By Stephanie Osuba
We have all felt, in one way or another, like we weren’t good enough or even felt embarrassed after making a mistake at work. This is healthy in that we are expressing sadness or just reflecting on a situation that could have been handled differently, but we move on and eventually feel valued and confident again. However, for some, that feeling of shame and guilt never goes away. Some believe they are inherently flawed, worthless, and inferior to everyone else. These negative emotions and lack of self-esteem are largely rooted in repeated childhood and adolescence trauma that is often left unprocessed. Internalization of this emotional abuse leads to a conditioning of sort, usually by the primary caregiver, that the negative emotions constantly felt reflect who one is as a person. This person comes to genuinely believe that he or she is a bad person, unlovable, never good enough, and deserves to be treated with disrespect.
The constant shame is also accompanied by a constant feeling of guilt. Everything is his or her fault, regardless of the context. There is a sense of unjust responsibility for other people’s emotions and the outcome of all situations. Its no wonder why low self-esteem can manifest itself in anxiety, self-harm or poor self-care, or on the other extreme, narcissism and antisocial tendencies. Here are some behaviors that can be a manifestation of low self-esteem:
- Lack of healthy self-love: poor self-care, self-harm, lack of empathy, and inadequate social skills
- Emptiness: loneliness, lack of motivation, and finding distractions from emotions
- Perfectionism: this is often a behavior that manifests as adults because of the unrealistic standards these children were held to by their parents and were punished for not meeting
- Narcissism: grandiose fantasies of who they want others to perceive them to be; even if they do succeed however, this protective personality doesn’t numb the negative emotions they truly feel.
- Unhealthy relationships: people with low self-esteem are incapable of building and maintaining a relationship with others, largely because they don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like. Both parties are usually extremely dependent.
- Susceptibility to manipulation: the constant self-doubt, shame and guilt make it too easy to bend a person with low self-esteem to an experienced manipulator’s will.
Source: Cikanavicius, D. (2018, September 03). A Brief Guide to Unprocessed Childhood Toxic Shame. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-self/2018/09/childhood-toxic-shame/
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-esteem, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/