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How Low Self-Esteem Can Make Depression Worse

Self-criticism can lead you to do things that make you more depressed.

We all know that people with low self-esteem are more likely to be depressed, but there are specific ways that a negative view of yourself magnifies and then maintains your depression. It’s not only that you are labeling yourself in negative ways—like saying to yourself, “I am a loser,” “I am boring,” or “I am a failure.” That’s bad enough. But consider some of the other ways that self-criticism leads to more depression. Do any of the following sound familiar?

Joshua Rawson-Harris/Unsplash
Source: Joshua Rawson-Harris/Unsplash

Rumination: You keep thinking over and over about all your negative qualities. Dwelling on the negative makes you even more depressed. You have a hard time letting go of these intrusive negative thoughts. It’s almost as if a negative thought shows up and you get hijacked.

Unfair Comparisons: You keep comparing yourself to other people who do better and then view yourself as inferior. This makes you feel worse. You seldom compare yourself to people who are not doing as well as you are doing.

Can’t Enjoy Activities: When you do something that you used to enjoy you don’t enjoy it as much and you criticize yourself for not getting the pleasure that you used to get. You don’t realize that overcoming depression is like getting back into shape after not exercising for a long time. It will take a lot of work and pleasure might take a while to kick in.

Indecisiveness: You have a hard time making decisions because you think so little of yourself that you don’t give yourself credit for anything and you think that you lack the ability to cope with any negatives. You fail to see that you might be able to bounce back from negatives.

Fear of Regret: You avoid making decisions to change or do something because you believe that it won’t work out and you will regret it. Your low self-esteem leads you to feel frozen and unable to take action because you believe that the only response to something not working out will be to criticize yourself.

Isolation: Because you think so little of yourself you avoid people because you believe that you have little to say and that you could be a burden on others. This isolation makes you even more depressed. Because you isolate yourself you will then ruminate more, dwelling on what is wrong with you, rather than get involved and active in living your life.

In future posts I will discuss some techniques to defeat that self-critic and how to address each of these problematic ways of coping. Right now you may be responding to your depression in ways that make you more depressed—ruminating, avoiding, isolating, remaining indecisive.

More from Robert L. Leahy Ph.D.
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