Psychologists are trained to immediately recognize indicators that a patient has low self-esteem. But… what about ordinary people, who have no further studies in psychology?
Whether you are starting to date or have changed jobs and now have a new boss, or want to make new friends, here are some simple tips that will help you identify when a person has low self-esteem , so that you are prepared and better able to deal with any conflicts that may arise.
How to identify someone with low self-esteem
These are some of the characteristics that allow us to recognize someone with low self-esteem.
1. Self-pessimistic bias
People with low self-esteem, by definition, have a poor opinion of themselves. This leads them to believe that others see them as they see themselves , in a very unfavourable way. They take it for granted that if they feel unintelligent, interesting or attractive, it is because they are necessarily unintelligent, interesting or attractive.
They lose sight of the fact that their own negative opinion is not reality, but only one possible opinion among many others. But of course, since this idea is the product of their own thinking, and thinking is an invisible process, they end up confusing what they believe with what others believe.
“People can tell I’m stupid,” a patient told me. “That’s their opinion, we don’t know what others think,” I said. “We could ask them.”
I put this point first because it is the one on which the following are based.
2. Search for external validation
Those with low self-esteem need praise and compliments like the air they breathe . In this sense, they are demanding and extremely sensitive. They invest great efforts in seeking from others some recognition that makes them feel a little better.
On one occasion, I heard a girl say to what seemed to be her romantic interest, “I’m the ugliest person in the world. She was no doubt looking for the boy to say something like, “Not at all. I’ve known people much uglier than you.”
For someone with impaired self-esteem, such a comment can be a great comfort and encouragement .
3. Tendency towards personalization and self-referrals
People who go through this way of perceiving reality attribute malevolence to other people when things do not go as they expected . They are convinced that others are deliberately seeking to harm them, even in ambiguous cases or in the absence of any compelling reason to think so.
When this happens, they typically respond in two opposite and stereotypical ways: they become distressed and depressed, or they become defensive and then counterattack. A third option combines the previous two.
“Do you think you have any share of responsibility for what happened?” I asked a patient who had just told me about an argument with his partner.
“Are you telling me I’m to blame for everything?” he replied, visibly angry.
4. Extreme comments on its virtues
Another typical characteristic of these people is that they often disqualify themselves, or on the contrary exaggerate and magnify their own achievements, especially when these are small or not very relevant.
They are easily recognized when they are heard talking about their profession or work, which they come to consider of unusual transcendence or sometimes the panacea itself. They need to believe that in order to feel that they occupy an important place in the world .
Not long ago, I heard two female astrologers arguing on a TV show.
“Astrology is a science,” one of them said vehemently.
“No, it is not. It is only a discipline, but not a science,” said the other, visibly more relaxed.
“I’m telling you, it’s a science! I’ve been doing astrology all my life and I’m telling you it’s a science!”
Now let the reader guess which of the two women has low self-esteem and which has strong self-esteem.