Can smoking affect your self-esteem?

By Sally Writes

There are so many reasons why quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you could make in your life: a longer lifespan, for one, as well as greater quality of life. One benefit of kicking the habit that isn’t often mentioned, however, is its psychological aspect. There is a delicate link between the habits we choose and our self-esteem. In this post, we focus on how putting out your last cigarette could be the first step towards a happier life.

Chicken or the Egg?

When it comes to smoking and self-esteem, we are faced with a curious situation. On the one hand, studies have shown that low self-esteem can lead to addiction. In essence, drugs and tobacco can sometimes be used as a form of escape; a way to deal with stress, nerves and sometimes, a feeling of loneliness. However, research indicates that the link is very much reciprocal; that is, smoking can in turn lead to a drop in self-esteem.

The Psychological Effects of Smoking

An interesting 2011 study published in the journal BioMed Central focused on adolescents in particular, finding that their stereotypes of smokers tend to be largely negative. In some cultures in particular, smoking is seen as socially unacceptable, which can lead to a “pariah” effect in which those who smoke can feel subtly discriminated against. In another 2017 study, smokers were found to show 200% more hypersensitive behavior compared to non-smokers. They also suffered 178% more stress than those who did not smoke.

The link between hypersensitivity and low self-esteem has been established in many studies. In one study, it was established that hypersensitive individuals require more positive feedback to maintain their self-esteem, reacting negatively to feedback that is not unequivocally positive. The scientists concluded that social hypersensitivity can result in greater vulnerability to depression.

The Link between the Physical and Psychological

Smoking can affect one’s self-esteem in indirect ways as well. Quitting has immediate and long-term benefits for one’s health and finances, one of the most pertinent to self-esteem being an improvement in oral health. Smoking stains teeth and contributes to gum disease such as gingivitis, which results in bad breath and can cause gums to bleed at the slightest touch. It can also contribute to tooth loss by weakening the tissues that surround teeth.

Having a good smile is key to self-confidence. Research has shown that optimal oral health is linked not only to greater self-esteem, but also to overall happiness. One study, for instance, related skipping dental appointments to greater unhappiness. It can be very difficult to maintain good oral health while smoking; even developments in whitening technology cannot undo the damage caused to gums or put a stop to tooth loss.

Our appearance and the way we smell are both tied to our self-confidence. Smoking is linked to greater hypersensitivity and anxiety, and it affects the way we socialize and relate to others. In addition to the many ways that quitting can benefit your health and finances, it can help instill a happier, more sociable frame of mind and ensure your oral health stays in tip-top condition for many years to come.