Poisoned self-estimation – how can we get rid of stigmas?

How we define ourselves depends particularly on people around. We shape our self-image and self-confidence according to our relationships with them. However social experience is not always positive. Stigmas and labels given by others can influence our self-estimation radically. How prejudices can affect us and what can we do against?

Stigma comes from the Greek language means physical denunciation. In the middle age they used to burn it onto people’s body who lost honour and it was the indelible sign of shame. In psychology they are those characteristics which cause the feeling of shame and the person who has it is excluded (or believes being excluded) from the society.


I stigmatize so I am

Every characteristics which are different from others can be a reason for stigmatizing. The reason of exclusion can be internal or external differences like physical defect, skin colour, sexual extravagancy but also a mental illness, homosexuality or addiction as well. So the person is “different”. Why is it so difficult to accept if somebody or something is different? But nobody can be perfectly ordinary, anybody can get into a company where doesn’t fit perfectly to its norms and becoming a target of prejudice. Actually everything starts with categorization. Prejudices are in the background of the basic process which leads to stigmatization. Behind prejudices there is a stereotypical mindset which attach typical characteristics and emotions to groups. Very important to highlight that even if somebody is using stereotypes that doesn’t mean that person is malicious. Our prejudices are kind of a secondary product of how we try to understand the world. We meet a lot of people day by day and we don’t have time to get to know every each of them profoundly. Those people who seem the same we reckon them among one group to find our way in the social world and we see all of those people alike in the group. However if we put all of the people into boxes made by our stereotypes, we don’t get to know them. We create “we” and “others” categories where we believe the “we” is preferable without being aware of it. Often when we raisethe value of “we” in parallel with it we underrate the “others”. The other disadvantage of using stereotypes is they are not reliable and accurate (subjective-generalization) even if they make easier to sense the system of the world. The characteristic of a group doesn’t hint the characteristic of a person. For instance, not all of the homeless people are alcoholic and not all of the overweight people are weak etc.

The harmful effects of stigmatization can affect the self-esteem on two ways. One way is when the person experiences and recognizes those negative assessments coming from others. On the other way those negative comments appear in the person’s mind as well what with subconsciously identifying himself/herself on some level and by this means stigmatization has an active role in the development of the identity.

As an outcome of all these effects the stigmatized role become visible in the behaviour, like a self-fulfilling prophecy and the person will act more and more as the others expect to do. If somebody gets a “label” often enough, step by step starts to define himself/herself according to it. Become one with it and adjusts the own self to the attached expectation of those labels. The social exclusion connected to stigmatization can cause even more damage. If somebody experienced continuous refusal/rejection or threat from the environment, he/she would avoid social interactions. At the same time the social exclusion can cause similar course of nervous system as the physical pain. Can cause the feeling of loneliness, lost control and anxiety.

What can we do?

If the stigma became one with the identity we underrate ourselves. Often in these cases the need to belong gets activated in the excluded person and depends on the environment mainly if she/he can re-fit again successfully. Important to focus on those things in which the excluded person is talented or good and highlighting positive characteristics. With this mindset the excluded person can turn the others’ focus onto the own personality, the positive side (which everybody has) removing from the stigma. Very important here when this excluded person gets into a group continuously monitors in what she/he is different from the others and doesn’t even think, there are things (surely) in which she/he can be similar to them. If the stigmatized person could have experienced that she/he has the control on his/her own life and working on knowing better himself/herself, she/he could be less defenceless to others’ opinions.

Picture: http://www.crmhfoundation.org

Emotionally immaturity

We all have experience about emotionally immature people, maybe we just couldn’t have put a proper word onto their behaviour. We often feel it’s so difficult to cope with them and most of the time we feel they are kind of unavailable. How do they act differently? First let’s see what means emotional maturity.

Emotionally matured people are able to think objectively and in a figurative sense while maintaining deep emotional connection with other people. They are not ashamed of own feelings. They undertake and share their feelings and they are honest. They admit when they are wrong or did a mistake and have a clear view about their own weaknesses. What this exactly means?

They are realistic and trustable, able to see the reality and not using manipulation or negation, able to think and feel in the same time, predictable and (self-) consistent. They don’t take everything personal, their relationships are based on respect and mutuality, respecting others’ boundaries, and they are flexible and able to make a compromise with others. They are well balanced but not immutable. They are honest and able to ask forgiveness, self-reflective and empathic (not sympathy!). They are opened minded and willing to change for better, they are playful and being with them is a very good feeling.


Emotionally immature people’s mindset is different and their acts and mental world as well. Often these characteristics are strongly entrenched and really hard to change them.

Emotionally immature people:

  • Rigid and narrow-minded way of thinking schemas. They are rigid and impulsive, narrowing down the reality for a level where they still can control it. They are not opened to change their opinion, according to them there is just one answer or solution (their answers/their solution) and they become very defensive if someone thinks differently.
  • Low level of resilience (stress management). They don’t assess a situation and project the possible future, they are susceptible to deny, twist and re-writing the reality. They don’t admit (or just rarely) when they are wrong or did a mistake, most of the time they blame others. They have difficulties with emotional self-control, often over-reacting things. They calm down very hardly and they expect reassurance from others by others do what they want.
  • Their actions are ruled by emotions mainly. They often make decisions according to their own feelings in the moment, what the best is for themselves in the moment without considering others’ and usually move in the line of least resistance.
  • Strong subjectivity. They are not able to assess a situation coolly, in their situation assessment is more important what they feel than what exactly happened. They are not to be tempted to consider a situation objectively.
  • They respect differences a little. Those behaviours which are different from their own or dissenting opinion make them usually upset. They think and believe that everyone should agree with them and they don’t accept that everyone has the right to think differently. Their social tolerance is very low and judging others and backbites them.
  • They are very self-centred which is imbued with compulsion, this compulsion is caused by anxiety and suspense in the background. Their self-confidence is weak (sometimes over-compensate it – arrogance) and protect it with strong high walls. Their self-defence mechanisms keep their anxiety on a subliminal threshold, that’s why they often don’t recognize it.
  • Their thoughts are mainly about themselves. Anxiously ruminate on things about themselves, their attention is on the satisfaction of own needs and if they got any offense. Their self-esteem depends on feedbacks or reaction of others. They can’t take criticism and deny their weaknesses and mistakes. Continuously paying attention to themselves and that’s why others’ feelings are pushed into the background or completely minimized.
  • Self-admiration instead of self-reflection. In every situation they reflect just to themselves, they don’t do it to improve their self-knowledge. They don’t pay attention to their talking partner, don’t consider their own role or responsibility in a problem and they don’t consider their behaviour either.
  • They like to be in the centre.
  • Low level of empathy. This the main characteristic of an emotionally immature people. They are good at “reading” other people’s will and feelings but instead of connecting, they use it for manipulation.
  • Inconsistent and unpredictable. Their self-image are from small but often un-matched elements which get conflicted often with each other – Inconsistent. Often expressing contrary feelings and there are sharp changes between – Unpredictable.
  • Fear of emotions. They are afraid of their own and other’s emotions and honest emotional reactions. They react with anxiety when they feel their feeling can come up to the surface. They don’t like if they have to get out of the rut or routines and they refuse to talk about emotional life.
  • The importance is on the physical needs instead of emotional.
  • Celebration or joy crashers. When somebody is feeling happy around them, they are not able to share anybody’s joy, using diversion to talk about something else or projecting something negative is going to happen.
  • Intense but superficial emotions. They easily can get into intensive feelings but they feel uncomfortable about it and it can get expressed by showing annoyance. When they talk their feelings don’t fascinate the partner.
  • Difficulties with conceptual way of thinking. A little stress is able to block their abstract way of thinking process that’s why most of the time is useless to try logical arguments. In emotional topics they are able to think just in black or white.
  • Emotional contamination. They don’t talk about their feelings, they put it into actions so that’s how they reach the others to know how they feel – emotional contamination.
  • They don’t do emotional work, they don’t try to understand others’ emotional experiences.
  • To give is not easy for them, they expect the others to react their needs, but they are not opened to get helpful solution advices. They expect others being a mind-reader and become very offended if others can’t figure out what they exactly want.
  • They don’t ask forgiveness but they expect others to do immediately and often they can manage that the innocent partner feels guilty. For them forgiveness means the others being blind to their offense and they pretend as nothing happened. Their offences are trifles.

Emotionally immature people have difficulties to recognize these characteristics on themselves and even if they get significant feedbacks from their environment about their behaviour it’s difficult for them to admit it because of the lack self-reflection. Of course not all of the characteristics appear in one person, some of them work and visible and others don’t.

What happened to them? How did they become like this?

The reasons are in the early ages of development in the relation between the child and parents. In early ages (6 months old) a baby is already able to detect the mother’s emotions and their badinage. Prohibitions restrict the child to develop his/her own personality. Like: Don’t exist! Don’t be yourself! Don’t be close! Don’t trust! Don’t feel! Don’t express your needs and emotions!

Very often the parent itself is also emotionally immature and most likely the child will be as well, and later they become parents too, like an endless circle.

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