Self-esteem is considered one of the most central concepts in psychology and while different schools of thought may differ on theories and interventions, the one tenet they all agree on to a lesser or greater degree is that having positive self-esteem is critical to an individual’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
As psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, widely regarded as the father of the self-esteem movement, observes in his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: “Apart from disturbance whose roots are biological, I cannot think of a single psychological problem—from anxiety and depression, to underachievement at school or at work, to fear of intimacy, happiness, or success, to alcohol or drug abuse…that is not traceable, at least in part, to the problem of deficient self-esteem. Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves.”
While volumes can and have been written about self esteem, low self esteem can simply be defined as having a poor self image and a belief that we are ‘not good enough’, also referred to in common parlance as ‘inferiority complex’ a term coined by psychologist Alfred Adler, the founder of the School of Individual Psychology.
Self Esteem is subjective in nature and in purely conceptual terms can be understood to refer to the difference between one’s perceived self image and one’s ideal self image. The greater the gap in our estimation based on our internal metrics, the lower our self esteem and vice versa.
Our self esteem has a profound effect on our thinking, emotions, happiness, desires, values, and achievements. Given the all pervasive impact of self esteem on our mental health and emotional well being we need to be very vigilant of anything that robs us of our sense of self worth including the following habits or traits considered ‘self esteem robbers’:
Comparing With Others
Comparing with others undermines one’s intrinsic sense of self worth. Putting yourself down i.e. finding yourself to be lacking by comparing yourself unfavourably with others is a losing battle which takes you down a negative spiral and is a fast track to unhappiness, leaving you feeling less and small.
Being Self Critical
There is a marked difference between failing at something and being a failure as a person. Negative self labelling has a detrimental effect on one’s sense of self, draining our energy and confidence. People who criticize themselves harshly are more likely to become depressed and anxious as a result of their constantly reinforcing negative self beliefs.
Questioning Your Worth
We all doubt our ability in certain areas of our lives, but a deep-rooted sense of worthlessness comes from believing that somehow we are not as valuable as others. This is a self defeating habit that constantly questions what we are deserving of in life limiting our ability to achieve to our full potential.
Pursuit For Perfectionism
Maladaptive Perfectionism i.e. having unrealistic standards as opposed to adaptive perfectionism i.e. having high standards leaves you trapped in a vicious cycle of striving to meet unrealistic personal standards only to find yourself falling short, labelling yourself as lacking. It is a no-go zone as it can be positively destructive to your sense of self worth leaving you with a constant feeling of being a failure.
These self esteem robbing habits can be attributed overtly or covertly to what is referred to as the ‘inner critic’, the self critical voice in our head that needs to be silenced with powerful rebuttals in the form of positive affirmations to combat the constant self disparaging. Awareness is the first step in breaking these self defeating habits being ever vigilant of the impact they are having on our psyche.