Self-esteem is the opinion that you hold of yourself. If you have low self-esteem, it means that you may hold a negative view of your abilities, character, or appearance.
Sadly, women are more likely to be affected by low self-esteem than men. This is especially true in Western cultures where the gender gap is significantly greater. In this article we will look at why women are affected by low self-esteem, and the steps you can take to boost the way that you feel about yourself.
What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem describes the way that you feel about yourself. Healthy self-esteem allows you to like who you are, and feel proud of your achievements. It generally leads to higher levels of overall satisfaction, as well as confidence in your decisions and actions.
Conversely, women with low self-esteem are typically critical of themselves. If you have low self-esteem, you may feel unhappy or dissatisfied with your life, you may worry about making the right decision, or feel uncertain about the path your life is taking. When you have low self-esteem, it can be difficult to recognize your positive qualities, and you may feel inferior to those around you.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem in a Woman?
Common sources of low self-esteem might include:
- Finding school challenging and therefore feeling academically inferior
- Criticism by parents in early childhood
- Relationship breakdowns, financial hardship, chronic illness and other stressful life events
- Being in an abusive relationship.
Although all of these events can affect men, even in cross-cultural studies, men are generally found to have higher levels of self-esteem than women. Scientists have therefore discounted an outdated view that self-esteem is a peculiarity of Western culture. Universal mechanisms that are not dependent on culture or society could therefore be at play in increasing the risk of low self-esteem in women.
Biological, genetic, or hormonal processes that transcend geographical location or cultural context could therefore be crucial to understanding low self-esteem in women.
Researchers have hypothesized that differences between men and women occur as a result of sex role socialization. In this process, the two sexes exploit different sources to boost their self-esteem. Sadly, women may look to beauty magazines for validation, which could conversely lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Women also embrace different criteria for self-evaluation, which may lead to a harsh internal critique of their qualities. Finally, women perceive a greater value in appraisals than men do. Any negative feedback received may therefore threaten previously healthy self-esteem or worsen existing negative feelings.
Women with Low Self-Esteem
The common symptoms of low self-esteem in women include:
- Being extremely critical of yourself
- Ignoring your positive qualities
- Associating negative words with your body or mind, such as fat, stupid or ugly
- Blaming yourself for errors over which you had no control, or for which multiple factors were at play
- Assuming that positive outcomes occurred as a result of luck, rather than your own hard work or expertise
- Seeing yourself as inferior to others
- Negative self-talk (your inner dialogue) that is critical or self-blaming
- Rejecting any compliments you receive and being unable to believe that these compliments are true.
Effect on Quality of Life
Having low self-esteem can quickly begin to affect your quality of life. Negative feelings about yourself can translate into anxiety or depression, and this can impact the relationship you have with yourself and others.
Some women may become perfectionists to counteract what they see as personal imperfections, while others may stop trying to achieve goals for fear of failure. Some women worry about being judged by others.
When self-esteem is low, it can make it hard to be resilient against life’s challenges. One stressful event can significantly upset the balance in a woman with low self-esteem
Effect on Mental Health
Chronically low self-esteem can lead to feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. When a woman has lost sight of anything good about herself, she may neglect self-care such as personal hygiene, or abuse alcohol or drugs. Women may also have thoughts of self-harm.
How to Help a Woman with Low Self-Esteem
Reassuringly, it is possible to improve self-esteem. The first step is to take time to nourish the respect you should have for yourself. Our suggested self-esteem activities for women are a good place to start as you learn to cherish yourself.
Self-care is a great way to develop healthy self-esteem. Believing that you are worthy of love and respect can take time, but treating yourself well is the first step.
You may choose to build self-esteem by setting time aside for a luxurious bubble bath, or to read a book, take exercise or complete a craft activity. These forms of self-care will gradually show you that you are worthy of your own care and respect. Learning your own value and worth will help you to recognize that you also deserve to be treated respectfully and lovingly by others.
As women, we often juggle multiple relationships. Our children, partners, parents, friends and colleagues may all demand something of us at the same time, and supporting the needs of everyone else can take its toll.
Set healthy boundaries to ensure that you avoid becoming burnt out. If you are struggling with self-esteem, putting a boundary in place may feel like failure, but it is vital to take care of yourself as well as those around you. Even asking your child to wait for five minutes whilst you finish your coffee may give you the time you need to recharge and be a better parent, than if you rush to meet their every demand.
Online therapy is a great way to give yourself time to work on your self-esteem. A therapist can objectively help you to see all the many qualities you may have overlooked or rejected. Working with a professional can give you the courage to accept that you are far more successful than you give yourself credit for.
Physical movement and exercise releases endorphins, giving us a happy rush. Whether you set out for a brisk walk, a jog, or a cycle, you may find that you feel far better about yourself when you return home.
If you notice that you engage in negative self-talk, make a conscious effort to pay attention to what you are saying about yourself. It may take some practice or even a second opinion, but find objective evidence that your negative thoughts are untrue.
Acknowledge and accept compliments from others. If something positive happens, take credit for it rather than brushing it off as luck. Write a list of things you like about yourself and keep adding to it each day.
Across the world, low self-esteem is more common in women than men. Low self-esteem can quickly affect your quality of life, and may even have an effect on your mental health.
Trying some self-esteem activities for women can help you to turn the volume down on negative self-talk, and give you a chance to appreciate yourself for all of your positive qualities.
Accessing online therapy can be a great way to get started on boosting the way you feel about yourself for healthier self-esteem.
Hannah England is a freelance copywriter with a medical degree. After working as a doctor for several years, she now writes medical and well-being articles. Hannah endeavors to empower people by providing informative content that allows them to make healthy choices for improved physical and mental health. Hannah is part of the LGBT+ community and an inclusion expert, allowing her to write copy that is relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or identity. Hannah lives in a village in the South West of England.Read more