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Low Self Esteem

Self-esteem is the overall opinion we have of ourselves and the worth we place on ourselves as people. Low self-esteem means that the stance of this opinion is negative: for example, ‘I’m unlovable’ or ‘I’m worthless’. Most of us have mixed opinions of ourselves, but if your general opinion is that you are an inadequate or inferior person, if you feel that you have no true worth and do not deserve the good things in life, this means your self-esteem is low. Low self-esteem can have a painful and damaging effect on your life and lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and many other disorders.

What causes low self esteem?

Fundamental experiences that form our beliefs about ourselves often (but not always) happen early in life. What you saw, heard and experienced in childhood – in your family, at school, in the community – have influenced the way you see yourself.

Examples of early experiences that might lead to your negative thinking of yourself include:

• Habitual punishment, neglect or abuse
• An absence of praise, warmth, affection or interest
• Inability to meet parental standards
• Failing to meet peer-group standards
• Belonging to a family or social group that other people are prejudiced towards
• Being the odd one out, at home or at school.

Sometimes negative beliefs about yourself are caused by experiences later in life, such as workplace bullying or intimidation, abusive relationships, persistent stress or hardship, or traumatic events.

How does low self esteem feel?

Your core beliefs about yourself will be mainly negative:
• Self-critical, self-blaming and self-doubting
• Focus on your weaknesses rather than your positive qualities.

The core beliefs will affect your behavior:
• You may avoid challenges and opportunities
• Be continually apologetic, or find it difficult to be assertive.

The core beliefs can have an impact on your emotions, generating:
• Sadness, depression
• Guilt and shame
• Worrying, anxiety
• Frustration or anger

This might be reflected in your physical state, making you feel fatigued or tense.

Such beliefs can influence many aspects of your life – affecting your relationships personal and/or professional, not taking care of yourself, and making you vulnerable to other problems, include depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders or social anxiety, among others.

What perpetuates low self esteem?

The vicious cycle of negative patterns:

Negative Belief of Yourself ⇒

Anxious Prediction (affecting emotions and behavior) ⇒

Wave of self-critical Thoughts ⇒

Depression ⇒

Negative Belief of Yourself

What could help?


• Recognizing that you suffer from low self-esteem is the first step.
• Focus on self-care.
• Physical exercise
• Self-help books and computer programs based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for low self-esteem.
• Be careful with drugs and alcohol as it makes it worse.

Psychotherapy with the focus on identifying negative patterns, breaking the vicious circle and teaching healthy coping skills based on your strengths.