Self-esteem refers to the degree to which an individual feels valuable and confident as well as how much someone respects himself or herself. When someone experiences low self-esteem, it can be associated with self-criticism, self-doubt, suppressed anger, social isolation, and shame. In addition, low self-esteem can also be indicative of mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety.

What Are Self Esteem Issues?

A difference between reality and expectations is one of the reasons that some people suffer from low self-esteem. Most people have some idea of who they should be as well as how they should think, look, act, and feel. When an individual does not meet these expectations, it can have a negative impact on their self-esteem. This can lead to anger and frustration.

People suffering from low self-esteem may think of themselves in extremely critical ways. For instance, he or she may think such thought as, “I’m a failure,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never amount to anything.”

Painful feelings, including anxiety, anger, sadness, worthlessness, and fear can come with such thoughts. Individuals who experience low self-esteem may find it more challenging to make decisions due to a fear that they won’t be successful. They may also experience difficulties in making friends. Furthermore, people with low self-esteem may steer away from situations in which they feel as though they might be judged and avoid trying new things or taking chances. This can be incredibly limiting and cause the person to miss out on much in life.

Symptoms of Self Esteem Problems

Among the most common symptoms of low self-esteem is negative self-talk. Individuals with low self-esteem often regard themselves in a critical manner. They may commonly experience a sense of failure. Constantly comparing oneself to others can become perpetually ingrained in the person’s behavior along with other negative self-talk. Even though these negative messages are rarely true, someone with low self-esteem typically does not realize this.

Low self-esteem is typically related to the following experiences and conditions:

  • Social anxiety
  • Codependency
  • Shame
  • General anxiety
  • Depression
  • Inadequacy
  • Powerlessness
  • Perfectionism
  • Physical, sexual, emotional abuse

It is important to note that low self-esteem is highly individual and can range in severity from one person to another. The severity as well as the symptoms related to low self-esteem may vary based on the age at which someone develops low self-esteem as well as the root cause of the issues with self-esteem.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem may result from an array of factors. It may stem from family problems, an internalization of loss, and societal problems, such as discrimination or poverty. While low self-esteem may develop at any age, it commonly develops at a young age due to the fact that self-esteem develops during childhood. As a result, certain experiences may impact the development of self-esteem. For instance, a child who is subjected to abuse or criticism from parents may develop low self-esteem. Other common issues that might lead to low self-esteem include receiving little positive reinforcement, missing out on experiences that would help a child build a sense of confidence, and being stigmatized for one’s behavior, appearance, class, race, etc.

While low self-esteem does commonly develop in childhood, it can also occur in adulthood. For instance, an individual with a well-developed self-esteem may experience challenges due to perceived failures or sudden life changes. This could include a job loss, having financial or legal problems, ending a relationship, struggles with substance abuse or addiction, health concerns, etc.

Regardless of the experiences that someone may have, some people do seem to struggle more with low self-esteem than do others. Researchers believe that this could be due to what is known as a shaming environment. In a shaming environment, someone might internalize the concept that if they do something wrong, it means they are inherently bad. This idea can carry through from childhood through adulthood. Some people simply tend to internalize one negative event and see it as an all-encompassing and permanent event while someone else might see the same event as temporary rather than internalizing it.

Therapy can help persons struggling with low self-esteem put such circumstances into perspective while building strengths to enhance hope and social support.

Getting Counseling or Therapy for Self Esteem Issues

The goal of therapy for self-esteem issues is usually to assist the individual with building a stronger sense of self. Someone with low self-esteem can learn how to work on becoming more confident, assertive, and self-aware. It’s also important to find a sense of accomplishment. Therapy aimed at building self-esteem can also help to identify activities that will build competence and confidence. Furthermore, therapists may assist someone with low self-esteem with developing goals that are realistic and achievable.

There are many different types of goal-directed therapy that may be used. They include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), solution-focused therapy, and animal-assisted therapy. The latter can be particularly helpful for someone who suffers from low self-esteem due to physical impairment. Animals can provide a significant source of unconditional love without regards to limitation or physical appearance. This form of therapy can help to increase an individual’s sense of self-worth.

Working with a therapist can prove to be helpful for anyone who has experienced long-term problems with negative self-talk. There forms of therapy used to address such issues is usually referred to as person-centric or person-centered. In this form of therapy, the individual works from the inside out. Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to monitor a person’s negative self-beliefs, anxiety, and doubts in order to learn how to cope with those feelings and identify the causes.

After an individual has recognized the elements that trigger low self-esteem, he or she can then begin developing an objective view and eliminating the patterns that have led to low self-esteem in the past.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with low self-esteem, it’s important to seek help from an experienced therapist. With the proper therapy strategies, it is possible to overcome low self-esteem and learn how to enjoy a happier, healthier future.

If you find you relate to the information in this article and would like some help, please contact Rita with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling at (605) 610-9228.