6 Ways Low Self-Esteem Hurts Your Career

6 ways low self-esteem hurts your career


“You’re smart. You’re a good worker, and you have everything you need to succeed.”

Not the mantra that plays inside your head? It should be.

If your internal dialogue is composed of more negative terms like “not good enough,” you are suffering from low self-esteem, and it’s most likely affecting more than just your mood.

Low self-esteem is a sneaky enemy. There is no quick fix for it, and people often don’t realise how much it really affects them. However, it has been known to decrease motivation, prevent productive risk-taking, impact job performance and even lead to depression if left unchecked.

There are many causes of low self-esteem, and for you, it may be worth exploring the root of your own. However, what’s even more important than dwelling on why you have it is making your plan to overcome it.

Whenever you catch yourself listening to that negative internal dialogue, you probably don’t think about how it affects the world outside your mind. However, the negative thoughts that only you can hear reflect in your behaviour, from your body language to your everyday actions.

At work, this means when you decide to listen to the voice telling you that Know-It-All Jennifer is going to get the project you want, it shows. By believing that Jennifer is better for the task than you are, or that she is more popular with the boss, you are stopping yourself from even pursuing what you want.

With the fast-paced, competitive business world of today, this kind of complacency just isn’t going to cut it. If you want to grow in your career and be recognised for your ability, you have to fight for what you want.

This means asking for the projects you deserve, advocating yourself, showing off your talents, taking the lead — and most importantly, exuding confidence.

Of course, being confident is much easier said than done. There’s no confidence pill, and you shouldn’t even think of using “liquid courage.”

Despite the challenge of the task, building your confidence is absolutely vital to changing your low self-esteem and negative self-image into a positive one. Otherwise, you are hurting your overall physical well-being and mental health, in addition to your chances of performing well in your career. Professional help could be the answer, and these tips could help you as you move through your day-to-day:

Find meaningful work. 

This may be as small as changing your perspective on the work you do now or as big as finding a new job altogether. As Psychology Today reports, finding meaning in the work you do is a big part of creating a positive self-image. If you go home each day feeling as though you haven’t contributed anything to the world around you, it makes it that much easier for your internal dialogue to turn negative.

Take note of your accomplishments. 

It’s very easy to get caught up on worrying about things that haven’t gone your way, but it also does you no good. Instead, decide how you’ll learn from the past and focus on what you’ve done well at work recently. Make sure your boss is taking note, too.

Challenge your inner dialogue. 

It isn’t easy, but you have to do it. Catch yourself listening to that negative internal dialogue, and talk right back to it. When it says you don’t deserve a promotion, you think back “Yes I do, and here’s why…”

Don’t be afraid to talk it out. 

Maybe Know-It-All Jennifer isn’t your go-to person for friendly discussion, but your friends are there for a reason. Share some insights about your negative internal dialogue and allow your friends to tell you how wrong that dialogue is.

Invest in a good hobby. 

Yes, work is important, but it’s not your entire life. Rather than just going straight to Netflix when you get home, go on a walk with a friend. Try out weekly piano lessons. Get out of the house and do something you enjoy. Even if you make your hobby trying out new hobbies, you are exploring opportunities to put more meaning and personal interest in your life.

Keep exploring what works for you. 

There are endless self-esteem building exercises, and you’ll find that some work better for you than others. Keep trying out different things to see what makes the most sense for you specifically.

No matter how strong you think your negative self-image is or how many times it has affected your work in the past, remember this in your battle against it: You are smart. You are a good worker, and you really do have everything you need to succeed.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum