How Social Isolation Can Fuel Low Self-Esteem

August 15, 2019 Sam Woolfe

When we socially isolate ourselves, our self-esteem suffers. Our social life helps us to build and maintain our self-esteem in so many important ways. Friends, family, partners, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers – all these people can help to boost our self-esteem when it’s low, as well as allow us to view ourselves in a more realistic, down-to-earth fashion. (Of course, people can have the opposite effect on our self-esteem, too, but it’s important to distance yourself from such toxic people.) When you don’t surround yourself with others on a regular basis, when you are socially isolated, your self-esteem can suffer. Here are the reasons why this can occur.

Social Isolation Can Fuel Negative Beliefs About Yourself

When you’re socially isolated for long periods of time, it can put you at a higher risk of ruminating. Rumination involves replaying negative events over and over again in your head. These events could be mistakes you’ve made or social interactions that didn’t go how you wanted them to go. Rumination is a key aspect of mental health conditions like depression but everyone can experience it. When you spend a lot of time ruminating, it can end up fuelling negative beliefs about yourself, beliefs that simply don’t match up to reality. This is why it’s important to get out your head when you need to and spend time with others.

Social Isolation Prevents Us from Having a Positive Influence

In some sense, it’s vital that you are able to build self-esteem using your own internal resources. When others aren’t around to lift you up during difficult times, you should have the confidence in yourself to know that you are still worthy, capable, and a person with an abundance of positive and valuable qualities. However, it’s also true that no person is an island. Your sense of self depends on other people. For example, many positive attributes are only really meaningful in the context of being with others. This would include attributes like kindness, friendliness, having a sense of humor, being an attentive listener, and so on. In order to fully express these dimensions of yourself and appreciate them, you need other people to bring these qualities out and validate them in the process of social interaction.

If you spend a lot of your time locked away in your room, then you remove opportunities to have a positive influence on the lives of others. When you are socially isolated, you can’t carry out in-person acts of kindness or generosity, be they small or big actions. And these are the types of actions that often make us feel valuable and capable. Being around others – especially those we deeply care about – often motivates us to be loving, helpful, and considerate, and the more we build on these qualities through social interaction, the stronger our self-esteem will be.

Others Help Us to View Ourselves Realistically

If you suffer from low self-esteem, self-criticism, social anxiety, or depression, you may have a warped opinion of yourself. You may believe negative things about yourself that no one else really feels to be the case. And if you told others about these negative beliefs, they may react with surprise about how you could view yourself in a harsh and unrealistic way. This is why getting feedback from others about yourself is so important. When you think about yourself in a distorted way, it can be hard to challenge your thoughts on your own. Getting to know yourself through others, however, allows you to take a step back and gain a healthier perspective on what you’re like as a person.

Have you ever socially isolated yourself? Did it help or hurt your self-esteem? Tell me about it in the comments.

APA Reference
Woolfe, S. (2019, August 15). How Social Isolation Can Fuel Low Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Sam Woolfe

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December, 16 2020 at 11:09 pm

Just in the past couple of weeks I went through Facebook and deleted about 150 "friends" because I know they dont care about me. I left close relatives and that was it. I also left all my community groups. Additionally, I am a volunteer with well known organization. I left all my groups associated with that. No, it wasnt so I would spend more time with people in "Real life". I take the kids to school and pick them up. Thats all I do. I talk to my wife a couple of times a day, but otherwise dont talk to any other aadults.

December, 19 2020 at 3:24 am

Jeffrey, I hear you. I've thinned my Facebook friend list dramatically this past year as well. I think it can be a good thing to take a break from the chatter that starts to seem meaningless so you can seriously think about who and what you want in your life. If you find that this period of self-isolation goes on longer than is comfortable for you, I hope that you will talk it through with a counselor and work on creating a plan to identify how to begin adding quality relationships back into your life to fill the hole left by the people who you said don't care for you. This could be the first step in creating a new community for yourself based on your true wants and needs. If you don't have a therapist, please consider attaining one to help you on your journey. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Lizanne Corbit
August, 18 2019 at 6:42 pm

I think this is such an important read because the two can so easily go hand in hand, but we often don't make that connection. When we're dealing with low self-esteem it can be a natural inclination to limit our interactions and time spent with others, when really that might be just the thing we need. I love your point about how others can actually help us to ourselves clearly. We can be surprised just how many amazing things others can bring to light for us. Thank you for sharing.

August, 30 2019 at 9:49 am

Couldn't agree more! I know how tempting it is to shut yourself off from the world when you feel down, but if you can push through that feeling and just spend a little amount of time with others, it can make a big difference to your self-esteem and mood.

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