Did your mom ever teach you that anything worth doing, is worth doing right? Mine did. Although I learned this valuable lesson from an early age, there have been times when I faced the pain of having to start all over again.
For example, as a trumpet player at age 14, I had to undergo an embouchure change. Embouchure refers to the position of the mouthpiece on the lips. You have to get it just right, or your technique won’t work properly. Once you get used to a certain placement, it is very difficult to change. After playing for almost 3 years, I realized that I needed to make this change if I wanted to advance. My foundation wan’t solid enough, so I had to waste time starting all over again. This is the type of pain you experience in life if you don’t recognize the signs you have low self esteem.
They key to success in life is a solid foundation of self esteem
Anything you build in life, whether it’s your business or your house, needs to have a solid foundation. However, it’s hard to build anything when you exhibit the signs you have low self esteem.
Solid self esteem is like the concrete slab you put down before you build a house. If it isn’t right, your house will come crashing down sooner or later, no matter how magnificent it is.
Of all the prerequisites to success, self-esteem is the most important. Solid self-esteem is like the concrete slab you put down before you build your house. If it isn’t right, your house will come crashing down sooner or later, no matter how magnificent it is.
Self-esteem is the first “step” to success
I’m not the only one who believes in the utter importance of self-esteem. In See you at the Top, Zig Ziglar uses an analogy of a flight of stairs leading to the top of a building. This represents the “ladder” to success. Care to guess what the first step is? You got it – Self esteem. Without stepping on that first step (self esteem), you can’t reach the other steps.
One of the signs you have low self esteem is not realizing it
Most articles tell you how to build self-esteem. However, they don’t tell you about the signs you have low self esteem. And to be honest, most people just take a cursory glance at those articles. These people think they already have high self-esteem. The fact is however, most people have low self esteem. In this article, I’m going to tell you how to recognize low self-esteem and what to do about it! So, fasten your seat-belt, and get ready to leave the average person’s world of low self esteem, never to return again.
Sign #1 – You blow up easily
I’m sure you know people who are emotional pressure cookers. Pressure builds up inside them, and all it takes is a minor trigger to turn them into a Yellowstone geyser. However, unlike Old Faithful, you don’t want to be around when they blow their top!
Of course it’s easy to see this quality in others, but what about yourself? Do you react emotionally to certain people or situations? Do you lose your cool easily? Are you set off by trivial matters? Such reactivity is one of the signs you have low self esteem. A self-confident person responds, rather than reacts, to life’s situations.
How to become more responsive and less reactive
The first way to become more responsive to life is to learn to manage stress. Studies have shown that 10 minutes a day of hypnosis or meditation can help you become less reactive.
Next, figure out what triggered you. If someone annoyed you, what was it about them that bothered you? Ask yourself how you exhibit that same characteristic in your life. Work on resolving, within yourself, the issues that trigger you. You may need professional help with this.
Sign #2 – You live in a black and white universe
Some people live in a world that is as grainy and distorted as the first television images of the 1969 Apollo moon landings. These people live in a binary, black and white universe. Everything is either good or bad. They make massive generalizations while simultaneously deleting and distorting information.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]People with low self-esteem go through life with cognitive blinders on. These blinders delete and distort information, rendering them oblivious to available resources and solutions.[/su_pullquote]
Language patterns often reveal low self-esteem
One of the signs you have low self esteem can be found in your language patterns. Do you use absolutes like always and never? For example, do you say things like: I always miss the easy shots! or I’m never on time! If so, it could be one of the signs you have low self esteem. People with low self-esteem go through life with cognitive blinders on. These blinders delete and distort information, rendering them oblivious to available resources and solutions.
How to expand your black and white thinking
The first step to correct such thinking is to recognize it. If you are self-aware enough to recognize this quality in yourself – hats off to you! Start by catching yourself when you use generalities and absolutes. Ask yourself: Really? I always miss the easy shots? Has there ever been a time when I made an easy shot? Challenging yourself in this way can help you break free from black and white thinking. It will also help you notice the many problem-solving options and resources you have at your disposal.
Sign #3 – You are passive-aggressive
One of the first things my business partner and I did together was an introductory class on weight loss. We had about 20 people there and it was a fun event. After the class was over, I went around the table to check in with everyone and get their opinions on the class. Little did we know that someone was about to demonstrate one of the signs you have low self esteem.
The passive-aggressive class attendee
I spoke to one gentleman in particular who had nothing but positive comments about the class. He told me how much my previous class (on money) had helped him. “You really got my attention with this [class],” he told me. I visited with him a few more minutes, and he didn’t give any indication that he wasn’t happy with the class. The next day, my partner texts me that we received a negative comment from the class. Sure enough, it was from the same gentleman that had nothing but positive things to say when we were face to face. Instead of giving me the negative comments in person, he chose to post it on a public forum.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]The way to change aggressive, or passive-aggressive behavior is to cultivate assertiveness.[/su_pullquote]
This is classic passive aggressive behavior – one of the signs you have low self esteem. He didn’t have the courage to tell me face to face, so he posted his negative comments online, knowing full well it could hurt my business. We decided to ban him from future events. Not because of the negative comments. After all, it is his right to speak his mind. We banned him because of his choice to play passive-aggressive mind games – not something we tolerate at Maness Hypnosis.
Be assertive, not aggressive
The way to change aggressive, or passive-aggressive behavior is to cultivate assertiveness. I’m eventually going to write more on assertiveness. For now, just know that assertiveness is understanding and acting on your basic rights as a person. (such as your right to speak your mind, even if it does hurt someone else’s feelings – as long as you’re being assertive, rather than aggressive)
Sign #4 – You have a nagging, critical internal voice
I will never forget Coach Smith. Coach Smith was the gruffest, meanest, and most critical coach I ever had. He was also my bus driver. Let me tell you, he ran that bus with a military-grade iron fist. When you got on the bus in the morning, you were not even allowed to talk. The entire bus rode to school in absolute silence, fearing the infamous wrath of Coach Smith.
I also remember John, my first trumpet teacher. John was always encouraging, even when I made a mistake. Now don’t get me wrong, he didn’t hesitate to point out when he thought I could do something better. But, he was a compassionate mentor.
What kind of coach would you rather work with?
You can probably think of similar extremes in your past. Based on my descriptions, I don’t even need to ask which coach you would rather work with. Anyone in their right mind would choose John. Yet, in our own minds, many of us choose to work with Coach Smith. As such, negative self-talk is one of the signs you have low self esteem.
When you were growing up, you likely had many types of authority figures in your life. Now, you are your own authority. For people with low self-esteem, their internal voice is one of a criticism and judgment. This kind of self-talk puts you down and keeps you feeling bad about yourself. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can cultivate an internal self-talk that represents that of a compassionate mentor. But, it will take work to change your mental habits.
For some people, this critical voice may actually take the form of visual images. You may continually replay your mistakes and shortcomings over and over again, as a mental movie.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]When the critic rears its head, challenge it. Find exceptions to what it says. Interrupt it. Take charge of your mental space. If that voice is going to live in your head, it’s got to play by your rules.[/su_pullquote]
The first step in correcting negative self-talk is to become aware of it. When the critic rears its head, challenge it. Find exceptions to what it says. Interrupt it. Take charge of your mental space. If that voice is going to live in your head, it’s got to play by your rules.
Sign #5 – You are devastated by criticism
My Mom used to be a member of a bell choir. One Christmas, she put together a modest, but enthusiastic bell choir, comprised of our family members. She asked me to conduct the group since I had been taking instrumental conducting as an elective in graduate school.
At one of our rehearsals, I asked my aunt to ring a little louder. I didn’t think the request was a big deal at the time, but later she would tell my mom how mortified she was to be “called out” in front of the entire family.
Actually, she was never “called out.” I simply gave her a suggestion to make the entire ensemble sound better. It wasn’t even about her. But for someone with low self esteem, even the slightest hint of criticism can be utterly devastating.
Accepting criticism gracefully
The first step in overcoming adverse reactions to criticism is to realize it’s not about you. Whoever is making the comment is honestly trying to help you, or the improve the collective effort. Next, separate your personal worth from your performance. Just because there’s room for improvement doesn’t mean you’re unworthy. Finally, actively seek out criticism. Get used to asking for feedback, and receiving it gracefully. After all, feedback, even criticism, is what helps keep you on track with your goals.
Sign #6 – You assume it’s all about you
One of my business acquaintances recently sent me a message that went something like this: Since I haven’t heard from you, I assume you don’t want to be associated anymore. That’s quite a jump to conclusions over a couple of unreplied messages! They made my lack of reply personal. However, it had nothing to do with them. Their faulty conclusion is certainly one of the undeniable signs of low self esteem.
In reality, I never received the messages in the first place. Apparently, they were being send to my old account.
Don’t wear yourself out by jumping to conclusions
When someone doesn’t reply to a message or accept an invitation, it can be for any number of reasons. Many of those reasons have nothing to do with you.
Do you do the same thing? If your boss announces that someone in the office made a mistake, do you assume it’s you? Do you personify other situations that have nothing to do with you?
Remember than most things are not about you. Anyone in the office could have made that mistake. Maybe your friend has been sick and didn’t get your messages. A person with high self-esteem would get more information before jumping to conclusions.
Sign #7 – You’re stuck in the past
Being stuck in the past is like being stuck in reverse. You can’t see anything in front of you because you’re always moving backwards. It’s like wearing emotional sandbags over your entire body. Such baggage is going to impede your progress in every way.
People with low self-esteem habitually replay the past in their minds. They go over and over past regrets, arguments, mistakes, or other blights. Some people even have disputes with people who are no longer in their lives. As such, being stuck in the past is one of the major signs you have low self esteem.
How to eject the old tapes from the past
You can get unstuck by realizing that the present moment is the only thing that really exists. The past is not real, neither is the future. The past only exists because you re-create it by choice. Get help with whatever past hurts you are struggling with. Let them go. Forgive and move on. Think about what you want, and move towards it without looking back. Just like a vehicle, your reverse gear is never as fast as your forward gears.
Sign #8 – You allow tyrannical “shoulds” to control your life
Should you be the perfect parent, while also getting a 4.0 in graduate school, while also working a full-time job? Although this scenario seems impossible, some people actually believe that they “should” be the model of success in everything they do. It’s no wonder they feel bad about themselves. What they “should” do becomes an impossible standard of perfection. Actually trying to meet all these standards is one of the signs you have low self esteem.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]What would happen if you were not the perfect parent? If you got lower GPA? If you were just average at a job which is going to only be temporary anyway? The world is probably not going to shift on its axis. [/su_pullquote]
What would happen if you were not the perfect parent? If you got lower GPA? If you were just average at a job which is going to only be temporary anyway? The world is probably not going to shift on its axis.
People with high self-esteem are not ruled by “shoulds.” They choose one or two things at which to excel, and for everything else, it’s OK to just get by. Check out some of the things you keep telling yourself you should do. What would happen if you didn’t? If the answer isn’t earth shattering, consider revising that “should”.
Sign #9- You let people push you around
As a child, I remember reading a Sesame Street book about going back to school. In the book, one of the characters, let’s say Big Bird, had an old box of crayons that was all messed up. He asked Elmo if he would be willing to trade his brand new box of crayons for the old, beat up box of crayons. Elmo liked his box of crayons and didn’t want to trade. But, he was afraid that Big Bird would get mad if he didn’t, so he reluctantly agreed to it. Elmo soon regretted his decision.
[su_pullquote align=”right”] People with high self esteem stand up for what they want. They set boundaries and stick with them, even if someone else becomes angry. [/su_pullquote]
Do you live your life to please others?
Sure, this is a kid’s story, but it does perfectly illustrate one of the signs you have low self-esteem. Have you ever done things that you didn’t want to do, just because you wanted to please someone else? Were you later filled with regret?
People with high self esteem stand up for what they want. They set boundaries and stick with them, even if someone else becomes angry.
Put yourself first
Think of an area of your life where you might be compromising your desires for the benefit of others. How could you communicate clearer boundaries to those around you? How could you ask for what you want? Get used to acting according to your desires, not anyone else’s.
Remember, it’s not your job to please others. Each individual is responsible for their own happiness. People are not going to think less of you if you stand up for yourself.
Sign #10 – You think you know what people are thinking
Do you ever think you know what people are thinking? Some people think they are highly intuitive, but in fact, “mind reading” is simply another of the signs you have low self esteem. There’s no way to know what people are thinking unless you ask them. Thinking thoughts like “he hates me,” or “he doesn’t think I’m good enough for the position” are nothing but low self esteem thoughts in action.
Stop wasting your mental resources on mind reading. If you want to know what someone is thinking, simply ask.
Sign #11 – You choose your profession to feel better about yourself
I have a background in professional music and Will has an acting background. We were just discussing the other day that a large number of people in the performing arts have extremely low self esteem. Why? Because they use their profession to feel better about themselves – one of the signs you have low self esteem.
I admit to doing music for the wrong reasons. When I finally realized it, I got out as quickly as I could. I’m not saying that everyone in the arts have low self esteem, but many do.
It’s a losing battle to use professional accomplishments to make up for low self esteem
Do you link your professional accomplishments with your identity? Do you think that if you accomplish more professionally, you will somehow be a better person, or feel better about yourself? No matter how much you accomplish, you won’t feel better about yourself if you have low self esteem. That’s why many Hollywood A-listers are downright miserable people.
It’s important to learn to separate your accomplishments from your identity. Your profession doesn’t define you as a person. Learn to feel good about yourself as you are. You are not your accomplishments – no matter how great they are. You can feel good about yourself regardless of how much or how little you’ve accomplished.
Sign #12 – You are easily bothered by other people
Being easily bothered by other people is one of the signs you have low self-esteem. This is because of the phenomenon known as mirroring. Mirroring is the idea that, if something bothers you, it’s because the person bothering you reminds you of yourself. You become annoyed because it’s a part of you that you don’t like, a part of you you try to cover up.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Mirroring is the idea that, if something bothers you, it’s because the person bothering you reminds you of yourself.[/su_pullquote]
When something or someone bothers you, let that be your cue to do a little self-reflection. Ask yourself how do I exhibit the same quality of this person that’s bothering me? Once you’ve identified what’s triggering you, you know what to work on. Once you’ve healed it within yourself, it will no longer bother you.
Sign #13 – You are easily embarrassed
Do you get embarrassed easily? If your entire networking group sings happy birthday to you, do you blush in embarrassment? Everyone is embarrassed at times. However, people with low self esteem are embarrassed very easily. The next time your entire office sings happy birthday to you, see if you exhibit easy embarrassment – one of the signs you have low self esteem.
The more secure you feel about yourself, the harder it becomes to embarrass you.
Sign #14 – You are afraid of what others might think
Remember George McFly from the movie Back to the Future? In Part one, he wrote science fiction as a hobby, but he was afraid to show it to anyone out of fear of rejection. Clearly, this type of fear is one of the signs you have low self esteem. However, after he punched out Biff, (..and no, I don’t recommend punching people as a way to improve self esteem) he went on to become a published author by the end of the movie.
The contrast between low self-esteem George and high self-esteem George is really amazing. The former feared rejection so much that he wouldn’t let anyone see his work. The latter didn’t care what anyone thought. He kept at it until he succeeded.
Remember that all failure is just feedback. Taken in it’s proper context, negative feedback will help you get better at what you do.
There you have it, 14 signs that you have low self-esteem. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to start evaluating your own self-esteem.
So why did I choose to write about low self-esteem rather than just tell you how to develop high self-esteem? Simple. Because most people don’t realize that they have low self esteem. The signs you have low self esteem can be difficult to spot. I would say that 80% or more of the general public has low self-esteem.
What do you do if you recognize some of these qualities in yourself? First of all, don’t panic. There’s no need to feel ashamed about it. I exhibited many of the signs for a long time. And honestly, I still have a ways to go on my self-esteem. So do most other people. If you realize you have low self-esteem, it’s great because most people go through their whole life without realizing it. After all, you can’t fix what you don’t know about.
In the next few days, I’m going to be preparing a worksheet to help you work on reversing these qualities of low self-esteem. In the meantime, please share this article if you found it helpful.
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