Signs of Low Self-Esteem, Part IV: Disregard and Punctuality Problems

A woman rests her head on her handsIn the previous three Signs of Low Self-Esteem articles (part I, part II, and part III), we took a look at a total of ten potential signs of low self-esteem, and ways to work on each of them. In this article, we examine two more possible signs of low self-esteem, and what to do about them. Remember, it’s impossible to look at a particular behavior and label it a high or low self-esteem behavior by itself. Self-esteem is always indicated by a pattern of behaviors, not single ones.

11. Hostility to the Concept of Self-Esteem
This one is obviously a little tricky. But let’s put it like this: Hating or being apathetic to the idea of enjoying a positive attitude toward oneself can signal discomfort within. Not everyone with low self-esteem dislikes the self-esteem concept. If that were so, how would we account for self-help book sales on the topic? But most people who feel irritated by the concept do suffer from low self-esteem. Why is that?

Many of these folks were raised to be “selfless.” They were kept from feeling proud of their accomplishments, desiring more for themselves than others might have, or speaking well of themselves, lest they be seen as high and mighty, selfish, or prideful. (Note the distinction between the words “prideful” and “proud.” The first is considered a sin, the second an all-American attribute. This distinction deserves another entire article, but I digress.)

Healthy self-esteem, or even an interest in developing it, strikes the “anti-self-esteem” crowd as the height of vulgarity. How dare anyone go “Rah Rah Rah!” about him- or herself?  These are the same people who confuse arrogance with “too much self-esteem.”

If people who dislike the concept of self-esteem are honest with themselves, they will sense an uncomfortable discrepancy. Deep down, we all want to have a positive relationship with the person we are. We want to feel proud of ourselves. To disparage that self-loving relationship is to deny human nature.

If this sounds like you, consider where you might have learned your reluctance to think well of yourself. Who taught you not to? How did that message get conveyed? Consider the possibility that person was wrong, and that it is okay to like who you are. Then, make a point of noticing things about yourself that you appreciate. Maybe you are considerate of others, imaginative, playful, conscientious, generous, knowledgeable, or compassionate. What do you like about the person you are?

Notice any negative thoughts or feelings that come up when you do this. Those thoughts and feelings are always with you, whether you’re noticing them or not. Do they serve you, or would you like to let them go? Mindful awareness is always the first step toward change.

12. Punctuality Problems
In cultures that do not value punctuality, chronic lateness is a non-sequitur. You can’t be late if there’s no such thing as being on time. Only industrial, Westernized cultures, like our clock-driven American mainstream, value punctuality and associate it with purposefulness, integrity, consideration for others, focus, and a myriad of other positive values.

Since punctuality is culture-dependent, we must be careful not to label everyone who is habitually late as someone with low self-esteem. Have you ever looked at someone who was perpetually late, and thought, “Well, they certainly don’t care very much about other people?” If we consider how people’s treatment of their egos can be directed both internally and externally, we must consider the opposite possibility. Maybe they don’t care enough about themselves.

Lateness often occurs because of a tendency to underestimate the time needed to get from A to B, or to complete task X. But this can point to:

  • A lack of planning—passivity instead of activity
  • Thinking no one will notice or care if one is late—undervaluing of self
  • Lack of consideration for others’ feelings or time—lack of empathy
  • Desire for revenge—acting out instead of communicating directly

All of these characteristics are consistent with low self-esteem. If you are chronically late, consider what may be causing it. Does it help you feel important to make an entrance once everyone is already there? Does it seem like no one will care if or when you show up? Is it cultural? Think about what it means to you when you are “late.”

If you become aware that your lateness is making you feel bad about yourself, start practicing punctuality. Overestimate the amount of time it will take to do something. If you think it will take 10 minutes, give it half an hour instead.

Ask your friends or family to be honest with you about how your lateness affects them. This information might be a source of real motivation for you. If you like to learn by reading books, try Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged by Diana DeLonzor.

© Copyright 2010 by By Tina Gilbertson, MA, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • austin

    austin

    June 16th, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    that hostility shows an apprehension and a fear of confronting those demons within

  • Bernard K.

    Bernard K.

    June 17th, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    I know a person who exhibits both of these negative traits but I’m not too sure that he suffers from low self-esteem…its because he does not talk often and hardly hangs out…any help?

  • Tina Gilbertson

    Tina Gilbertson

    June 21st, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    It’s hard to get to know a person if they don’t talk or hang out very much, so it’s impossible to say whether that person suffers from injured self-esteem. If you pay attention, you might notice other behaviors that will give you clues. You can check out the other “Signs of Low Self-Esteem” articles in this blog to get some ideas about what to look for. Remember to consider the overall pattern, rather than single traits, when thinking about self-esteem.

  • Steve M Nash

    Steve M Nash

    June 28th, 2010 at 4:13 AM

    So what you’re saying, in effect, is that low self esteem can perpetuate itself by not allowing its existence to be recognised and thus challenged (Hostility to the Very Concept of Self-Esteem) or by conjuring up enough events for the person to feel bad about themselves (punctuality is your example, or you could go with self-sabotage or procrastination or not being assertive of being too fearful…)

    Very interesting.

    My own low self esteem signs seem to be more about limiting my world (and thus limiting myself). E.g. not trusting people, misplaced humility, guilt…

    Anyway, I do think it’s VITAL to recoginise your low self esteem symptoms, so it’s great that you’re showing people how to do so in your series of posts on this subject.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  • Paul

    Paul

    December 27th, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    A lot of traditionally minded people really believe it’s better for everyone if we’re harsher and less forgiving. Self-esteem to them is always going to be a boogeyman that means nothing more than political correctness. These people are going to keep on causing misery in others, and probably are okay with that.

  • Tina Gilbertson

    Tina Gilbertson

    December 28th, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Steve, the correlations with low self-esteem you listed (e.g., limiting your world, feeling guilty, etc.) are certainly valid. Thanks for mentioning them.

    And Paul, it does seem that there’s a group of people who will probably never accept the notion of self-esteem as healthy and prosocial.

    Thank you both for your well-thought-out comments.

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