Four Signs That a Learner Who Suffers from Low Self-Esteem as a Result of Discrimination May Show

In South Africa, discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity remains a prevalent issue that can significantly impact learners’ self-esteem. When learners face discrimination, whether overt or subtle, it can erode their confidence and self-worth, leading to low self-esteem. In this article, we will indicate four signs that a learner who suffers from low self-esteem as a result of discrimination may show.

Four Signs That a Learner Who Suffers


Withdrawal and Isolation

1. Social Withdrawal

One of the signs of low self-esteem resulting from discrimination is social withdrawal. Learners who experience discrimination may isolate themselves from their peers and social activities, fearing further rejection or ridicule. They may avoid participating in classroom discussions, extracurricular activities, or group projects, preferring to keep to themselves to avoid potential judgment or mistreatment.

2. Avoidance of Social Interaction

In addition to withdrawal, learners may actively avoid social interaction as a coping mechanism for dealing with discrimination-induced low self-esteem. They may hesitate to engage in conversations, make eye contact, or form connections with others, fearing rejection or negative judgment. This avoidance behavior can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation, perpetuating a cycle of low self-esteem and social alienation.

Academic Underachievement and Disengagement

1. Decline in Academic Performance

Low self-esteem resulting from discrimination can also manifest in academic underachievement and disengagement. Learners who feel marginalized or undervalued due to discrimination may struggle to concentrate, retain information, or perform to their full potential academically. As a result, their grades may decline, and they may become disengaged from their studies, leading to further feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

2. Lack of Motivation and Initiative

Another sign of low self-esteem among learners affected by discrimination is a lack of motivation and initiative in their academic pursuits. They may display apathy or indifference toward their schoolwork, showing little interest in learning or achieving academic success. This lack of motivation can stem from a sense of hopelessness or resignation, as learners perceive their efforts as futile in the face of pervasive discrimination and prejudice.

Emotional Distress and Psychological Symptoms

1. Increased Anxiety and Depression

Discrimination-induced low self-esteem can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety and depression among affected learners. They may experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness, struggling to cope with the emotional toll of discrimination. These psychological symptoms can interfere with their ability to function effectively in school and everyday life, further exacerbating their sense of inadequacy and despair.

2. Self-Destructive Behavior

In extreme cases, learners suffering from low self-esteem as a result of discrimination may engage in self-destructive behavior as a maladaptive coping mechanism. This behavior may include substance abuse, self-harm, or suicidal ideation, as learners struggle to cope with overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. Educators and caregivers need to recognize these warning signs and intervene promptly to provide support and assistance to learners in crisis.


In conclusion, discrimination-induced low self-esteem can have profound and far-reaching effects on learners’ well-being and academic success in South Africa. Signs such as withdrawal and isolation, academic underachievement and disengagement, increased anxiety and depression, and self-destructive behavior are indicative of the emotional and psychological toll of discrimination on learners’ self-esteem. Educators, policymakers, and society as a whole need to address the root causes of discrimination and create inclusive and supportive learning environments where all learners feel valued, respected, and empowered to succeed. By fostering a culture of acceptance, equity, and diversity, we can promote positive self-esteem and well-being among learners and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.

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