“I Have No Friends And No Life:” How To Improve Your Self-Esteem And Relationships
By Abigail Boyd
Updated August 20, 2019
We all have moments where we find ourselves feeling lonely or down-in-the-dumps. Most of the time, the clouds pass, and we're able to see things again. However, sometimes, you may find yourself saying, "I have no friends and no life." Maybe you feel stuck in a job you hate, lack positive social connections, or feel rejected after a difficult break-up.
You are the only person who can change the way you feel about yourself. No matter what you've been through, how you've been treated, the mistakes you've made-you ultimately determine your self-image. While mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, can negatively alter your perception of yourself, these conditions are treatable when diagnosed and managed.
How Is Low Self-Esteem Defined?
In a basic sense, self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. Everyone has moments where they doubt themselves, such as when starting a new job, after leaving a relationship, or just in day-to-day life. That's normal. However, a chronic low opinion of yourself can impact your ability to achieve your goals and develop into your best self.
Low self-esteem usually develops over time due to a combination of factors. Maybe you were raised by strict or harsh parents who demanded the impossible from you. Or maybe you were the frequent target of bullying. Maybe you've been through a painful break-up or divorce that shredded your self-confidence. Whatever the cause, low self-esteem can drag you down.
Signs that you have low self-esteem include:
- Uncertainness or perfectionism.
- Frequent procrastination.
- Chronic feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame.
- Feeling like you're never good enough.
- Basing your self-worth on the opinions of others.
- Negative self-talk.
- Difficulty making eye contact.
- Thinking things like, "I can't make friends."
Factors That Can Lead To This Feeling
Demanding Work Schedules
It's normal to experience a certain amount of stress in the workplace. In fact, occasional stress can drive us to achieve our goals and complete the necessary tasks. However, excessive stress, such as that of an overly demanding work schedule, can leave us unsatisfied, unhappy, and overwhelmed.
Chronic Stress And Worry
In today's frantic and busy world, we may constantly feel stressed out and struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands placed on our shoulders. We may also worry constantly about what other people think about us. This chronic stress and worry can lead to lowered self-esteem, a decreased mood, and a feeling of disconnection and loneliness.
Excessive Social Media Usage
When we spend a lot of time on social media, seeing the photos and posts of other people who appear to have it all, we may get FOMO fever. We compare our real lives, which may not be filled with daily parties and expensive vacations, to the carefully curated images presented online. Even if we know these posts are unrealistic, it still affects us. A recent study published in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety found a link between frequent social media usage and depression.
Depression is an extremely common mental illness, affecting over 16 million adults in the US. It is the leading cause of disability for those age 15-44. Depression requires a diagnosis by a qualified health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Symptoms of depression can sap your energy, lower your mood, taint your thinking, and make even the simplest task seem much more difficult.
If you have five or more of the following symptoms most days for over two weeks, then you may have depression:
- Feeling persistently sad, hopeless, or numb.
- Losing interest and enjoyment in most activities, even those you once loved.
- I am feeling worthless.
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking straight.
- Fatigue, loss of energy.
- Loss of appetite or, alternately, a significant increase in appetite.
- Insomnia or, alternately, increased need for sleep. I have slowed motor functioning.
- Urge to isolate from others.
- Thoughts of suicide.
If you recognize yourself in this list, know there is hope. Depression is a highly treatable condition in most cases when a person seeks diagnosis and professional care. Unfortunately, up to 80% of people suffering from depression never seek treatment. That's why it's important if you think you have depression to contact a therapist or other mental health professional to initiate treatment.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
While it's normal to feel a bit nervous in certain social situations, like a job interview or a first date, a persistent feeling of anxiety or fear related to social interactions can cause significant distress and barriers in your life. With Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), even basic social interactions can cause a severe amount of anxiety, worry, and embarrassment. You may eventually avoid social situations in an attempt to minimize these symptoms, leading to isolation.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
- Intense anxiety or fear when faced with social situations.
- Worry about potentially embarrassing or humiliating oneself.
- Fear of judgment.
- Avoidance of social interactions.
- Physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, and dizziness.
- Fear or anxiety that is disproportionate to the situation.
Unfortunately, as with depression, social anxiety disorder forms a negative feedback loop that only causes symptoms to persist and worsen over time. Social anxiety can have a severe impact on your ability to be successful in work, relationships, and other activities that may be important to you.
If you think you're struggling with an issue such as depression or anxiety, it's important to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. The longer you try to manage symptoms by yourself, the more you may find yourself struggling against them.
Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem
Here are some ways you can improve your self-esteem:
- Stop looking outside yourself for approval. Many of us reach adulthood constantly looking for validation from other people. Criticism or rejection, even in small amounts, can feel soul-crushing. Instead, we need to build our self-esteem from the inside out. Analyze when you started thinking negatively about yourself. Begin to process and come to terms with past rejections and mistakes. Start using affirmations and commit to accepting yourself just as you are right now. A therapist can be invaluable during this process.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. When we have low self-esteem, we become our own harshest critic. Internally, we speak to ourselves in a manner that we would never treat a close family member or friend. We tend to adopt negative thought patterns that become deeply ingrained over time. Start paying attention to your negative thoughts and instead of immediately reacting to them, challenge their veracity. Replace them with positive alternatives.
- Define your goals and chart your progress. Having clearly defined personal goals for your work and life can help give you a sense of control and fulfillment. The only person you should be competing with is your past self. Break down the steps to reach your goal and track them consistently. Over time, you'll gain self-confidence and pride in your achievements.
- Stop worrying about the things you can't change. Those of us with low self-esteem tend to beat ourselves up constantly over small mistakes and perceived imperfections. There are certain things-like the past-that we can't change. Instead of focusing on these areas, shift your focus to what you can control.
Improving Your Relationships
Positive, strong relationships are an essential part of a fulfilling life. These relationships take effort to sustain, especially when we're struggling with low self-esteem. But this effort is worth it in the long run. Contrary to what you may think, you don't have to have a huge circle of friends-a few close friends that you can laugh with, be yourself around, and lean on during hard times are worth a hundred shallow acquaintances.
To improve your relationships, the following tips may help:
- Keep the lines of communication open. Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. Each individual should feel heard and understood, whether it's a friendship, a romantic relationship, or even a business connection. Effective communication involves listening to the other person when they express their needs and having empathy for any problems they are experiencing. It's also essential that you're able to communicate your feelings and needs as they arise.
- Prioritize regular face time as much as possible. Maintaining friendships can be difficult in adulthood between long work hours, family commitments, and other responsibilities. Make an effort to get together as often as is feasible with your friends and family members. Stay in regular contact, whether it's via social media, text messages, or email.
- Lend a hand when you can. One of the best ways to improve your self-esteem is to get out of your head and turn your attention to meeting the needs of those close to you. Can you pick up a few groceries? Assist with a move? Occasionally helping your friends and loved ones out-without overcommitting yourself-can help strengthen your relationships.
- Offer support and encouragement. Everyone wishes for friends that they can lean on during hard times, so be that person for others. Be present when those close to you need someone to talk to and let them know that you're there for them. Truly listen to them without judgment.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you're having trouble improving your self-esteem despite your efforts, consider reaching out to a professional counselor. A counselor can offer you the support, perspective, and guidance you need to improve your outlook and regain your self-confidence.
ReGain.us offers individual and couples online therapy that is available whenever you need it. You're not alone-reach out to us today to get started on the path to self-acceptance and better relationships.