Low-Self Esteem a new perspective.
An Article by Peter Hawes, Voices Inc president and founder and key figure in the hearing voices movement Australia!
Based on a theory developed by Peter Hawes with input from Tori Duncombe
Low self esteem is usually depicted by one who does not believe either in themselves or there abilities, In most cases both.
People with low self esteem will usually not try to accomplish tasks as they believe they will fail or be unable to complete the task..
In the case they do accomplish a task successfully they will focus on how they could have done it better, rather then acknowledge there success at completion of the task at hand.
They will also make negative statements about themselves or there abilities, physical traits and or character traits.
Classic example statements include:
I'm so stupid!
I'm so fat!
I wish I could do that but I'm dumb!
There's no point me trying cause I won't be able to do it!
I guess i'm just a soft touch so people use me but I guess that s what I deserve.
Often these statements are made externally by voicing them or internally by self talk.
People with low self esteem usually end up living lifestyles they hate, in a job they hate and either no friends or not very good friends who take advantage of them.
Please note all of the above symptoms are not the case with all people with low self esteem but I think we can all agree that most people with low self esteem posses one or two if not all of these traits in there behaviour.
Often low self esteem comes from such events in life as:
-Being emotionally abused
-Being neglected in a family or close interpersonal relationship
-Not having ones emotional needs met.
-A break up with a romantic partner
-Loss of a friendship
-Life just not going according to plan
-Loss of job
But what’s the point of low self esteem and why does it happen?
I would like to propose my theory that low self esteem is one of the minds coping mechanisms.
A coping mechanism designed to protect rather then destroy.
A destructive coping mechanism albeit, But like self harm, Gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction and sex addiction still a coping mechanism.
Now yes any destructive coping mechanism should be slowly replaced with a more constructive one and I am in no way saying that low self esteem is a good thing an we should all have it.
What I am putting out there is a deeper understanding of why the mind creates such a seemingly unhealthy belief system about the individual.
Only through understanding our experiences can we begin to move past them.
So allow me to pain a few pictures for you all to gain an understanding of what I am talking about.
The first is of a young girl in a family of 5. Consisting of a father, a mother and 2 siblings, be they brothers or sister is irrelevant.
This girl is a middle child and as she grows up with her siblings she finds herself the odd one out and is teased by her brother and sister because she's into a different t.v show. They call her names like stupid and and dummy.
The parents per-ocupied with work and other adult commitments don't notice this or perhaps they just put it down to normal childhood behavior, whatever the reason they make no effort to correct this or reassure the young girl that she is not stupid or a dummy.
Not only is the child not reassured and her emotional needs left unmet but the other two are not held accountable for there actions.
If anything the parents inaction unintentionally affirms the belief in the young girls still developing identity of her self image.
Fast forward to high school and the young girl now a teen finds herself a victim of playground bullying.
Over the next 2 years she is taunted and called multiple names like:
All of this obviously untrue and is just a case of bully's being little shits to be quiet frank.
Because it's untrue and an attack on the core beliefs system of the girls self image, It hurts and the now teenage girl spends a lot of time crying herself to sleep or crying in the girls toilets at school constantly thinking what did I do to deserve this treatment? Why are they so mean to me?
Can't you just feel this young girls pain I know I can and this is only a hypothetical scenario yet one we all know happens far to often in high school.
My theory is that those insults hurt so much because they are an attack on her identity and the emotional pain eventually becomes unbearable.
The minds response to this is to employ a coping mechanism that adapts to the environment the young girls is in and thus her belief system changes so that she believes those insults about herself.
For the simple fact that if it's true it hurts less for how can it hurt if there telling her something she already knows to be true.
The girl now obviously now has low self esteem.
But given her environment you can see how her mind adapted for survival of her high school years.
She thereby subconsciously looks for ways to affirm this belief system thereby allowing her to avoid the emotional pain by keeping this new found belief system.
She walks past and overhears a conversation where someone makes a comment “Well that was a stupid idea”
She then butts in by saying did one of you call me?
Puzzled the two pause there conversation and question this.
She explains she heard the word stupid and assumed they were talking to her.
Everyone laughs including the girl.
But the truth is subconsciously she is desperately searching for any situation where it can affirm that low self esteem to protect her from the emotional torment she endured in high school.
Often this can lead to behavior where one avoids and chance at success or even self sabotages subconsciously when things are going well.
The second picture I would like to paint is of a middle aged man who has dedicated 10 years working for a company.
He loves his job and loves the people he works with.
One day his company is cutting staff and he is given notice and let go.
He upset lightly by this questions why being such a hard worker he was among the first to be let go,
Then he assumes it was just the luck of the draw and proceeds to energetically look for another job.
But as he puts in resume after resume and goes for interview after interview he is greeted by the same replies.
Over qualified, under-qualified, your not the right match for this job, Or in some cases no reply at all.
There's just not much work at the moment.
After each rejection the man is disheartened.
That disappointment hurts a lot and when it happens often enough his subconscious quickly adapts changing his belief system to survive the environment he is in.
Then his belief about why he was let go from his old job becomes that he must have stuffed it up somewhere.
He begins looking back and find tasks he have completed better in his old job and uses these to confirm his new found belief.
He still applies for new jobs but has lost his enthusiasm believing he has failed a job interview before he even goes for it.
-why would anyone hire me?
-I will just stuff up this job like the last one
-There's no point even applying for jobs any-more
-I know I wouldn't hire me.
On the off chance he does get a job he self sabotages it by not applying himself and then thinking well that was bound to happen anyway, I always stuff it up.
You can plainly see once again how his mind adapted and changed belief systems to adapt to the environment he was in when looking for a job and getting rejected time and time again, As it was far less painful to believe he was not a good worker then to bear the pain of disappointment and rejection time and time again.
The third picture I would like to paint is of a young teenage girl say 18, who falls in love with a like minded young boy.
They spent 2 years happily in love, one night at a restaurant he proposes and she ecstatically says yes and the 2 begin planing there future together.
Deciding they will need more income to make all there dreams come true, The young man takes a job full time and begins saving.
But as time goes on the man's hours get longer and he starts working overtime.
Then the fights and arguments start.
One day after a particularly intense argument the night before the mans fiancee decides to make up for it by surprising the man with a picnic lunch.
Excitedly she packs the basket with some lovingly made sandwiches and concludes the arguments recently have had a lot to do with lack of time together and maybe they can a picnic twice week in the mans lunch hour, To get some more us time she thinks.
So off to see her husband to be she goes .
She gets to his building at the appropriate hour and heads up the stairs to his office.
At the door of his office she pauses to brush her hair and checks her make up in her compact mirror thinking got to look the best for him she thinks.
She then puts her hand on the door handle , opens the door with a smile on her face and yells surprise honey I packed a picnic lunch sorry about last.........
She is stopped aghast by the sight of her fiance buckling up his pants and a receptionist from downstairs buttoning up her dress.
She asks two questions the first.
How Long? Six months he says.
Why she asks, He reply s by saying I guess we just fell out of love.
As she turns and walks away she replys under her breath, one of us did.
For she was still very much in love with the young man and just thought they were going through a rough patch.
She spends a month crying her eyes out as her heart is broken and bleeding at the loss and betrayal of her fiance.
Her mind rather then submit her to this pain of a broken heart for any longer adapts to the situation she is in, As she begins to believe it was her fault.
She questions her psychical appearance and finds a fault, Believing her legs are too fat or something like that.
Then she looks back at her actions in the relationship and finds things she could have done better or ways she could have been more supportive, Etc, Etc, Etc.
Her belief rapidly changes to that she stuffed up the relationship because she is a stupid fat bitch that no one could ever love. (Which as we know is untrue her fiance is just a cheating dog)
But you can once again see how her mind adapted for survival as there was too much pain to bear from the break up.
It was easier to believe it was her fault.
When any of our beliefs are challenged by others it can hurt.
But when ant of our beliefs are challenged it can hurt.
But when our core beliefs of our identity are challenged by someone’s words or actions, The pain can be excruciating.
Rather then be in that pain our mind geared for survival adapts to the situation by confirming to the belief system to eradicate the pain.
So you can see how low self esteem is a coping mechanism to bad circumstances or a bad situation.
In all 3 stories you can now see how these circumstances created low self esteem in each of these individuals.
Now if you relate the theory to another with low self esteem life experiences you can begin to understand the basis of the theory that low self esteem is a coping mechanism to emotional pain.
Now while this article was only to give an understanding of self esteem and why the mind employees it, I would like to add some ways of how to get past it.
CBT Cognitive behavioral therapy works well mood gym online has some good CBT for free. https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome
Hang round people that make you feel good about yourself and don't judge you and don't hang round people that do the opposite.
Write some goals down and start achieving them start small steps don't set yourself up the fail.
Find a good counselor to help your work through some of the past life experiences
Believe in yourself
Understand why you feel that way.
Write your feelings and thoughts down keeping a journal at least your getting the suppressed emotions out of your system.
Avoid circumstances where you will reaffirm this low self esteem belief about yourself.
I wish you the best of luck and please keep in mind life isn't about what you can and cant do or the amount of times you fail as my belief is that mistakes are the best thing in the world as we learn from them.
Quotes from working through my own shit
Life's a journey and sometimes we just have to change the directions ~ Peter Hawes
Sometimes we have to fall apart to rebuild without the cracks ~ Peter Hawes
There's no problems that can't be fixed just solutions we haven’t found yet ~ Peter Hawes