I used to have low self-esteem. It felt awful. What was even worse was how bad I felt for feeling bad about myself. My efforts to shame myself into feeling better about myself only added to the problem. I couldn’t understand why, despite evidence to the contrary, my brain refused to loosen its grip on the belief that I was somehow less-than. Perhaps you, too, wonder why you can’t stop feeling bad about yourself no matter how much you accomplish or try to convince yourself otherwise. If so, you may be as surprised as I was that not only are there good reasons for not wanting to give up that low opinion of yourself, it actually reveals some important things about you.

Take a look at the following positive things about having a negative self-opinion:

  • Connection: You seek equanimity, and this makes you approachable and comfortable to be around. Having low self-esteem often evokes support from others. Wanting help and being helped is a powerful relational match that creates closeness and mutual reciprocity.
  • Humility: Your low self-confidence inclines you to avoid being perceived as arrogant. As a result, people are more likely to be nice to you and you have a keen ability to feel compassion and empathy for others. Your humility also primes you to be more appreciative toward people who are kind to you, which in turn benefits relationships and strengthens bonds. Having a humble approach also makes you more likely to consider others’ points of view and, in turn, reap benefits from others’ wisdom.
  • Less Effort: Our brains are engineered to find ways to minimize effort where possible. In areas we believe we can predict something, less effort is required. Rejecting yourself ahead of time is an effective strategy to reduce the mental workload involved in trying to manage others’ perceptions of you. When you believe you are responsible for other people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions towards you, having low self-esteem relieves you from the tedious work of constant mind-reading because you already “know” how you are perceived.
  • Boundary Avoidance: Setting boundaries is interpersonally risky business. Doing so can result in others’ disappointment or disapproval. It’s safer to be annoyed with someone than afraid of them. Low self-esteem can provide justification for not taking those risks and preserve the integrity of relationships.
  • Certainty:  Consider this: If I know I’m not good enough, and I know you know I’m not good enough, then I don’t have to feel the anxiety of not knowing what you think of me or being wrong about you or myself. The brain seeks evidence to prove itself right, even if what we believe we’re right about makes us unhappy. Certainty is satisfying and comforting, even when it’s a distortion of reality.
  • Self-Preservation: You’re less likely to take risks, so it reduces the chances of experiencing failure. This is a significant benefit when we perceive failure to be a reflection of our worth.
  • Motivation to Be Your Best Self: If you believe you’re not that great, chances are you’ll work twice as hard on yourself, which will likely result in you becoming a more giving, caring, and good-hearted person than you would otherwise.
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