The only person who can destroy your self-esteem is you.
My first real girlfriend broke up with me and started dating my best friend while I was at a 28-day wrestling camp. It was the summer before my senior year of high school and I was over 1,000 miles away from home going through 4 grueling workouts a day. I bought a bunch of phone cards so I could call her every night before going to bed but about 7 days into camp she stopped answering the phone. Sometimes she’d answer but she’d always have to go after a few minutes. I asked her one day where she was going and she said jet skiing with my friend. Another time she said she was going to the movies with him. But they were just friends.
Eventually, about 14 days into camp, she told me that she wanted to see other people. I called my friend like 100 times but he didn’t answer. When I got back from camp she broke up with him and started dating me again. Then she broke up with me and started dating him again. On and on it went. I spent most of my senior year chasing her and being jealous of him and feeling pretty dumb about it the whole time.
In graduate school my advisor used to call me a “boob” or “nincompoop” whenever I made a mistake. It didn’t bother me at first because I thought it just meant that he liked me. But then it kept happening. And he started calling me “moron” too. I never said anything because I thought I would sound whiney or like I was being too sensitive. So I just let it happen. Over time, I started identifying with being a moron, at least in some small way. Finally, one day, I decided to put an end to it by calling him “dumdum.” I figured you can’t really get mad at someone for calling you a dumdum. He hated it. And he told me to never call him that again. I stopped calling him dumdum and, oddly enough, he stopped calling me boob and nincompoop.
Negativity Destroys Self-Esteem, So Does Positivity
People with low self-esteem are negative and annoying. A study published in Psychological Science examined how people responded to positive versus negative Facebook status updates. The researchers ranked random college students as having high or low self esteem and collected the 10 most recent status updates from each student. Then, the researchers asked strangers to read the updates and rate how much they liked the student who wrote each set of updates. The study found that students with high self esteem were more likely to post positive status updates than students with low self esteem. The study also found that strangers liked students who posted positive status updates more than they liked students who posted negative updates.
Positivity can lower people’s self-esteem. A second study in Psychological Science asked 240 children to draw a replica of Vincent van Gogh’s Wild Roses. After they were done drawing, the students were given criticism from a professional painter. One group of students received inflated praise and another group received no praise at all. Then, the children were presented with two additional drawing tasks, one easy with no payoff and one challenging with a big payoff. Children with low self-esteem who received inflated praise were more likely to choose the easier task with no payoff. Why?
How To Lose Respect For Yourself
Self-esteem is a tricky thing. In the simplest terms, your self-esteem is how much you respect yourself. It’s a measure of the level of confidence you have in your own worth and abilities. The problem is that a lot of things can damage your self-esteem. Some of these things are external. For example, an unfair situation, a negative comment from someone you care about, or just a bad break in general can reduce your self-esteem. Other things are internal. Like worrying, complaining, and always apologizing yourself. You can’t control the external things but you can control the internal ones. You can also control your response to the external things. This means, overall, you are in control of your self-esteem. The only way your self-esteem can be destroyed is if you actively destroy it. Here are 50 ways you can destroy your self-esteem:
1. Always be nice. – There’s a time to be nice and there’s a time to be not-so-nice. People with high self-esteem aren’t afraid to rock the boat or ruffle people’s feathers, especially when it comes to a worthy cause or project. People with low self-esteem, on the other hand, work hard to preserve the status quo because they’re afraid of change. They’re afraid because change might expose one of their weaknesses. And they’d rather hide their weaknesses than improve them. Building up your self-esteem will give you the courage you need to not always agree with other people. And this can really pay off. Recent studies show a strong negative relationship between agreeableness and earning. In other words, the more agreeable someone is, the less money they will make.
2. Be eternally optimistic. – In The Survivor’s Club, author Ben Sherwood interviewed hundreds of people that had survived a wide variety of catastrophic events and found that in prisoner-of-war camps, the people most likely to collapse and die were the eternal optimists who believed rescue was imminent and failed to plan for the possibility of long-term imprisonment. Being positive is important but you shouldn’t be so blindly positive that you fail to take action. This is something that people with low self-esteem do. They rely on blind positivity over grit and hard work. And they do this because they don’t believe in their ability to get the job done themselves.
3. Let others win. – A study in the British Medical Journal asked a group of married couples to agree with their partner’s every opinion and request without complaint, even if they believed their partner was wrong. Only the participants who were told to agree were informed of the study. The quality of life of both participants was measured using a scoring scale of 1-10 (10 being the best possible quality of life). The results showed that, after only 12 days, the agreeing participants quality of life score fell from 7 out of 10 at the start of the study to 3!
4. Worry about everything. – Self-esteem and anxiety are strongly related. People who worry a lot have lower self-esteem and people with low self-esteem worry a lot. It’s a vicious cycle. New research shows that your self-esteem is like an anxiety-buffer. The higher your self-esteem, the more stress you can handle (see #46) and the less you worry during stressful times.
5. Complain constantly. – One study found that teenagers who vented to each other about their problems for long periods of time were more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A second study showed that being exposed to complaining for 30 minutes or more peels away neurons in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for problems solving (see #50).
6. Get jealous. – Studies show that jealous people have a lower sense of self-worth. Jealousy can be a good thing when it’s aimed at achieving a goal, not when it’s aimed at achieving another person’s affection. Your self-worth should never depend on how much someone else likes you.
7. Watch reality TV. – A survey of 19,000 people found that people who watch reality TV shows are more neurotic and have lower self-esteem.
9. Ask for a lot of favors. – There’s a thin line between asking and begging. Always asking other people to do things for you can make you feel helpless and needy, which acts to lower your self-esteem. A better strategy is to focus on giving and save your “asks” for when you really need something. Studies show that giving on a regular basis helps boost self-esteem (as well as mental and physical health).
10. Never be grateful. – Many studies show that taking time to feel grateful throughout the day acts to increase your self-esteem. One of the reasons for this is that gratitude enhances your brain’s accessibility to positive memories. This, in turn, acts to make you feel more confident and empowered.
11. Live for tomorrow. – People who are never present have a very low sense of self. Worrying and always looking ahead has been shown to increase anxiety and lower self-esteem (see #4). Presence, or mindfulness, on the other hand, has been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce stress.
12. Live for today. – Without goals, your self-esteem slowly dies. Setting goals and making progress towards them predicts high levels of self-esteem. And, high levels of self-esteem is a predictor of achievement. Studies also show that the higher your self-esteem, the bigger and better your goals are.
13. Bend the truth. – Telling little white lies to protect your image can cause a lot of internal trouble. Studies show that the biggest reason people lie is to protect their image and self-esteem but, ironically, this lying acts to reduce self-esteem. The problem is that people tell a lot more lies than they think. One study put pairs of people who didn’t know each other in a room together and videotaped them while they had a conversation. Later, independently, each person was asked to view the tape and identify anything they had said that was not entirely accurate. The results found that 60% of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2-3 completely inaccurate things.
14. Sweat the small stuff. – People with low self-esteem get upset by everything. They’re outraged by something they heard on the news or they offended by what a coworker said to them. These kind of people are miserable to be around. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, don’t let the small stuff get to them. And guess what. It’s all small stuff.
15. Overeat. – Studies dating back to the 1980′s show that people with low self-esteem overeat and, in general, lack self-control. For this and other reasons, low self-esteem is also a predictor of obesity.
16. Stop working out. – The fastest way to destroy your self-esteem is to stop exercising. Studies show that exercise is a strong predictor of self-esteem. One study in particular showed that strength training improves mood, reduces anxiety, and increases both self-confidence and self-efficacy.
17. Throw away keepsakes. – In the book Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, author and Stanford University professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., writes that small keepsakes and mementos can help you have high self-esteem. The best keepsakes are objects that remind you that you can be bold (like a napkin with a girl’s phone number on it), you are loved (like a picture with family and friends), you’ve grown (like a first place medal or most improved player award), and you’ve contributed (like a thank you card that someone sent you).
18. Let people label you. – Don’t accept negative labels. You might think that you’re being the bigger person by turning the other cheek to a passive-aggressive nickname or comment, but you’re not. You’re being foolish. And you’re letting that label stick. The longer you let a negative label stick, the more you will start to identify with it and the more it will start to destroy your self-esteem.
19. Obsess over your image. – People with low self-esteem obsess over protecting their image. But people with high self-esteem focus on improving their reputation.
20. Chase material items. – People with low self-esteem rely on material items to make them feel important and happy. But people with high self-esteem rely on experiences. Studies show that people are much more satisfied and feel a greater sense of worth when they spend their money on experiences versus material objects.
21. Chase people. – You should never tie your self-worth to someone else. Changing who you are or letting other people walk all over you (see #6) just to get them like you is always a mistake. It’s also one of the fastest ways to damage your self-esteem.
22. Chase praise. – The most unfortunate of all people are those who you need others to praise them in order to feel good about themselves. These people are unfortunate because they’ve given away all of their power. The only way they can feel good is if someone else chooses to praise them. What a horrible position to be in.
23. Reject praise. – Praise is not a bad thing and you should readily accept it. People who don’t know how to handle praise often have very low self-esteem. They pretend to be tough and not need praise but really they’re too insecure and closed off to openly accept it.
24. Never praise anyone else. – People with high self-esteem love to praise other people. They are so confident in who they are that they infuse their confidence into other people.
25. Apologize for everything. – Constantly apologizing for who you are makes other people respect you less. It will also make you respect yourself less. Refusing to apologize for yourself, on the other hand, can actually increase your self-respect. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that refusing to apologize provides several psychological benefits, including empowerment, confidence, and greater feelings of integrity and self-respect
26. Tell yourself a bad story. – Research on the human brain has shown that the brain is predisposed to think in the terms of story. This predisposition is continuously reinforced and strengthened throughout the life of your brain. As a result, the stories you tell yourself determine your sense of self. So, when you tell yourself a bad story like, “I’m too old” “I’m too young” “They don’t like me” or “I’m not good enough” you actively lower your self-esteem.
27. Ask negative questions. – More than anything else, the questions you ask yourself will control your focus. People with low self-esteem ask themselves negative questions like “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why am I not good enough?” So, their brains go to work telling them all of the things that are wrong with them and all of the reasons they’re not good enough. But people with high self-esteem ask themselves questions like, “What am I grateful for?” and “What can I learn from this?”
28. Micromanage other people. – People who obsess over every little detail often have very little control over their own self-worth. They feel out of control in one are of their life so they compensate by over-controlling other, less important areas. In general, having control is a good thing. Just make sure you’re controlling the right things.
29. Never spend time alone. – Studies on groupthink, or herd mentality show that humans are actually stupider in large groups. They also lose their individual sense of self in large groups. As counterintuitive as it seems, when it comes to your self-esteem, it’s better to be a misfit than just another face in the crowd. But…
30. Isolate yourself. – …it’s also important to be social. Other studies show that loneliness can dramatically reduce a person’s self-esteem and overall quality of life.
31. Think everyone is out to get you. – People with low self-esteem are paranoid. They think everyone is trying to hurt them or keep them from their goals. They always feel attacked on all sides. But in reality, no one is even thinking about them. The truth is other people are so busy thinking about themselves that they hardly ever think about you, no matter who you are.
32. Feel left out. – You know those people who freak out when they’re not the first to know something? Yeah, they have very low self-esteem. And they make up for their low self-esteem by trying to control everything, including events and information (see #28).
33. Feel like an imposture. – Imposture syndrome is characterized by the inability to internalize your accomplishments. It’s that voice in your head that creeps up every now and then telling you that you’re a phony and it’s only a matter of time until people find out. Everyone has this voice. The difference is that people with low self-esteem give into it.
34. Feel helpless. – Learned helplessness is what happens when someone is repeatedly subjected to a negative situation that they cannot control or escape from and, as a result, they stop trying to avoid the situation and start behaving as if they are completely helpless. People with high self-esteem refuse to feel helpless in any situation. They stay focused on what they can always control — their attention and their attitude.
35. Never stand your ground. – Letting people push you around and never sticking to your guns is a great way to lose the respect of others and lose respect for yourself.
36. Always stand your ground. – It’s good to be uncompromising when it comes to your goals and the vision you have for your life, but not when it comes to every little thing. Sacrificing authenticity to always having to be right is a sign of low self-esteem, not strength.
37. Only be friends with people like you. – A study had 87 students use a smart phone app to record when and how they compared themselves to their peers during the day. Comparisons included anything from athleticism and grades to appearance, social status, lifestyle and wealth. The study showed that students with the most diverse circles of friends were less likely to feel envious or inferior when comparing themselves.
38. Get addicted to social media. – Studies show that people who spend more than an hour a day on Facebook are likely to be narcissistic, insecure and have low self-esteem. They’re also likely to have a poor body image. Social media is a tool to periodically connect with friends and to network and promote your business. It’s not a place to live. Look at your browser right now. If you have more than one Facebook tab open, you might be addicted.
39. Constantly change your beliefs. – If you’re beliefs change with the wind, then you don’t know who you are. The only way to maintain a strong sense of self is to stand for something.
40. Make fun of other people. – Mocking others and pointing out their flaws is what people with low self-esteem do to distract attention away from their own flaws and insecurities.
41. Bully other people. – Bullying happens more than you might think. Studies show that 49% of U.S. employees have witnessed or been the target of bullying at work. The good news is other studies show that people with high self-esteem are less likely to be involved in bullying.
42. Be condescending. – People with low self-esteem are condescending and act holier than thou because it protects their fragile ego. These know-it-alls have to win and be right because they just can’t handle being wrong (see #36).
43. Quit when things get tough. – If you quit whenever things get hard, you’ll never have a breakthrough and you’ll never experience the resulting confidence boost that comes with it. But…
44. Never quit. – …sometimes quitting is exactly what you should do. Some projects shouldn’t be finished, some relationships shouldn’t continue, and some books don’t deserve to be read to the end. Don’t be such an overachiever. You’re ego shouldn’t be so fragile that you can’t ever quit anything.
45. Lose control of your emotions. – Studies show that emotional intelligence and self-esteem are positively and significantly correlated. Losing control of your emotions, or letting your emotions control you, is a sign of low self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are passionate, but they let reason and rationality hold the reigns of their passion.
46. Completely avoid stress. – Stress is a key ingredient to growth. Studies show that stress improves memory, enhances creativity, makes you more alert, and boosts your immune system. Other studies show that stress leads to cell growth in the brain’s learning centers. And all of these traits are associated with high levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy.
47. Blame others. – Your life is your fault. You own all of your successes and all of your failures. People with high self-esteem don’t blame external factors for their position in life, they blame themselves. Then, they take action to improve their position. People with low self-esteem blame other people and then, instead of taking action, they beat themselves up for not being good enough (see #38).
48. Take failure personally. – An experiment in the Netherlands tested 313 children for self-esteem and then had them play a fixed computer game that forced them to win or lose. Then, the computers gave the children either praise for their efforts or praise for themselves. Compared to all of the other groups, children who lost the game experienced significantly higher levels of shame if they had been praised for their personal qualities. The researchers concluded that focusing on results over personal qualities keeps people from associating their self-worth with failure or success.
49. Laugh at your boss’s jokes. – Kissing up to other people is a great way to destroy your self-esteem. Every time you pretend to like something that you don’t really like, you give part of yourself away. On a long enough timeline, you’ll lose your sense of self. This is because your confidence will start to rely completely on other people’s approval. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. People with high self-esteem don’t laugh to get ahead or pretend something is great when it’s not. Be real. And don’t worry about coming off as a jerk. In fact, some studies show that it’s better to be a jerk than to be a kiss up.
50. Procrastinate and be indecisive. – Studies show that low self-esteem is a significant predictor of decisional, behavioral, and overall dysfunctional procrastination. People with low self-esteem fail to accomplish critical tasks because they are too afraid to make a bad decision. But people with high self-esteem trust their abilities to solve problems and do not hesitate to make decisions, even after failures and difficulties. So, make a decision. Any decision. If you choose wisely — great! Learn from it and move forward confidently. And if you choose wrongly — great! Learn from it and move forward confidently.