Given that myriad studies have proven people with high self-esteem enjoy better health mentally and physically and boast better quality of life in general, fostering a healthy sense of self-worth is obviously important. However, therein lies the rub: There are a whole host of little everyday things that affect your self-esteem that may be sabotaging any work you've done in the confidence department.
The big stuff, most of us are already aware of — things like popularity, criticism, stressful events, financial troubles, bullying, etc. These things not only affect the way we look at ourselves but, in turn, affect the way others look at us. The cycle is hard to break, and it can lead to everything from self-destructive decisions to massive anxiety. Unfortunately, we live in a society full of the kind of external factors and feedback that create an ideal breeding ground for self-esteem issues. But, fortunately, there are proven ways to improve self-esteem and mental health that are pretty easy habits to pick-up, like exercising.
So, in the spirit of identifying the things that may be derailing your confidence and, subsequently, the quality of life that you enjoy, let's take a look at six little everyday things that affect your self-esteem. They may not seem like a big deal, but they're really rather insidious.
Physical appearance and body positivity (or lack thereof) routinely land near the top of the list when self-esteems saboteurs come up in conversation. Acne is a smaller offshoot of that, but one that can cause big damage to self-esteem. Whether you're an adolescent going through hormonal changes or an adult wondering why in the world you're still getting breakouts (*raises hand*), having even a few bumps has been proven to have serious psychosocial effects.
2. Social Media
It should come as no surprise to anyone at this point that society spends a large portion of time "consuming" social media. However, recent research proves that social media surfing can lead to major dissatisfaction of self. Among the biggest confidence-killers? Dwelling on the number of "likes" posts receive and over the number of birthday greetings one gets. The problem, explains Belmont-based clinical psychologist Craig Malkin, is that such social media consumption leads to people "negatively comparing themselves to what's portrayed on Facebook by their friends."
Whether it comes to our jobs, our homes, our school or our relationships, most of us have a bit of a perfectionist somewhere inside. The trouble with placing undue importance on perfectionism, though, is that it has been shown to have negative consequences on self-acceptance ... so much so that it can lead to depression. One reason for this is that it leads to inaction — you never take action because you're waiting for all your ducks to wind up in a row beforehand. Of course, this causes stagnation, which can amplify feelings of worthlessness.
4. Unattainable Beauty Standards
Clearly, there's not much we can do to escape advertising. It's everywhere, right? And while it's not all bad and it certainly has its purpose, research shows that the constant stream of idealized beauty featured in modern advertising can make people (and women especially) feel pretty darn crummy about ourselves. It doesn't just affect adults either. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 70 percent of girls in grades five through 12 said magazine images influence their ideals of a perfect body — which, naturally, doesn't exist.
5. A Messy Desk
You may not think the clutter on your desk is bothering you, but the effects of that kind of disorganization are more insidious than they seem. Explains Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, Ph.D. of The Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law, "In our minds, we view this clutter as unfinished business, a constant reminder that our work is not done and, in cases of constant clutter, never done." As tends to be the case with self-esteem, this perceived inability to accomplish tasks can make you feel unproductive and ultimately worthless.
6. Self-Deprecating Humor
Who doesn't "poke fun at" oneself every now and then? Only, this type of self-deprecating humor — making jokes at your own expense — can actually lead to a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy. You play on your perceived weaknesses or harp on things about yourself so much you actually begin to buy into the hype and believe the negative things you're saying. Studies show that people with high self-esteem generally rely more on self-enhancing humor, while people with low self-esteem typically default to self-defeating humor.