We use the phrase self-esteem to talk about the beliefs you have about yourself – what you think about the type of person you are, your abilities, the positive and negative things about you and what you expect for your future.

If you have healthy self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will generally be positive. You may experience difficult times in your life, but you will generally be able to deal with these without them having too much of a long-term negative impact on you.

If you have low self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will often be negative. You will tend to focus on your weaknesses or mistakes that you have made, and may find it hard to recognize the positive parts of your personality. You may also blame yourself for any difficulties or failures that you have.

Low self esteem is not inherited. There are always external causes of low self esteem, which, if detected, can be rectified. This can lead to improved self esteem.
After a child is born, it starts receiving external stimuli of various type. Some of these are loving, caring, supporting, encouraging, etc. But some other stimuli are put-downers, outright insults, doubts, suspicions, discouragement, etc.

It all depends on what a child receives more, and how he/she takes it. If there is an overload of negative stimuli then the child is sure to have a negative attitude and low self esteem later in life.
The following list details a few possible cause of low self esteem.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem:

  • Negative Self Talk
When a child is growing, if it receives too many criticisms, then it may develop a negative pattern of thinking. Depending on the type of criticisms it is bombarded with, it may, consciously or unconsciously, say such statements to itself:

  • I am not good enough.
  • I can’t do math.
  • My grammar is bad.
  • I am bad at sports.
  • I can’t talk with girls/boys.
  • I can’t speak in front of a crowd.
  • I am always badly dressed.
  • I don’t look good.
Constant repetition of such statements only reinforces the negative beliefs. What was only a statement to begin with, soon becomes a core belief. The behaviour then changes to match that belief And lo! A low self esteem person is created.

  • Environmental Causes
The most important influence on a child is that of parents. It is natural that if parents have high self esteem, they will pass it on to the child. The reverse is also true. A child of parents with low self esteem inherits it from the parents.
It is therefore necessary for parents to shower their child with positivism, encouragement, love and support. Avoid criticisms, put-downs, harsh words, unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations.
If the seeds of high self esteem are planted and nurtured in the child at an early age, then the weeds of low self esteem will have no chance to grow.

  • Education
Little or no education is one of the major causes of low self esteem. Here education does not mean a school or college degree, though that helps. It means being knowledgeable, or not being ignorant. When you ‘know’, you need not feel inferior.
When one interacts with people, including strangers, one realises within a few moments whether the other person is more knowledgeable or less. If all the people that one encounters are superior in knowledge, then naturally a sense of low self worth will develop.
There are many people who have not completed even school education, but have built huge businesses or have been successful in politics and other fields. This was possible because they educated themselves through books and other means. Thus, they raised their self esteem even without a university degree.

  • Unfair Comparisons
There are times in life when a child or even a grown up person is compared with his/her peer. Most of the times such a comparison is unfair.
A child who has scored poorly in an exam is compared with another child who has scored high marks and is scolded in the process. But it may be a fact that the low scoring child may have aptitude in some other field. He may be a champion athlete or a good actor.
If, instead of being encouraged for his qualities, he is criticized for his weaknesses, he will develop a low self worth vis-à-vis other children and suffer for the rest of his life.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
(Albert Einstein)
  • Wrong Attitude
Sometimes people develop low self esteem due to wrong or inferior attitude. A poor person may feel inferior to a rich person even though he may be having a better character. A short person may have a low self worth simply because he is physically smaller than others.
A not-so-good looking girl may think that other girls are superior to her only because they are better looking. Thus, wrong attitude (not bad attitude) can be one of the causes of low self esteem.
We can thus see that low self esteem is an acquired trait. It is not an inherited quality like the color of the skin or the voice of a person. Like all acquired traits, this can also be treated and cured. Just remember that whatever be the causes of low self esteem, it can always be improved.