I realize that “The benefits of low self-esteem” is a strange title. It’s hard to imagine why low self-esteem would ever be favorable. In this newsletter, I explore how having low self-esteem can be very helpful for children. The problems tend to arise later on when that same low self-esteem that was helpful, turns out to be harmful as an adult.
Low self-esteem is the feeling of inadequacy. We all have some of these feelings, but for some people these feelings can either plague them during their life or lead them to settle for less in many different aspects of their life. Low self-esteem stops people from having fulfilling relationships and fulfilling jobs. You need to believe that you are worth good things in order to be able to enjoy good things. You need to be able to believe that you are worthy of being treated well in order to attract to you people who treat you well.
All children are vulnerable and need the good parents or caregivers. Some people are lucky enough to have a good enough parents. This is not however the case for many. There are many shades of parenting, but in general the better the quality of care and love you received as a child, the better your sense of self-esteem.
When kids are showered with love, encouragement and praise, they feel worthy of love. If they do not have enough love they feel worthless and unable to accept compliments. It is one of the essential contributors to their sense of self-worth. How much a child is valued by another, leads the child to develop a sense of self-worth.
Protection from further hurt
Children interpret deficits in love as being “their fault”. This is because children have a view of the world centered around themselves. Importantly, having low self-esteem can protect the child from further hurt. If the child believes that they are not deserving of love, they will not be disappointed when there is no love available. The internalized sense of low self-worth protects the child from further feelings of hurt and abandonment from the parent and allows the child to get through the days with less suffering. It is better not to hope for love if it is not coming. In this way, low self-esteem saves the child a lot of pain.
A sense of control
Another important way low self-esteem saves the child is by giving the child a sense of control. If a child interprets the lack of love as due to their inadequacy, it gives the child a sense that they can change themselves to be loved. Particularly in abusive environments, it is very important for a child to establish a sense of control in a situation where they desperately need to FEEL like they have control. In this situation, the child makes the parents all good and them all bad. Even though, this seems like a bad deal for the child, it importantly allows the child to feel like they can somehow change and therefore somehow change the circumstance.
For the reasons that I set forth above, you can see that there are clear benefits to having low self-esteem as a child. Problems emerge though as that child becomes an adult and enters into the world with low self-esteem. One of the major works of therapy is to help adults see the origins of their low self-esteem and reinterpret the events that impacted their childhood with adult eyes. Through this process, adult clients get to reclaim their worth and start to enjoy the benefits of positive, healthy self-esteem.