Self-esteem is essential for a healthy, happy life. It is the subjective self-evaluation of our own worth and affects how we perceive the world around us and how we behave. As parents, we know how important it is to help build our children’s self-esteem, but our efforts aren’t always successful. Make sure you are aware of signs that could indicate low self-esteem in your child(ren). When you spot one of more of these symptoms, you can act fast and deal with it before it becomes a larger problem. Watch for one or more of these 8 signs of low self-esteem.
I am not a psychologist or therapist. I’m a mom of 4 and a guardian to one sweet boy who has very low self-esteem. In trying to help him, I have consulted with several specialists to help restore his self-esteem. I’ve seen most of these signs firsthand. I share this information with you as a mom with some experience dealing with the issue trying to help other parents, but not from knowledge as an expert. If you believe your child is suffering from severe low self-esteem, I urge you to consult a professional since that is beyond the scope of the information I am sharing below.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
As you read through these symptoms, you will probably recognize many of them from your own experience with periods of low self-esteem. No one’s self-esteem is unscathed through life. Occasional self-doubt is a natural part of life’s ups and downs. When you see one or more of these symptoms in your child, keep that in mind and don’t panic. If the signs persist despite your efforts, then it might be time to get outside help.
Shame is one of the main symptoms of low self-esteem. Feeling shameful erodes self-esteem and strips away pride in oneself. Children who feel shame will avoid eye contact and adopt body posturing to appear smaller (e.g. hunched shoulders).
The best way to counteract shame is to deal with problems and obstacles as soon as they occur to prevent shame from taking over. Talk to your child and find out what areas of life are overwhelming or where he or she is falling short. If it’s school, encourage your child to do homework as soon as school is over and be available to answer questions or help develop study skills. If your child feels like he isn’t as athletic as his peers, do fun physical activity as a family or help him find a sport that he enjoys.
Feelings of pessimism are a good indication that self-esteem may be suffering. When you don’t feel good about yourself, you have a difficult time feeling good about anything. Pessimism is easy to spot because often the child will predict or perceive a negative outcome when you and others see it much differently. If your child is constantly seeing the glass as half empty, help him or her see things from a positive perspective. If your child is upset over losing a game, point out how well she played and the improvement in her skills from the first time she played.
When our self-esteem is not intact, we have a tendency to exaggerate our lives to others. We may use over-exaggeration to make things appear more troublesome than they really are in order to get sympathy, or to oversell ourselves to superficially inflate our own confidence. Either way, it never works for long and we end up feeling worse than before the exaggeration took place. When you catch your child exaggerating, compliment him or her on a REAL (not exaggerated) accomplishment and sympathize with small, true hardships to illustrate that your child’s actual life and experiences are noteworthy and don’t need embellishment.
When we’re feeling bad about ourselves, we want to find someone else to blame. We believe that if we’re simply a victim of circumstance, not our own decisions, then there isn’t really anything wrong with us. The problem with this behavior is that it’s a lie and our subconscious knows it. Eventually, it leads to shame.
If your child is constantly blaming others for his troubles, help him see his own role in his problems. Then, help him identify changes he can make to avoid them in the future.
5. Lack of Boundaries
When a person is dealing with low self-esteem, she may allow others to use them in order to get attention of any kind. She may have difficulty saying no to anyone. This lack of boundaries brings the wrong people around, and cuts down one’s self-esteem even further. If you see that your child is being taken advantage of by friends, siblings, or peers, help her define boundaries and help her enforce them.
6. Putting Others Down
They say misery loves company and often an individual with low self-esteem will try to bring others down to their level. This is often done through putting people down verbally. If your child is constantly telling you about other people’s flaws, tell him you would rather hear positive remarks about himself and others and challenge him to think of some.
7. Social Withdrawal
When someone doesn’t value themself, they have a hard time believing that anyone else could. Whether a person feels unlovable because of outer or inner issues, they will pull away from others in order to protect themselves from any perceived threat. This has the opposite effect, and often makes a person feel lower than if they were to get out and socialize instead of dwelling on their faults.
If your child tends to pull off to a corner at a party, or hide in her room when the rest of the family is together in the living room, encourage her to at least venture closer physically. As she gets more comfortable physically being around other people, encourage her to engage verbally, even if it’s only with one or two other people. Don’t let antisocial behavior go unchecked. It’s a breeding ground for low self-esteem.
8. Physical Symptoms
Finally, low self-esteem can manifest itself in physical symptoms. These can range from fatigue to insomnia and headaches. If your child is complaining of a variety of health problems with no apparent cause, look for one or more of the other signs on this list to see if the physical problems might be related to low self-esteem. Low self-esteem erodes a person’s life in every way.