation can lead to social anxiety.
  • Often people with social anxiety avoid social situations and feel nervous when talking to people. This nervousness often interferes with the social interaction, and can cause anxious individuals to criticize themselves for being “socially awkward,” or “boring.”
  • Rejection can be particularly difficult for a person with low self esteem, and can lead to feelings of depression or other difficulties.
  • People with low self esteem may also have difficulty with intimate relationships. Abusive relationships are linked to low self esteem in both men and women.
  • Close positive relationships help protect self esteem from threatening information, such as feedback about a poor performance.

Body and Self Esteem

  • Men and women’s self esteem can impact the way they think about and treat their bodies. For men, body self esteem is often tied to their physical ability. For example, self esteem may be tied to how much a man can bench press or how athletic he is. For women, body self esteem is more often related to physical appearance.
  • Men’s and women’s perceptions of their bodies are often related to media and societal influences.
  • Media influences self-image and sets the “norm” for physical appearance. When individuals fall outside the norm, it can increase negative feelings toward self.
  • People may use food to cope with difficult feelings or negative self-esteem. However, overeating can cause people to feel even more negatively toward themselves.
  • People with low self esteem may strive to lose weight or exercise excessively in order to feel good about themselves, especially if they do not feel good in any other areas of their lives.
  • While self esteem is based on many factors, exposure to thin images in the media leads women to base their self esteem more strongly on the domains of weight and appearance, which in turn leads women to feel more dissatisfied with their bodies.
  • However, the impact of thin imagines can be weakened; particularly by challenging cultural norms and thinking about heavier women who have been successful in life. It is also effective to have peers who challenge cultural norms and allow only positive body talk within friendship groups. For example, such peers avoid saying things like “my thighs are so fat,” or “my nose is too big.”

Building Positive Self Esteem

People with low self esteem are their own toughest critics. Such individuals often say negative things to themselves, such as “I’m ugly,” “I’m a failure,” “Nobody likes me,” etc. This negative self-talk can be so automatic that the person doesn’t even recognize it! Work toward building a positive self-esteem by adopting new habits and behaviors.

  • Learn to recognize negative self-talk.
  • Challenge negative thoughts.
  • Make a list of self-affirmations.
  • Recognize cognitive distortions.
  • Imagine success.
  • Have compassion for yourself.

For some people, counseling may be needed to improve self-esteem and other important areas of life.