I consider low self-esteem to be the most wide-spread and insidious psychological problem. Alcoholism, drug addiction, anorexia, miserable personal lives, failed careers are among the consequences of this issue. Here is the classification of different forms of self-esteem that I have come up with:
I. The people who have been fortunate enough to emerge from their childhood and adolescence with a good and healthy self-esteem, a.k.a lucky bastards whom I’d gladly admire if I didn’t envy them so badly.
II. People with low self-esteem are less monolithic as a group than the folks with high self-esteem. They can be broken down into the following categories, based on how they handle their problem:
1. Those who realize early on that they have this issue and start working consciously and patiently on improving their self-esteem. These are people who are self-aware enough to acknowledge that this is a problem that has hurt them badly and who refuse to inflict the same suffering on others.
2. Those who lack self-awareness and spend their entire life consuming other human beings in a way that allows them to pretend that they don’t have low self-esteem. They do this in a variety of ways:
a) Whining. There are those who milk others for self-affirmation, compliments and reassurance all day and every day. “I know I look fat in this,” they say in a tragic voice. You try to reassure them but they resist. “No, don’t try to make me feel better,” they wail. “I know I’m grossly fat.” When you get tired of reassuring them, they broke down in tears, “You see, I knew you thought I was fat!” These people pose as victims when, in reality, they are the ones who victimize others by dumping their issues on them.
b) Denigration. These are people who make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. They keep making comments that make others feel bad about themselves. This is a form of bullying that is aimed at providing them with a very temporary relief from the constantly nagging pain of low self-esteem. The relief is always very fleeting which makes such people seek fresh victims on a regular basis.
The problem is that those of us who have low self-esteem are especially likely to fall into the clutches of people who address their own self-esteem issues in these unhealthy ways. This is why it’s so crucial for us to avoid them and remove them from our lives as soon as we catch on to their game.
3. Those who are too good and kind to feed other people to the perennially famished beast of their low self-esteem, so they engage in slow self-destruction in order to feed it. They self-sabotage their careers, personal lives, friendships, health. This is a life-long project of self-immolation. Such people never cause any harm to others but, boy, do they do a number on themselves! Since they are honestly persuaded that they don’t deserve anything good anyways, they end up with partners who abuse or undermine them, in lousy, unfulfilling jobs, and with friends who don’t appreciate them.
The saddest thing is that these perfectly good people believe with all their hearts that they actually deserve all that unhappiness and mistreatment.
“How did you react when your girlfriend told you all these things about how you did not deserve her because you were a piece of garbage?” I asked one such an acquaintance.
“I felt very grateful that she agreed not to dump me,” he said earnestly.