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Self-Esteem and Borderline Personality Disorder

Self-Esteem 101


Updated: May 29, 2007

The term “self-esteem” is a subjective view of how one thinks of oneself: specifically, how much value a person places on herself, and how important she believes herself to be. One of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder is a low self-esteem.

Those with high self-esteem tend to view themselves as capable and of-worth. It is important to remember, having self-esteem is not a negative factor in a personality; it is not bad to believe you are a good and deserving person. For the person with borderline personality disorder (BPD), this sense of being good, capable, and deserving can be fleeting. Unfortunately, more often the feelings are those of being bad, incompetent, and undeserving.

So I Do Not Feel That Great About Myself, What’s the Problem?

Poor self-esteem can be an issue for many, not just those with BPD. If a person does not feel good about herself, she is not able to trust or validate her own feelings or experiences. This is going to color all of her relationships and interactions with others, as well as negatively affecting her general mental health and day-to-day life.

Self-esteem is of significance to a person with borderline personality disorder, since, among other things, it can greatly impact issues with anger, personal goals, and relationships.

For the BP, poor self-esteem may aggravate the anger that is so often present. Various issues can be stored up and stay unresolved, often left to burst forth in an angry tirade. Poor self-esteem can result in not advocating for oneself or even failing to believe one’s own feelings. Interacting with others requires an ability to trust one’s own perspective about others and situations. The BP is often unable to assert his thoughts or feelings except through anger.

Poor self-esteem can make it impossible to successfully achieve personal goals. If a person does not think that she deserves to get or accomplish something, how can she really be successful at it? For instance, a BP without much self-esteem may have difficulty in making and establishing friendships.

The BP may see anyone who wants to be her friend as suspect, as if there is something wrong with them. Or, if there is nothing wrong with them, she may doubt that they will continue to like her once they get to know her better. Then again, in order to keep the people in her life, she may not honestly address issues that come up in the friendship, only to suddenly become angry towards them and push them away.

What Self-Esteem Does

One thing self-esteem does is enable a person to set goals and work towards attaining them. The BP may not feel worthy of things desired, such as relationships, happiness, and success. Self-esteem is what gives a person a sense of worthiness. The BP’s poor self-esteem inhibits her, as it keeps the BP from believing she is deserving of good things, things that she wants.

For the BP, poor self-esteem can also cause problems when she achieves what she wants, both in long-term personal goals and everyday interactions with others.

  • Paula gets her dream job. Because of her poor self-esteem, she is likely to doubt her ability to be successful in the job, and may even resent or become angry at the person who hired her for putting her in such a position to fail.

  • Nicole is out with a group and suggests a restaurant. After some discussion back and forth the group decides to try it out. Suddenly Nicole does not want the group to go there anymore; she fears they will be disappointed as she is always making bad suggestions. Nicole becomes angry with the others in the group for putting her in this situation, and refuses to let them go the restaurant she suggested.
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