Any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may limit your ability to believe in yourself and what you can do to reach your potential is known as a negative self-concept. It is any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in yourself to do so.
When your positive self-concept is high, you may feel confident and ready to take on the world. On the other hand, continued negative self-concept can affect your relationships, sense of self-worth, how you express yourself, and how you navigate life.
The ensuing paragraph explores all you should know about negative self-concept with examples and signs to look out for.
What Is Negative Self Concept?
By definition, a negative self-concept is essentially how you think and feel about yourself at the conscious and unconscious levels.
From a psychological standpoint, Dr. Jan Roberts, LCSW, a psychotherapist known worldwide, says that negative self-concept typically reflects those hidden thoughts and disbelief you might have about yourself.
It also represents weak self-approval. People with a negative self-concept have low self-esteem and weak self-reflection, even if they deny it.
Reasons for Negative Self Concept
People have a negative self-concept for various reasons, including;
- Failed expectations from parents and caregivers as a child
- Negative Peer pressure from friends or loved ones.
- Unhealthy and failed relationships, including breakups or divorce
- Unresolved trauma
- Internalized shame
- Certain mental health conditions
- Other societal and cultural messages
“We tend to hold on to negative experiences, memories, thoughts, and words that people say. Those messages become embedded into our thinking patterns and create a filter of how we see everything.” Roberts explains.
Examples of Negative Self Concepts
Some examples of common negative messages that people repeat over and over to themselves include “I am a jerk,” “I am a loser,” “I never do anything right,” and “no one would ever like me.” They go ahead and believe and act on these messages, no matter how untrue or unreal they are.
Signs of Negative Self Concept
It’s quite easy to brush off a negative self-concept or lack of confidence as a character trait or to mistake it for humility. But then, having a bad opinion of yourself can hurt you in the long run. This can happen in small ways, like not speaking up in class or meetings, or in bigger ways, like having trouble in relationships or hurting yourself.
To detect these signs, the following are questions you should ask: “How often do you stop yourself from speaking your mind due to fear of embarrassment from being wrong?” Do you frequently say “sorry” where an “excuse me” would suffice?
Here are some signs to be aware of so that you can work on overcoming them.
You’ll Always Want to Please Others
You may try to please people instead of being your authentic self and pursuing what brings you joy and pleasure.
Feeling Needy or Unworthy
You may feel like you don’t deserve love, praise, or a raise at work. This is directly related to how much you value yourself and your abilities.
“A lack of inner worth is driven by a set of beliefs that they’re no good, feeling of insignificance, or believe they’re nothing of value,” says Licensed therapist Cheryl A. Clarke, LMFT.
You Struggle to Build Healthy Relationships
The stronger your self-worth, the healthier your relationships tend to be.
“If you struggle with a negative self-concept, it can threaten your overall relationships,” says Clarke.
You might face challenges with intimacy, trusting partners, and establishing strong personal boundaries, Clarke notes. And according to Roberts, you’re more like to remain in a one-sided, abusive, or codependent relationship, as well.
You Have a Poor Self Image
Do you call yourself “fat” or “ugly” and judge how you look when standing in front of a mirror? If yes, then it’s likely you think poorly of yourself and your appearance due to a negative self-concept.
Rejecting compliments is another example of a negative self-concept. You could just be humble, but frequently rejecting forms of flattery instead of saying “thank you” can mean you don’t believe those things are true.
You Experience Negative Self Talk
“I’m a loser,” I don’t deserve to be happy.” Why did I say that? I’m so stupid,” There are all common examples of negative self-talk that can result from low confidence.
If you regularly insult yourself—either internally or in conversation with others—you likely have a negative self-concept. Being unforgiving or harsh on yourself when making mistakes can be a sign too.
You Compare Yourself to Others
We all tend to play the comparison game. Comparing yourself to others can help you achieve your goals or inspire you to become better in your field.
But if this becomes a frequent habit and starts to impact your mental health negatively, it may be a sign that you need to work on your confidence.
You Avoid Self- Expression
Maybe you avoid expressing yourself out of shame, embarrassment, or fear of judgment. This habit of “playing small” could also be due to a lack of confidence
“When someone is not self-expressed, they always feel they don’t fit in and find themselves conforming,” Clarke adds.
Essentially, you hide or blend in with others as a coping mechanism for feeling insecure.
You Experience Self Doubt
Second-guessing ourselves is natural. After all, we’re only human.
But if you’re often untrusting of your own judgment or constantly seeking the options of others, this may be related to your self-esteem.
Clarke says this can also show up as you feel like you’ll always make mistakes and letting fear drive your life instead of feeling confident facing challenges
Saying “I’m Sorry” And/or Feeling Guilty for Everyday Actions
Is the word “sorry” at the top of your vocabulary? Do you feel guilty for things like taking up space or apologize for things that you have no control or responsibility over? This could be a sign that you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong— chances you have nothing to apologize for— but it becomes a habit!
Difficulty Speaking up and Prioritizing Your Own Needs, Wants, and Feelings
This may be especially prominent in the context of what others want or need, such as routinely placing others’ priorities above your own. Perhaps you convince yourself that what you really want doesn’t matter at the moment, especially in the face of someone else’s needs. While caring for others is a personality strength, when it comes at the cost of your own needs, wants, or feelings, it becomes a hindrance.
Not Feeling Deserving Of, or Capable Of, “More”
Whether “more” means deserving better relationships, a higher-paying job, or the common decency of others, when you feel like you deserve better, you rarely go seeking it. This can lead to unfulfilling (or even toxic) relationships, unsatisfactory or low-paying jobs, and overall lower standards.
Difficulty Making Your Own Choices
A lack of confidence can show up in feeling torn between choices or having difficulty making your own choices. It’s much easier to let others decide, but do they always know what you want or need? This is a sign of a negative self-concept, not believing that you can make good decisions.
Lack of Boundaries
Having a lack of boundaries may leave you feeling vulnerable or hurt, whether that’s the intention of your loved ones or not. A negative self-concept shows up in feeling insecure and that speaking up about your needs will cause people to look down on you.
Impact of Positive and Negative Self Concept
Our self-image is dynamic and changing. Creating and growing a positive self-image is a process that can go on over a lifetime.
Self-image is the personal view, or mental picture, that we have of ourselves. It is an “internal dictionary” that describes the characteristics of yourself, including such things as intelligence, beauty, talent, selfishness, and kindness. These characteristics form a collective representation of our assets (strengths) and liabilities (weaknesses), as we see them.
Here Are the Impacts of Positive Self Concept
- Feeling able to cope with the problem; Subjective self-understanding of the ability to deal with problems facing the objective.
- Feeling a par with others; Understanding that human beings are not born with the knowledge and wealth gained from the process of learning and working life.
- Receiving a compliment without shame
- Feeling able to repair a negative self-concept; The ability to carry out the process of self-reflection to improve behavior deemed less.
Impacts of Negative Self Concept
- Sensitive to criticism; The lack of ability to accept criticism from others as the process of self-reflection.
- Being responsive to praise; Being overreactive to the action taken.
- Tends to feel disliked by others; Subjective feeling that everyone else around you look at you in a negative light.
- Has the attitude of hypercritic; Like to excessively criticize others negatively.
Negative Self Concept FAQs
What are examples of negative self-concept?
“I am a jerk,” “I am a loser,” “I never do anything correctly,” “No one will ever like me,” and “I am a klutz,” are some examples of frequent negative messages that people repeat to themselves again and over. Even if the messages are false or unreal, the majority of people believe them.
What are positive and negative self concepts?
Self-esteem relates to our feelings about ourselves, whether they are favorable (high self-esteem) or negative (low self-esteem). When we believe that we are desirable and deserving, and that others think well of us, we experience the positive sensations of high self-esteem.
Why do people have negative self-concept?
Low self-esteem can be caused by a variety of factors, including: Unhappy childhood with overbearing parents (or other major figures such as teachers). In school, poor academic achievement leads to a lack of confidence. An ongoing stressful life event, such as a breakup of a relationship or financial difficulties.