Self-esteem issues can come from a whole host of places.
Do you feel like your self-esteem is fragile, but you can’t seem to understand why?
These 10 reasons might help you get clarity.
1) You struggled at school
You’ll notice a theme with issues surrounding self-esteem: the root cause can often be traced back to childhood.
One reason for the fragility of your self-esteem might be because you struggled at school.
Perhaps being academic didn’t come naturally and you found school difficult.
Maybe you were embarrassed that you struggled, while other people found the topics you were studying easy.
If this was so, it could have planted a seed that you’re not good enough.
Even worse, that you’re incapable.
Now, because we’re so impressionable in our formative years, this memory may have carried with you into your adult life.
Not feeling good enough might crop up when you least expect it – and when you think you’re feeling good in yourself and where you’re at in life.
For example, it might happen in the workplace when you make a mistake.
You might grapple with the feelings of imposter syndrome, where you feel like you don’t belong in the room with your colleagues.
Your mind might gravitate to thoughts that you aren’t deserving of your role.
Don’t discredit the fact your childhood impressions might be affecting your beliefs about yourself today.
2) You have disapproving or disempowering parents
I wasn’t lying when I said self-esteem is often rooted in childhood.
A big possibility for why someone has fragile self-esteem is because they grew up with a disapproving or disempowering parent, who knocked them down.
It could have been one time or regularly; they could have made small or significant comments.
For example, a parent could have said something as simple as they didn’t like the way their child was dressing, or they could have said that they’ll never amount to anything.
A simple, flippant comment said in the heat of the moment could linger for decades.
My mum was told that she was nothing special by her mum, and she always allowed herself to be second best.
Because of the comment made to her as a child, she didn’t think she was worthy of the success she achieved in the corporate world.
She always felt like she didn’t deserve to be there because she believed she was a nobody. It was what her mum had sadly told her.
3) Your beliefs about yourself
Our belief systems shape everything.
Now, as I’ve outlined, our belief systems have likely been shaped by our parents – but we also pick up beliefs about ourselves and the type of person we are as we go through life.
Think about it: do you categorize yourself against people? As in, do you look to other people to help you define your position in the world?
For example, do you think you’re a shy and reserved person, or do you think you’re an outgoing and life-and-soul-of-the-party kind of person – based on how others are?
Do you think you’re someone who has good luck or has been dealt an unfortunate hand of cards?
If you tell yourself that you’re a reserved person, who always loses out on opportunities, then this will be your reality!
Your self-esteem will feel fragile if you believe negative, limiting things about yourself.
Don’t allow yourself to dwell in this place of negativity – it will only contribute to making your esteem feel fragile.
4) You spend too much time on social media
Everyone knows that social media is a source of comparison.
Comparison is too easy on social media, and it could be contributing to your self-esteem feeling fragile.
Even if you think you’re in a good place with how you feel about yourself, social media can knock you back and make you feel rubbish about yourself.
One scroll might leave you feeling like your wardrobe isn’t good enough, your living space isn’t up to scratch or that your partner isn’t as good as someone else’s.
I know this to be true for me. I suddenly find myself thinking my life is rubbish in comparison to the next person – when, truth be told, I felt fine just minutes before.
Social media has a way of warping things and making you feel bad.
What’s more, the more time you spend on it, the greater the chance you have of damaging your self-esteem.
Seeing someone else’s supposedly ‘perfect’ life doesn’t do positive things to our self-esteem.
It makes us feel ‘less than’ enough as the green-eyed monster comes out.
Simply put: social media can cause your mind to spiral into a place of feeling bad about yourself in an instant – so don’t sink your precious time into it.
5) You’re trying to reach a beauty standard
Going hand-in-hand with comparison is trying to reach an unattainable beauty standard.
There’s a shift taking place at the moment in the media, where more real images are being favored, but many images we’re still fed are not a realistic standard.
Think airbrushed photos chosen from hundreds of shots.
It’s like this with influencers on social media.
Just take the Kardashian family as an example. They couldn’t use Photoshop anymore if they tried – whether it’s with the goal of creating a bigger thigh gap, plumping up their lips or smoothing out their skin.
It sends out such a bad message to their millions of impressionable followers and negatively affects their self-esteem.
What’s worse, Bella Hadid, one of the world’s biggest supermodels, has famously had loads of surgery – including changing her nose, cheekbones and lips. I just think: what sort of message does that send out?
By celebrating Bella’s ‘beauty’ on this scale, the message is that if you have enough surgery, you might have a chance at being a top supermodel.
Seeing photos of Bella Hadid, and other photoshopped and surgery-obsessed people, does nothing but harm our self-esteem. It can leave us pondering on the fact these are the most celebrated people for their beauty.
It can also send us down the rabbithole of wondering why we don’t look like that and considering what we need to do or change to look like that. It might cause some people to go and get surgery so they can look ‘better’.
You’re not alone if you feel like your self-esteem has been damaged from these images.
Trying to reach an unattainable beauty standard will keep you in a loop of feeling bad about yourself – because it’s, well, unattainable.
6) You’re setting unrealistic goals
Aside from the pressures you might feel from social media, another source of pressure might come from deep within yourself.
Setting unrealistic goals is a possible contributor to a low sense of self-worth.
There is a chance the pressure you’re piling on yourself to meet certain goals is negatively affecting your esteem.
Stop and ask yourself what your relationship is like with goal setting.
If you find yourself setting large, abstract goals and continuing to miss them, it’s going to have a knock-on effect on your self-esteem.
You’re likely going to think that you’re no good at sticking to what you say you want to do and, frankly, feeling like a failure.
So, what can you do if this is you?
You can avoid having your self-esteem take a battering by setting achievable goals.
This way you can celebrate wins as you go.
Try using a SMART metric; this means your goals are broken down to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Rather than thinking, for example, you’re going to master karate and then thinking you’re a failure because you’re yet to, break it down into a specific goal.
Using the framework, you could think: I’m going to memorize a routine in a couple of weeks.
You could then think: I’m going to progress to the next level in six months’ time.
This allows you to celebrate your wins along the way.
Ultimately, when it comes to goal setting, it’s about being realistic and setting small goals along the way to the end destination.
7) You’re too much of a perfectionist
The theme of unattainable standards comes up a lot with self-esteem.
Your esteem could feel fragile because you’re too much of a perfectionist, in various areas of your life.
This could be around your work, how your relationship is, how your home is, how your body is and so on. The list could quite literally go on forever!
This one resonates with me.
I’ve found myself highlighting my flaws to let my partner – just to let him know that I’ll be working on them and changing them. He literally rolls his eyes every time and says: “what are you talking about, you’re great as you are.”
I’ve let him know that I don’t like my hair but I’ll be changing it, that my skin is dry but I’ll be getting a new moisturizer and that I don’t like my clothes but I’ll be changing them.
I wanted to let him that I was making improvements that I myself saw as flaws.
I’ve made such a point of letting him know that I’ll be making improvements! But from his perspective, it feels like such unnecessary information because he’s happy with me just the way I am.
My perfectionism has caused my self-esteem to feel lower than it needs to be.
Now, you might have experienced something similar and carried these feelings through to your relationship?
We all have the potential to pick up toxic habits that carry through to our relationships, and we can find ourselves blaming our partners for things they haven’t done.
We can even blame them for making us feel insecure!
I came to realize this through the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê.
After watching his free video on love and intimacy, it became clear that I was constantly seeking validation from my partner, and that it was me highlighting unnecessary issues because of my low self-esteem.
What’s more, as a result of watching the video, it dawned on me that true love goes beyond the superficial things, like how your skin and hair look.
It was a game-changer and I can’t recommend watching it enough;
8) You’ve lost a loved one
It’s said that stress and difficult life events have the potential to negatively impact your self-esteem.
I have a friend whose mum tragically passed away from an illness, and she changed afterwards.
She started partying and losing herself in many ways to cope with the loss; she stopped respecting herself.
Not only that but she retreated into herself, and didn’t feel good about herself or the world anymore.
It affected her entire outlook, including how she engaged with people.
At the time, I thought she just didn’t care about me as a friend – but it went way beyond this.
She generally just had a negative outlook on her own worth or any purpose.
Anyone who met her at that time would’ve just thought she was a miserable person with a bad outlook, however, having been her friend for some time I was able to see the changes. She wasn’t like this before.
Simply, she changed as a result of that loss. In all honesty, things haven’t been the same for her since.
9) Because your parents divorced
The divorce of your parents – whether you are 5, 15 or 35 – will have an effect on you in some capacity.
Often, we don’t acknowledge how much things actually impact us, however, divorce is one of these things.
It causes us to lose our footing as our family as we know it divides.
Emotions of anger, upset, and grief rise to the surface.
Of course, we have to remember that our parents are just people – and people can have to make difficult decisions because it’s right for them – but it still doesn’t take away from the hurt it creates.
When we go through hurt, it can affect our self-esteem negatively.
To try and deal with the situation, we might turn to various coping mechanisms.
Now, these might differ depending on our age – but might include everything from acting out and withdrawing from the world to substance abuse.
So, if your parents are divorced, don’t underestimate how much of an effect it might have had on you and how it could’ve played into your esteem being impacted.
10) You might just be prone to negative thinking
This point might sound really obvious, but have you ever stopped to think: am I just being more negative than I need to be?
For example, rather than looking in the mirror and thinking you look good, do you always try to find faults?
Some people are prone to negative thinking, which might be a result of pessimism they grew up around.
If your family were glass-half-empty kind of people, instead of glass-half-full, then it almost certainly will have imprinted on you and how you navigate the world.
But negative thinking doesn’t have to be your default forever.
If you want to start experiencing the world differently, it starts with a conscious decision.
Decide that you want to find the beauty in life and situations, and you’ll start to dial into that frequency.
Of course, it might take some time if your default has always been negative thinking – but it’s a headspace you can get to with daily practice.
It’s just like Will Smith famously said: “just decide; what it’s gonna be, who you’re gonna be and how you’re gonna do it, and then from that point, the universe will get out of your way.”