The family is widely seen as an important influence on self-esteem because it is where the initial sense of oneself is formed. Children with self-esteem difficulties have absorbed what parents and others have negatively said about them. As they begin to define themselves in light of their low sense of self, they may undertake the view that they are different from their peers and siblings. Although at times children may not be aware that they are different, they know they feel awkward and inept when compared to others, particularly higher achieving siblings. The effects of low self-esteem can be reflected outward toward siblings and parents through verbal or physical expression. Their inner tension and shame can lead them to act out in various ways, ranging from emotional and physical withdrawal to aggressive and combative outward behaviors.
Children with low self-esteem appear hesitant and uncomfortable in the classroom. They tend to only answer direct questions and prefer to keep their opinions to themselves because they fear others’ reactions. Guarded behaviors and minimal interactions with other classmates lessen their social impact on others, which reinforces their belief of having nothing to offer others.
Children or individuals with low self-esteem hesitate when interacting with groups of neighborhood kids or joining social activities, such as parties or games. They generally wait to be invited to play or join others, but then only participate minimally when they agree to play. Their guardedness and self-doubt hold them back from fully interacting with others, again reinforcing their negative self-image.