Most of us will go through periods of our lives when we feel particularly insecure or inadequate. We doubt our value and place in the world, and wonder why our peers even bother spending time with us at all. During these periods we may withdraw or, conversely, force ourselves to partake in social situations and gatherings that make us uncomfortable and anxious.
While such spells are perfectly normal, it's important to understand when low self esteem becomes a constant, and not just an every-now-and-then occurrence. Low self esteem can result in a number of long term issues concerning one's physical health and emotional wellbeing.
Relationships and professional endeavors can suffer, as well as one's social life, which can be particularly painful. Humans are social creatures, and thrive in communities where they are welcomed and engaged.
How low self esteem may be damaging your social life
Here are some unexpected ways your low self esteem may be damaging your social life–and when to seek help.
Constantly canceling plans
Anxiety and low self esteem go hand in hand, and while you may enthusiastically accept a friend or colleague's invite in a moment of optimism, how often do you find yourself sheepishly sending that “I'm sorry, something came up” message hours before you're due to go out?
Low self esteem can paralyze you with self doubt and discomfort, making you self conscious of everything from the way you look that day to how you'll come off to others.
The problem is, a reputation for repeatedly canceling plans often leads to being excluded altogether from future gatherings. Your peers may feel as though you're only accepting an invite out of politeness, or worse, simply grow tired of behavior they deem flaky.
This of course will only deepen your sense of worthlessness, and continue the destructive cycle.
Inability to be supportive of others
Low self esteem can reveal itself in many ways, and jealousy is one of the most common symptoms. We're all subject to feeling envy every now and then, but if you find yourself constantly comparing your quality of life to others and coming up short, you may wind up projecting a good amount of negativity that will naturally repel those around you.
A friend's joyous news will go without congrats or you may even respond with derogatory or belittling remarks intended to mar their good mood and sense of achievement. Social media might become an obsessive hobby that leaves you feeling worse than before you logged on, and you might use hurtful gossip to bring those you envy down a notch.
In time, this will only alienate you from your peers, who will understandably abstain from interacting with someone who can't be happy for their successes.
An unhealthy love life
Embarking on a romantic relationship takes trust and honesty, and those with low self esteem may find it hard to open up enough to allow such intimacy. In particularly harmful cases, manipulative or abusive behavior can arise as a way to conceal your fears and insecurities.
You may project your low self esteem onto a partner by criticizing their appearance, repeatedly pointing out their flaws, and downplaying their achievements. This of course is absolutely unacceptable, and unless you find a healthier outlet for your feelings you may wind up more alone than in love.
Chances not taken
Low self esteem can cripple our willingness to seize opportunities and challenge ourselves. Whether it's a job promotion or prospective project, or simply embarking on a new pursuit or personal journey, your low self esteem may cause you to hang back rather than go for it.
You may find yourself coming up with endless excuses for not being up to the task or not being interested, and may very well be overlooked for future endeavors.
Drugs and alcohol are often the crutches of the insecure, who insist they need a little “liquid courage” before throwing themselves into social settings. There's a fine line between loosening up in order to have fun and making a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation.
If your low self esteem is causing you to overindulge and engage in dangerous or just plain obnoxious behavior, it's likely you won't be invited out to too many work parties or club nights. At that point you'll be more of a liability than a welcome addition to the festivities.
So when is it time to seek help?
If you find yourself exhibiting some or all of the qualities above or experiencing many of the listed effects, it might be time to seek professional help. Low self esteem can often stem from trauma or past abuse, with roots that go much deeper than you may realize.
Having an off day is one thing, but if your low self esteem is affecting nearly every aspect of your daily life and hindering your ability to enjoy a healthy adult existence then the problem may lie elsewhere and need to be addressed by those who are trained to do so.
Today there are a number of platforms in which to engage with a licensed and experienced therapist, from in person to online. With the freedom of online therapy to select a therapist who is right for you and schedule sessions at your convenience, you could be well on your way to feeling your best again.
You deserve to acknowledge your talents and celebrate your victories, and take your place once more in the social circles no doubt awaiting your return.