Low Self Esteem and its Impact on a Childs Psyche

by : Naresh Belliyappa

Low self esteem can begin to develop early in childhood, long before the concept is even understood by the child. Most of the traits underlying our personality are developed in early childhood. This means that a child with feelings of low self esteem is likely to carry them into adulthood without realizing it.

A child with low self esteem needs help to realize that not everything is his or her fault. He or she needs to understand that no person can succeed all the time, that perfection is an ideal and not a goal. However, that does not mean that such a child cannot attain spectacular success in life provided he/she is given the right guidance and motivation.

Low self esteem affects a child in many negative ways:-

1) Becoming an Over-Achiever - Some parents may find this prospect as something to cheer about but be assured that prodding your child to get high grades all the time does not equal good parenting. Children with low self esteem often becomes over achievers because they feel inadequate and think that they will receive love and respect only as long as they keep maintaining their high levels of performance.

2) Addiction - Drug addiction, smoking and alcoholism are the most common signs of a child with low self esteem. Such children often turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cover up what they feel are their inadequacies. Children with low self esteem often build a fantasy world in order to feel better about themselves.

3) Vulnerable to Peer Pressure - A child with low self esteem is often susceptible to peer pressure. In their search for acceptance and attention and to avoid becoming victims of bullying, they tend to cave in to pressures from the “in" groups in order to belong to a clique that is viewed as being “cool", even if it means indulging in unacceptable behavior.

4) Depression – Feelings of being unloved, worthlessness and alienation are a constant in children of low self esteem. They are often depressed and unable to express their feelings due to embarrassment or shame. Depression in children can manifest itself chiefly through Eating Disorders, Suicide or Hypochondria.

a) Eating Disorders – By now the terms- bulimia and anorexia – have become part of daily conversation. However, despite the awareness of these conditions by the public at large, very few realize the extent of self loathing that must exist in a person for him/her to embark on an act so contrary to the human impulse of protecting self from harm.

b) Suicide – Suicide rates among young people have been increasing steadily over the years and the constant pressure by parents, schools, peer groups and society in general to strive for and achieve higher and higher goals is difficult enough for a well adjusted child. For one with low self esteem, this can be intolerable.

c) Hypochondria – A craving for attention is a characteristic trait of those suffering from low self esteem and what better way to achieve this than by claiming to be suffering from a myriad of diseases. The fact that no one believes them after a time merely confirms their idea of themselves as being worthless and so they either look for other gullible audience or increase the symptoms of their imagined illnesses. In extreme cases, they have even been known to inflict bodily harm on themselves in order to get the attention they so desperately seek.

Why is it so urgent that people help a child with low self esteem? A problem like this is much easier to overcome right at the beginning. For one thing, convincing an adult that he or she has low self esteem could be very hard. Moreover, childhood is the training ground where the adult is molded and shaped. Surely it is our duty as adults to make sure that we do all we can to ensure that the generation following us is equipped, not just on a physical and intellectual level but emotionally and psychologically as well, to face the challenges of their age.