Coming out of the Shell: A Journey of Overcoming Low Self-Esteem


“You care too much.”


I’ve been told this one too many times. I’ve been told that I care too much about other people’s feelings. I go out of my way to make sure that they’re okay. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact it’s good to be aware of other people’s feelings – I also used to care too much about what other people thought of me.


I always thought that the reason I was so shy was that there was something inherently wrong with me. I thought that some people were born confident, while others were born insecure. I never realized that environmental exposures can drastically shape one’s personality and mental health. From a young age, I was always on the quieter end. I liked to talk to my family and close friends, but tended to be reserved with those I didn’t know well. Unsurprisingly, there are millions of people like this. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of people possess this trait in varying degrees of intensity. Most people don’t act the same way with strangers as they do with their best friends. Yet, for some reason, I was always told I needed to talk more. I needed to be “more bubbly and enthusiastic.” I needed to go to drama classes in order to come out of my shell. I had “no communication skills and would never get a job unless I changed.” These are just a handful of the phrases that I was told throughout my childhood and teenage years. They came from a variety of sources – peers, teachers, relatives.


Each time someone said something to the effect that I was too quiet, I let it get to me. The more they said it, the more I started to believe it. As a result, when I came to college, I was lacking in confidence of any kind. Because of what people had told me, I felt as though I had nothing to offer in my classes and especially in my friendships. No one would want to be friends with the silent girl. Because of my low self-esteem, I let myself get pressured into doing things that I didn’t like, even when no one person was actually pressuring me to do them. Because of the negativity I had been subjected to, I just assumed that if I didn’t do what others were doing, people would automatically dislike me. Naturally, this strategy eventually wore out, as I could only handle so much pretending.


I was only able to overcome my low self-esteem when I finally stopped giving so much weight to other people’s negative opinions. Others can literally shape the person you become if you let them. In my case, I was shaped to be insecure because I blocked out all of the positivity in my life, and instead focused on the negativity. My journey of becoming a more confident person started when I stopped caring so much about making a good impression, and started taking note of all of the compliments I received. That’s not to say that negativity isn’t hurtful. It just means that I’m able to recognize that other people’s negative opinions don’t have to define me. I can’t control what other people say, but I can control the effect that their comments have on me. I can believe in the positivity and dismiss the negativity.