Depression takes the color out of life and leaves a trail of grays in its wake. It can distort thinking, leading to decreased self-confidence, insecurity and self-loathing. Thoughts that would otherwise be considered ‘neutral’ can become negatively magnified and leave a low-hanging, ominous cloud hanging over the depressed person’s entire life.

The way in which low self-esteem and depression interrelate can seem like the proverbial “chicken and egg.” It is not, however a matter of “cause and effect,” but of relationship. And in this regard, low self-esteem is used as a possible symptom in the diagnosis of depression.

Research has shown a strong relationship between low self-esteem and depression, but not vice versa. In other words, low self-esteem is predictive of depression, but depression, while capable of impacting self-esteem, is not predictive of it.

Julia Friederike Sowislo and Ulrich Orth of the Department of Psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland conducted a meta-analysis of studies on depression and self-esteem. Their “vulnerability model” predicted that a lower self-esteem increases the chance of seeing events in one’s life as reinforcing a negative sense of self.

In non-clinical terms, the person suffering from low self-esteem takes life events personally and negatively, and this dark perspective of life and self is a set-up for depression. Instead of trying to disprove a negative self-concept, the person actually seeks negative feedback to corroborate it. In this way, low self-esteem is a risk factor for depression.

What is the takeaway from this? How are low self-esteem and depression related, and how can healing one heal the other?

Remember that self-esteem is the measure of how you feel about yourself. It’s not a statement of confidence in what you can do, but a belief system of your very worth. Do you like yourself? Love yourself? Believe you have value and purpose in life?

The importance of cultivating and nurturing a healthy self-esteem from the very beginning of life cannot be overstated. And because of the demonstrated influence of self-esteem on the risk of depression, boosting self-esteem is the best way to protect mood and manage or overcome depression.

Here are some tips for increasing self-esteem:

  • Deal with dysfunctional thinking. Negative thinking spirals into decreased self-esteem, and depression corrodes judgment and thinking styles. Recognize when you are “playing negative tapes in your head,” and replace them with factual, meaningful self-affirmations. Know that your unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference from fact or fiction, its job is to process it faster and easier. It believes what you tell it to be true so you need to change the story to change the outcome.
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings to bring your negative thoughts down to size and help maintain perspective. Keep a track of your emotions. There are over 40,000 words that describe your emotions and most people use only a dozen, of which 80% are negative.
  • Use visual cues like positive notes and inspirations to help record new “tapes” in your mind. Put pictures up on your mirror, computer, change your screen savers on your phone and computer.
  • Surround yourself with people who recognize and celebrate your strengths. Find reasons to celebrate even the smallest things until it becomes a habit and something you do over and over again.
  • Discover and pursue your passions. What did you used to love but stopped? What have you always wanted to do but have never done? What can you do now that would bring you more happiness?
  • Embrace failure as part of success. It is part of your life education but doesn’t define you. Success is paved by a road of failures first so embrace then as a learning experience for the greatness to come.

Low self-esteem and depression may be difficult to distinguish when your whole world is seen through gray lenses. But it only makes sense that the colors with which you paint your sense of self will ultimately be the colors with which you paint your view of the world.

If you are struggling with self-esteem and/or depression, you do not have to navigate that darkness alone. There are compassionate care and guidance available to help you.

You can reach us here, we are here to help you.