Women who show signs of low self-esteem have a damaged sense of self-worth that most likely began in childhood. Adolescent and teenage girls are at particular risk of developing low self-esteem because of the many forms of media--television, magazines, advertising and websites--that emphasize impossible standards of beauty and appearance. Low self-esteem can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.
Women with low self-esteem were often mistreated by authority figures and peers while growing up. Girls who are criticized, ignored, or physically or verbally abused, and who do not experience success in school or other areas such as sports, often show signs of low-self-esteem. As pre-teens, girls begin to focus on their physical appearance and sexual appeal as a measure of their self-worth. The sexualization of girls in the media and the stress of not being able to live up to idealized ideas of how a girl should look and act can also interfere with the development of self-esteem.
Types of Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem takes many forms, each with different signs. Some women with low self-esteem act as if they are happy and successful when they are actually afraid of failure. Perfectionism, competitiveness and procrastination are all signs of this type of low self-esteem. Other women with low self-esteem might act defiantly, as if rules don't apply to them or other people's opinions don't matter, especially anyone in authority. Breaking rules and blaming others are signs of this type of low self-esteem. Women who act helpless and who are unable to make decisions for themselves and who routinely follow other people's lead, might also be showing a form of low self-esteem. Underachievement, lack of assertiveness and leaning heavily on others to take the lead are all signs of this type of low self-esteem.
Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Many of the signs of low self-esteem not only prevent a woman from fully enjoying her life but can also have real and serious effects on physical and mental health. As self-esteem spirals downward, a woman's physical and mental health might decline to the point where there is a risk of hurting herself or someone else.
Parents can help their daughters develop a strong sense of self-worth by monitoring their behavior and watching for signs of low self-esteem. To do this, the New York University Child Study Center recommends asking your daughter questions about the effect of advertising and other media images on her own sense of self-worth. Does she feel a need to own certain brand names or change her appearance in order to feel good about herself or feel accepted by others? Pointing out the effects of media and discussing it with your daughter can help her take control of her self-esteem.
Adult women can learn to be more confident and diminish the signs of low self-esteem by taking better care of themselves. The U.S. government's Center for Mental Health Services recommends women with low self-esteem take active steps to treat themselves better and find ways to feel better about themselves. These steps might include avoiding procrastination, making time for enjoyable activities, putting talents and special abilities to good use and spending more time with friends.