Today’s Self-Esteem Obsessed Junkies: Is Low Self-Esteem Really a Bad Thing?

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cat con·fi·dence
ˈkänfədəns,-fəˌdens/

noun: confidence

1. the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.

“we had every confidence in the staff”

synonyms: trust, belief, faith, credence, conviction

“I have little confidence in these figures”
antonyms: skepticism, distrust the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

“it is not possible to say with confidence how much of the increase in sea levels is due to melting glaciers”

a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

synonyms: self-assurance, self-confidence, self-possession, assertiveness; poise, aplomb, phlegm; courage, boldness, mettle, nerve

“she’s brimming with confidence”

antonyms: uncertainty, doubt
the telling of private matters or secrets with mutual trust.

Origin
late Middle English: from Latin confidentia, from confidere ‘have full trust’ (see confident).


When someone says that you need to have self-esteem and confidence, I have always gotten annoyed with this. Because it is my belief that the definition is often misunderstood. I know that I used to confuse the definition as well.

First of all, it seems that if you are accused of having low self-esteem, it is assumed that you lack confidence or that you are not successful. If you are labeled or people think you have low self-esteem, it’s like suddenly you are treated like you’ve got leprosy and of course this only makes low self-esteem worse. On one hand, what you feel is speculated to manifest into the world around you and those low-frequency vibes begin to affect how people treat you.

It is often said that the more confident you are, the more people gravitate towards you. Even if you fake it until you feel it, people are much more comfortable with someone who is confident than those that lack confidence. But is low self-esteem the end all be all? Is it truly as devastating to an individual’s future and or success as it is projected to be? According to a UK article, Why Self Esteem is a Bad Thing lists the below characteristics of individuals with high self-esteem:

confident_without_being_cocky

  • Being prone to self-satisfied boasting
  • Tending to be smug and superior
  • Abusing relationships, assuming their needs come first in any situation. If this doesn’t happen, they will become angry and bullying
  • Adopting an air of superiority, simply because they have skill or luck in a particular area of life
  • Being blind to their own faults and so are unlikely to change or improve themselves
  • Tending to have impulse control problems

The article goes on to expand upon research linking high self-esteemed individuals to criminal behavior. An in-depth psychological research conducted in 1996, Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: the dark side of high self-esteem backs this theory, contradicting assumptions that self-esteem is always a positive thing.

“In contrast to the low self-esteem view, we propose that highly favorable self-appraisals are the ones most likely to lead to violence. As noted in a previous section, the traditional theories linking low self-esteem to violence suffer from ambiguities, inconsistencies, and contradictory empirical evidence. The opposite view therefore deserves consideration.”

This is why often times abusers or those that are considered violent can tend to appear very likable, charismatic, and even charming. Another 2013 article written in Psychology Today, Behind the Veil: Inside the Mind of Men “That Abuse” explains how, “Men that are abusers are very clever, smart, and extremely charming. Most of these men have a personality that draws people in because of their level of charm this is part of their art to deceive and manipulate.” On the flip side, there are plenty of people with a healthy portion of self-esteem and confidence that does not resort to violence. According to PsychCentral, low self-esteem can often lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression if left unexamined. The notion however, that one must have high self-esteem and confidence in order to be successful, is not always the case.

Here are some artists with low self-esteem, tracked by a recent 2014 article in Huffington Post:

  • Mariah Carey
  • David Bowie
  • Serena Williams
  • Nicole Scherzinger
  • Kate Winslet

These are just a few, however there are many more. Low self-esteem is supposed to be linked with depression or symptoms of depression often exist in those with who lack confidence. The darker side of depression has afflicted many famous and talented artists.

According to Depression Help Resources, here are the lists of famous and successful individuals both past and present who are afflicted with depression.

Actors/Entertainers
  • Mike Wallace – News journalist and correspondent of TV show “60 Minutes.” He was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1984 (after being sued for libel). Wallace had experienced severe depressive episodes, but has overcome them with therapy and antidepressant medication.
  • Brooke Shields – Calvin Klein jean model and actor in movies and shows such as “The Blue Lagoon,” “Endless Love,” “Suddenly Susan.” Shields had suffered from post partum depression after the birth of her son.
  • Jim Carrey – Starred in movies such as “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” “The Mask,” “The Truman Show,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” On 60 Minutes (November 2004), Carrey openly discussed his history of depression and being on Prozac.
  • Ellen DeGeneres – Comedian, actor in TV show “Ellen,” movie “Finding Nemo” and star of popular talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” DeGeneres went through depression for about a year shortly after the cancellation of her show “Ellen” and publicly coming out in 1997.
  • Lorraine Bracco – Best known for her role as a psychiatrist on “The Sopranos.” Bracco has spoken out publicly about her depression and has worked toward ending stigma around mental illness. Bracco overcame her depression through antidepressants and talk therapy. She is no longer on medication, but continues to find therapy helpful.
  • Drew Barrymore – Actor in films such as “The Wedding Singer,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and director/producer (e.g. “Charlie’s Angels,” “Ever After”). Barrymore has a depression history that includes a suicide attempt and being hospitalized.
  • Rosie O’Donnell – In movies such as “A League of Their Own,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Flintstones” and starred in her own talk show, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” O’Donnell first felt depressed as a child and experienced periods of depression as an adult. At 37, her depression started to improve when she began taking medication.
  • Dick Clark – Host of “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” “American Bandstand.” Clark was interviewed about his experience with depression in the book, “On the Edge of Darkness” by Kathy Cronkite.
  • Roseanne Barr – Comedian and actor best known for her role in the sitcom “Roseanne.” She had openly announced being diagnosed with depression (among other disorders) in 1994. Barr has been hospitalized and her treatment has involved both psychotherapy and antidepressants.
  • Rod Steiger – Academy Award winner, starred in “Doctor Zhivago,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “On the Waterfront.” Steiger became depressed for eight years after having triple bypass surgery in 1976. He was also interviewed in Kathy Cronkite’s book, “On the Edge of Darkness.”
  • Others include Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Joan Rivers, John Cleese, Dick Cavett, Marilyn Monroe.

Musicians/Singers/Songwriters/Composers

  • Sting (Gordon Sumner) – Former lead singer, bassist of the rock group The Police and successful solo artist. While writing his memoir, “Broken Music,” Sting fell into a depression that lasted for two years.
  • Elton John – British pop singer, songwriter, pianist with hits like “Your Song,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Crocodile Rock,” etc. In the early 1990s, John battled with depression (as well as bulimia and drug abuse) which he later overcame. John went into another period of depression after the death of his two friends (Princess Diana and Gianni Versace).
  • Billy Joel – Musician, singer, songwriter. Some of his well known hits include “Piano Man,” “Just the Way You Are,” “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me,” “My Life.” In the 1970s, Joel experienced serious depression and admitted himself into a hospital for treatment after attempting to end his life by drinking furniture polish.
  • Sheryl Crow – Singer, musician with hits such as “All I Wanna Do,” “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” In an interview with “Ladies’ Home Journal” magazine (April 2003), Crow discussed having chronic depression since she was a child. In the late 1980s, Crow had a period of depression after touring with Michael Jackson. Her depression was helped by antidepressants and therapy.
  • Tammy Wynette – Country singer, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, most famous for her song, “Stand by Your Man.” Wynette received ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for her depression.
  • Ozzy Osbourne – Lead singer of Black Sabbath, star of his own reality TV show, “The Osbournes.” Osbourne had periods of depression early on in his life as well as during his career and after the death of Randy Rhoads, his friend and band mate.
  • Robbie Williams – British pop singer and songwriter (“Millenium,” “She’s the One,” “Eternity / The Road to Mandalay,” “Radio”). Williams has struggled with reoccurring episodes of depression. In September 2006, Williams cancelled part of his tour to Asia to receive treatment.
  • Marie Osmond – Country singer, starred in the “Donny and Marie Show.” Osmond describes her bout with postpartum depression in her book, “Behind the Smile.”
  • Others include Alanis Morissette, John Denver, Cole Porter, Beethoven, Irving Berlin.

Athletes

  • Terry Bradshaw – Former quarterback for the football team, Pittsburgh Steelers. In the late 1990s, Bradshaw was diagnosed with clinical depression and began taking antidepressants (Paxil). (Bradshaw also had panic attacks after games.)
  • Monica Seles – Professional tennis player, winner of nine grand slam single titles. In her biography, “Monica: From Fear to Victory,” Seles describes falling into a depression after she was stabbed in the back during a match in 1993.
  • Greg Louganis – Diver and multiple Olympics medal winner. Louganis first experienced depression when he was 12 and attempted suicide twice.
  • Ty Cobb – Profession baseball player for the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia A’s and Baseball Hall of Fame member. Cobb was hospitalized for depression during his first year with the Detroit Tigers.
  • Ilie Natase – Number one professional tennis player in 1973. As described in his autobiography, “Mr. Natase,” Natase fell into a depression shortly after he retired in 1984, but was able to overcome it that same year.

Writers/Poets

  • Art Buchwald – Writer, humorist known for his column in “The Washington Post.” Buchwald was hospitalized for depression in 1963. He has talked openly about his depression (e.g. Larry King Live) and the need for treatment and decreasing stigma.
  • William Styron – Author of “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Confessions of Nat Turner.” Styron’s first episode of depression occurred in mid-1980s and he continued to have bouts of depression from there on. Styron wrote about his experience with this illness in his memoir, “Darkness Visible.”
  • John Keats – 19th Century English Romantic Poet most famous for his poetry series of “Odes.” Keats experienced periods of severe depression.
  • William Faulkner – Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature (1949), novels include “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying” and “Absalom, Absalom!” Faulkner struggled with depression (and alcoholism).
  • Leo Tolstoy – Writer of novels such as “War and Peace,” “Anna Karenina.” Tolstoy started to experience depression while writing the latter book.
  • Other include Lord Byron, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway.

Artists

  • Claude Monet – French impressionist painter of “The Woman in the Green Dress,” “Impression, Sunrise,” “Water Lily Pond.” Monet entered a depressive episode after the death of his wife, Alice Hoschedé.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe – Prominent American artist, painter since the 1920s (died in 1986 when she was 98). After her husband’s affair, O’Keeffe became depressed and was hospitalized for a short period of time.
  • Jackson Pollock – Abstract expressionist painter. Pollock suffered from depression and alcoholism.
  • Edvard Munch – Norwegian artist most famous for his painting “The Scream.” After his father’s death (1889), Munch went into a deep depression. At age 45, he was hospitalized for eight months.
  • Others artists include Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo.

Political/Public Figures

  • Princess Diana – Ex-wife of Charles, Prince of Wales and greatly involved in AIDS charity work. Princess Diana had suffered from post-partum depression (after her first son was born) and also experienced depression from her transition to Princess of Wales and marital problems.
  • Abraham Lincoln – 16th President of the United States. President Lincoln’s first major episode of depression began in his 20s and he struggled with this illness for the remainder of his life (in addition to anxiety attacks).
  • Tipper Gore – Wife of Vice President Al Gore. (Also Tipper Gore’s mother was chronically depressed, was on antidepressants and hospitalized twice.) In 1989, Gore experienced depression after her son’s near fatal car accident. She was officially diagnosed with clinical depression two years later and fully recovered with medication and therapy.
  • Kitty Dukakis – Wife of former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis has a history of severe depression, hospitalizations and began ECT in 2001. She has stated that ECT helped her taper off antidepressants and improved her work in therapy. Dukakis has written about her experience in a book called “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.”
  • Calvin Coolidge – 30th President of the United States. Coolidge fell into a deep depression after the death of his son.
  • Menachem Begin – 6th Prime Minister of Israel. Begin’s depression was triggered by the Lebanon war and death of his wife.
  • Others include Barbara Bush, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon.

Other Celebrities

  • Buzz Aldrin – Astronaut (along with Neil Armstrong) who walked on the moon in 1969. Aldrin’s depression began shortly after going to the moon and eventually was hospitalized. He recovered with the help of psychotherapy and depression medicines. Aldrin describes his depressive experience in his book, “Return to Earth.”
  • Stephen Hawking – Physicist, wrote popular best selling book, “A Brief History of Time,” known for his contributions to theoretical physics, cosmology, black holes. In the early 1960’s, Hawking became depressed shortly after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotropic lateral sclerosis). In 1976, he also succumbed to depression after being hospitalized for medical reasons.
  • Yves Saint Laurent – Fashion designer. Early in his career after being enlisted in the French Army, Saint Laurent experienced a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized and given electroshock therapy after 20 days of active duty. Later in life, he became vulnerable to alcohol and drug use because of his depression.
  • Salvador Luria – Microbiologist, 1969 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine. In his autobiography, “A Slot Machine, a Broken Test Tube“, Luria discussed his experience with depression and psychotherapy.
  • Vaslav Nijinsky – Russian ballet dancer. In the book, “Vaslav Nijinsky: A Leap Into Madness,” the author described Nijinsky as having bouts of depression and hospitalizations.

While low self-esteem is considered a bad thing and depression is linked as one trait of self-loathing individuals, it doesn’t necessarily mean that individuals who do not have a grandiose personal image of themselves is less successful. And if you pay attention to the actual definition of what confidence is, it means trust and belief. Lacking confidence doesn’t necessarily mean gloomy, dark self-hatred. The antonyms of confidence is skepticism, distrust in the state of feeling certain about the truth of something. In other words, lower self-confidence is not the end of the world. Sure, it helps to have a good attitude and positive self-image. But, numerous studies and research indicate that high self-esteem is not always a good thing. Just because one doesn’t always feel certain about their self or their future, it doesn’t equal failure or lack of success.

Some of the most successful people have low self-esteem, the kind that keeps pushing themselves to create better art and work harder because they are not always satisfied with the results.  People with low-self esteem are more likely to know where they need to change and improve. Meanwhile, those with high self-esteem are more likely to think that they don’t have to. As an artist, I can often be my own worst critic and enemy. It is the nature of most artists. Extreme egotistical feelings of self-worth and this constant push for everyone to have high levels of self-esteem is simply over rated and over emphasized.

There is nothing wrong with a little healthy dose of humility, some of us self-esteem junkies should try it some time.

Einstein

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4 thoughts on “Today’s Self-Esteem Obsessed Junkies: Is Low Self-Esteem Really a Bad Thing?

    Kurt Brindley ✍ ✄ ✍ said:
    November 17, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    There is so much to be said for how we value self. When my daughter was very young, I came across a couple of interesting articles where I learned two things that have always stayed with me and which were fundamental to how I regarded and raised my daughter:

    – the more education a father has, the higher self-esteem his daughter will have
    – girls with low self-esteem tend to have more sex than girls with high self-esteem, whereas boys with high self-esteem tend to have more sex than boys with low self-esteem

    Consequently, I worked hard to raise my education level as high as I could, and my daughter’s level of self-esteem even higher. I’m not sure how much all this has to do with it, but my daughter is now a strong, independent, fearless, and most beautiful young woman.

    Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      November 23, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Kurt, good point. I also read the same thing. There are so many studies on self-esteem and especially how it relates to girls that never grew up with their fathers. Boys too, you’ll see boys that don’t have good role models tend to do poorly in school and often times have trouble with authority. It’s amazing how important the role of a father is to in kids lives. Those that are single moms out there have to do the work of two people. Even then, no matter how much a single mother tries to do alone it’s not the same. No one can take the place of a father. I am glad you chose higher education for yourself and that you’re a great father to your daughter. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    justastar100billion said:
    April 1, 2017 at 8:27 PM

    This is very refreshing. I have struggled with depression as well as self doubt most of my life.

    So many people told me that I had to feel better about myself. I had to feel happy and want to plaster my face all over my Facebook profile, which is something I could never do as I hate pictures of myself.

    I always wondered why emotions had to be positive. Why couldn’t I vow to work hard regardless of how I felt and skipped things that I didn’t really prefer (usually I was too exhausted to engage in more things than the current goals I had i.e. college and paying my bills)?

    Why did it really matter if I turned down a night of drugs and alcohol with my roommates, or not take selfies with my then boyfriend? I looked to the small things, like naps and the occasional Netflix bing, to keep me satisfied. I was always able to look back at what I accomplished and know that regardless of how I felt that I was doing just fine.

    I think our society is much too concerned with socializing and having monumental experiences, constantly running from one ‘high’ to the next. I liked being boring and safe. I never regretted studying instead of drinking, and I sure didn’t regret not filling everyones feed with pictures of me.

    I regret, however, not just accepting my condition and not expecting myself to be more than I was, someone else.

    Like

      Sonyo Estavillo responded:
      April 3, 2017 at 2:24 PM

      I definitely agree with you and am glad that you focused on school rather than things that could have gotten you in trouble. Netflix binging is the best! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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