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Identifying low self-esteem thoughts and behaviours

Here are some thoughts and behaviours common in people with low self-esteem. It can be useful to identify which ones resonate with you, knowing as much as we can about our low self-esteem is important because once we identify it, we can take steps to improve it.

Avoidance behaviours – Procrastinating, avoiding certain situations or people, quitting tasks part way through. These sort of behaviours often come from the belief it’s better to have not tried than to have tried and failed. People that display avoidance behaviours may do this to prevent negative thoughts and feelings about themselves being confirmed by events, situations or people.

Perfectionist behaviours – Trying to please others all the time, working excessively hard at everything you do, trying to be 100% in control all of the time, excessive competitiveness, acting angrily if mistakes are made. People with perfectionist behaviour do so because they believe they will feel better about themselves if they are perfect or that their lives will be better… of course perfectionist goals are unrealistic and unachievable which can leave you feeling useless!

Hiding behaviours - Hiding your ‘real’ self from others in some way, such as your; appearance, beliefs, likes and dislikes, characteristics, weaknesses, abilities, religion, sexual orientation. You may believe that by hiding your real self you will:

  • Please others

  • Help you fit in with others

  • Make yourself more likeable/ loveable

  • Prevent rejection/ humiliation/ embarrassment/ criticism/ negative judgement etc.

Passive behaviours - passive behaviours include being unable to say no, frequently putting yourself down when you speak, dismissing your thoughts are unimportant, avoiding giving your opinion or expressing your feelings. People who behave in this way often believe they are less important, or worth than others. They doubt themselves and their abilities and assume others are better in some way.

Attention-seeking behaviours - Acting in attention seeking ways such as:

  • Seeking reassurance and compliments from others. Believing only other people can make you feel better about yourself

  • Seeking sympathy from others

  • Getting other people to do things for you because you believe you aren’t capable

  • Behaving in ways that are risky or dangerous

Aggressive behaviour - Acting in an aggressive way (e.g. putting others down, shouting, threatening, demanding your own way etc.) because you:

  • Try to over compensate or hide lack of self-esteem

  • Blame others for the negative way you feel about yourself

  • Feel defensive when others give you constructive criticism or feedback because you can’t cope with the thought others view you in a negative way

  • Are jealous of others

Once we identify which of these resonate with us, we can start keeping an eye on our thoughts and behaviour as we go about our daily lives and spotting when we are acting in a way because of our low self-esteem. Once we understand how we are behaving and why, we can begin to start challenging those thoughts and behaviours.

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Claire Black 2020