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What Can Cause a Loss of Self-Esteem?

Many experts say that children who enjoy healthy self-esteem will continue to have a positive self-image as they move into adolescence.
In some cases, loss of self-esteem is caused by negative experiences, such as bullying and abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual.
Sudden weight can cause self-esteem issues.
Article Details
  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Loss of self-esteem, especially in adolescents and teenagers, can be caused by a lot of factors, the most common of which are physical attributes. Others are negative criticism from peers and family members and undesirable or hurtful experiences that cannot be forgotten. Sometimes, a loss of self-esteem is a process a person naturally goes through to become more mature. Many psychologists say that self-esteem consists of two factors: how a person values himself and how a person thinks others value him. When these two factors are negatively affected by whatever reason, it can result in lower self-esteem.

Physical attributes may be considered a shallow reason for a loss of self-esteem, but they are still typically the first things people assess when observing and judging others. Some undesirable physical attributes include being overweight, being too short, or having a large nose. The adolescent stage is an especially tough time for a child’s self-esteem, with acne and other bodily changes occurring. People whose lack of self-esteem is caused by physical attributes may undergo cosmetic surgery to change how they look, but this does not necessarily “solve” the problem; it merely conceals it.

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Hurtful and negative remarks can also affect a person’s self-esteem, making her feel small and of less value. In school, teasing from classmates can make a child feel like an outsider who is not accepted for who he is, and this causes him to have a lower self-esteem. Parents can also sometimes contribute to the problem by discouraging the child with many criticisms and making her feel like she cannot measure up to her parent’s expectations. As a result, the child can feel undervalued and experience a loss of self-esteem.

In some cases, loss of self-esteem is caused by negative experiences, such as bullying and abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual. A child who has experienced such severe and hurtful incidents in his life often blames himself for what happened, and looks at himself as worthless and as not deserving to be loved. This dangerous loss of self-esteem can lead to worse acts, such as self-mutilation, suicide, or even crime. In 2003, statistics showed that in teenagers under age 19, one out of 13 has attempted suicide due to bullying, and in 2005, 270 children from ages 10 to 14 died from suicide.

Psychologists also attribute the natural adolescent process to a cause of loss of self-esteem, especially in girls who are more in touch with their emotions. As a child grows up, he will be uprooted from his comfort zone. He will be forced to give up his childhood toys and juvenile activities in order to grow up, and this transition of finding a part of his identity can overwhelm him and result in a loss of self-esteem. A child who is learning to come out of his comfort zone and into the “real world” may initially feel small, but with proper support and encouragement, he will eventually gain a healthy level of self-esteem.

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Discuss this Article

stoneMason
Post 3

@ddljohn-- Sometimes I wonder if lack of self esteem is something that people are born with?

I agree that people in abusive relationships often lose self esteem. But I can't help but wonder if sometimes people who are in abusive relationships are so because they have poor self esteem? It is often said that bullies target those with low self esteem because they know that it is easy to manage such people. It's also true that people who have high self esteem are unlikely to remain in such relationships.

What does everyone here think about this?

ddljohn
Post 2

Adults can lose self esteem too, especially adults who are in abusive relationships and adults who are under a lot of stress. Stress and abuse go hand in hand with low self esteem. Our external environment and the way others treat us have a lot to do with how we view our self worth.

candyquilt
Post 1

Children who are heavily criticized by their parents tend to develop poor self esteem. They start viewing themselves as their parents view them.

I think that most parents mean well and don't even realize that they are affecting their child negatively. Of course, a parent should criticize as necessary to teach the child right from wrong. But negative criticism must be balanced with positive praise. Also, parents should avoid making remarks about the child's personality.

For example, if a child does not study and receives a bad grade, a parent should not say something like "you are not smart" or "you are lazy." Instead the parent should say "you are smart but you didn't do well this time because you did not study enough." So even though the child is told that he did something wrong, he is also told that he is smart and can do better. This is a great way to encourage and help children without damaging their self esteem.

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