Low self-esteem is a dangerous trait that can affect multiple areas of your life in surprisingly powerful ways. It can jeopardize your wellbeing on a deeper level, too, which gets even worse if you have diagnosed mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression.
Depression and poor self-esteem form a deadly cycle, according to a study published in the Journal, Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy. The lower your self-esteem, the more depressed you get, and the more depressed you get, the lower your self-esteem. It’s far from an ideal way to live! But how does it happen, and how can you get out of that downward spiral?
4 Ways Low Self-Esteem Worsens Depression
Here are four ways low self-esteem worsens depression and how to fix it in three suggestions.
Low self-esteem often drives you to become very perfectionistic, requiring self-destructive punishment levels for an inability to meet impossible standards—your self-worth hinges on being able to complete things to an arbitrary level of satisfaction.
When you continually fail to meet your own goals, it makes sense that you would feel more depressed. Of course, these failures are fuelled by poor self-image, making it all even more depressing. You’ll never feel good enough, which makes you more of a perfectionist, making you “fail” once more… it’s a destructive cycle to be caught in. Here are some ways that this can come into effect:
· You Panic Over Tiny Details
The human brain cannot focus on every single tiny detail at once. It is inherently flawed and isn’t meant to be like a robot scanner. There’s no way for you to get every single minuscule thing completely accurate, and trying to do so will inevitably fail and, following that, an increase in depression.
· Your Expectations Are Unrealistic
There’s a reason that goal-setting requires achievable goals to achieve positive results. If your expectations are sky-high, your self-esteem will drop as you fail to meet each milestone. You’ll begin to feel like your efforts are hopeless and worthless, which is a symptom of severe depression.
· You Equate Failure With Being A Failure
It’s normal to fail, but it doesn’t make you a failure. Unfortunately, having low self-esteem means that this is how your brain tends to think. It’s easy to see how this can link to depression. Thinking you’re just a failure is sure to do harmful things to your head.
2. You Define Yourself By Others’ Perceptions Of You
One of the most common low self-esteem symptoms is feeling like you have to please others so that they like, love, and respect you. As a result, many people-pleasers end up feeling aggrieved and used. To learn how to set personal boundaries, try the following tips:
Low self-esteem can make you a people-pleaser. You define your worth by how others look at you. This means that you develop unhealthy attachments with others that can feel smothering, overwhelming, or even frightening to the people around you.
When your only source of positive thinking comes from others, depression is a certainty. No one will give you constant reassurance, and people will notice your desperation, so you won’t find the self-worth you seek from others anywhere. Your self-esteem will dip quickly as no one fills your need for validation, which contributes to depression. Ask yourself, do you do the following?
· You Can’t Say No
Saying “no” to others means having to let them down or refuse to gain their favor, so you feel constantly pressured to say “yes.” You may even agree to stretch yourself too thin between commitments sheerly because you hope those you help will like you more.
· You Don’t Have Boundaries
Not only do you not respect other people’s boundaries, but you also don’t have any yourself. You’ll let people walk all over you as you encroach on their personal space. It’s a toxic situation all around.
· You Never Put Yourself First
A little selfishness can be a positive thing, but you’d be reluctant to put yourself first, even for a second. You’ll do what you can to help other people, even if it means jeopardizing yourself every day.
3. You Hate Yourself
Low self-esteem means disliking who you are, sometimes to an extreme level of loathing. It’s pretty apparent how this could worsen depression. Self-hatred can involve frustration, anger, harshness, resentment, a lack of forgiveness towards yourself, and more. All of these factors make you dislike your life, even more, worsening depression. Here are some key features to look out for:
· Your Internal Dialogue Leans Negative
That voice inside your head constantly tells you that you’re not good enough, insulting you and hitting you where it hurts. It may have even become so much a part of yourself that it happens automatically, and you accept it without thinking. When your default processing is negative, depression is an obvious side-effect.
· You Believe Every Negative Thing That Pops Into Your Head
Many people get negative thoughts, but those who have high self-esteem challenge those thoughts with positive thinking. If you have low self-esteem, that means you believe that negativity because it makes sense to you. You genuinely think that way of yourself, and once again, negativity is prime fodder for depression.
· You Beat Yourself Up Over Mistakes
Making mistakes is a part of life, but to you, it’s like the end of the world. You continually resent yourself and feel shame and guilt for mistakes you’ve made. Instead of learning from them, you wallow in them, which makes you feel more depressed.
4. You Don’t Give Yourself Enough Credit
Low self-esteem usually means you don’t see how well you’re doing. You constantly think poorly of yourself and never reward yourself or pat yourself on the back. This worsens depression because you wind up never being enough for even yourself, perpetuating that numb feeling of hopelessness so common in mood disorders.
Here are some examples of ways you may not be giving yourself enough credit:
· You Attribute Success To Luck
Whenever you do well in something, you brush off your part and insist it was all luck. Even when you fought as hard as you could to make things work out, you ignore your efforts and insist that someone like you could have never done that well – even though you very obviously did!
· You Refuse To Accept Compliments
Accepting compliments gracefully is basic decency, but it’s something you struggle to do. Whenever someone compliments you, you find yourself disbelieving them or even wondering if you’ve tricked them into liking you. It’s a paradox where you want external validation but then deny its existence, which messes with your head and depressive state.
· You Have Poor Body Image
You think you look bad, even when others say you don’t. You rarely, if ever, have moments where you like aspects of your appearance. Hating your skin is sure to make you depressed, as you’re essentially saying that you hate your entire life’s vessel.
1. Alter The Narrative
Low self-esteem requires a negative narrative where you create bad tales about yourself that aren’t rooted in reality. You are blind to your strengths, you magnify your flaws, and you find things to hate that aren’t there.
Changing the narrative means pausing whenever these thoughts come up. Stop those processes and ask yourself if your thoughts are realistic. Are the stories you’re telling to yourself true? If not, then where do they come from?
Once you’ve noticed these negative thoughts, observe them and how they transform into other ones. You’ll slowly begin to understand where your worst beliefs come from. Then, you can change the narrative. After a certain point, stop these thoughts and correct them. For example:
- Instead of: “I’m such an awful person! I can’t believe I screwed that up like I always do!”
- Say: “People make mistakes, and I’m no exception. With this error, I’ve learned something new, and I can prevent this from happening again.”
- Instead of: “I’m so lazy.”
- Say: “I deserve to rest and recuperate after a long day,” or “I dislike this trait of myself, but I can change it by doing the following steps.”
- Instead of: “They all probably hate me so much for being such a weirdo.”
- Say: “My perceptions of other people’s thoughts aren’t likely to be accurate. I can clear the air with the people I’m concerned about via clear, direct communication, which should help us find a compromise or an accurate explanation.”
2. Find Your Strengths
Even if you don’t believe it, there are things you’re good at in life, just as there are things you’re bad at. If you think you’re bad at everything, it’s because you haven’t found your strengths.
Instead of being adept in similar ways to others, find ways to flex your talents. Sure, you may not be as outgoing and socially intelligent as your colleagues, but you are a hard worker who tends to take the initiative to fix things.
It’s all about perspective. Finding your strengths and doing well in them will remind you that you are good at some things. Better yet, if your strengths lie in a fun talent, you can turn it into a hobby that will fill your time, giving you a way to manage your depression healthily and positively.
3. Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Your comfort zone is, well, comfortable! But it’s also limiting. For those with poor self-esteem, staying inside a comfort zone is an inherently negative thing because it prevents you from learning more about yourself and your capabilities.
Sure, it’s cozy to stay within your bubble. But by being brave, using positive thinking, and stepping out of that circle, you’ll realize that you’re more than equipped to tackle the unknown. Besides, it gives you something to occupy yourself with so you’re less focused on mental disorders like depression, so that’s a win-win!
With low self-esteem, you become your own worst enemy. Your mood dips, your symptoms of mental disorders worsen, and you feel awful and depressed more often. Learning to improve self-esteem and fix negative self-perception is crucial in depression treatment, recovery, and management.