by Ross Burton
How Low Self Esteem Impacts Us
Low self esteem is at the epicenter of nearly all societal ills, whether it’s violence, crime, sexual assaults, drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, underage pregnancy, eating disorders, divorce or bullying. People who may not even realize they hate themselves act out, hurting those around them — both physically and emotionally. Researchers say that the development of low or positive self esteem begins early in our childhood with parent-child relationships. Although, over time, our self-image can be manipulated by events, outside influences and the relationships we have. This article will discuss the connection between self esteem and a number of negative consequences.
Based on a recent newsletter from the National Association for Self-Esteem, young children normally base their self-esteem mostly on the feedback they receive from others, with the parents having the most impact. Subsequent to age four, they start to think about their capabilities at different pursuits. By age seven, kids usually base their self-esteem on three aspects: social acceptance, academic achievements and physical prowess. Once they approach their teens, they move from the importance of feedback from parents to feedback from friends. At this age, their degree of self-esteem is typically centered on six areas or contingencies: inherited endowments, peer acceptance, believing they are unique and worthy of respect, feeling in control of one’s life, moral goodness or integrity, and one’s accomplishments, including academic achievement. How an individual appears to other people, athletic proficiency, and popularity become especially important at this age, although these are all external sources for self-esteem.
Widespread consumerism is an effect of low self worth for a number of individuals. A recent research study discovered that low self-esteem actually resulted in more materialism, yet the converse was also a fact — that raising self-esteem is able to decrease materialism. It was established that adolescents were usually building self-esteem from the ages of 8 to13, but suffering from low self-worth from 13 to 18 as they moved towards being an adult. By the time children arrive at the early teenage years and undergo a reduction in self-esteem, the stage is set for making use of material possessions as a coping strategy for feelings of low self-esteem. By encouraging high self-esteem, the study concluded, it is possible to reverse the large drop in self-worth experienced by early adolescents, thus lowering the steep increase in acquisitiveness in this age group.
Psychologists have long studied the connection between individuals with low self esteem and bullying. In his 1997 book Evil: Inside Human Violence & Cruelty, Roy Baumeister suggests that the most hostile group of bullies actually have high esteem but are unstable. “These people think well of themselves in general, but their self-esteem fluctuates,” he explains. “They are especially prone to react defensively to ego threats, and they are also more prone to hostility, anger and aggression than other people. The bully has a chip on his shoulder because he thinks you might want to deflate his favorable self-image.” A number of violent crimes occur in response to self esteem blows like insults or humiliation. In the household, abusive husbands typically came from backgrounds of less affluence, less education and less financial security and therefore use violence as a way to put their wives down and assert their “superiority.”
Approximately 8% of all Americans suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Of those people, 100% suffer from low self esteem. For people with eating disorders, researcher HC Steinhausen states, “A profile of self-concept components that are characteristic of low self-esteem are insecurity, negative mood and depression, poor body image, feelings of inadequacy, social and personal withdrawal, poor adaptation skills and unrealistically high aspirations.” Anorexics and bulimics often begin to suffer from poor esteem as they go through puberty and their bodies change. Life transitions to new schools, new social peer groups, new work-loads and increased stress can also have devastating effects on young men and women. People with eating disorders generally see physical manipulation of their bodies as a means to happiness and the curing of all their problems, much like people who become addicted to plastic surgery.