Low Self-Esteem: Definition, Causes, Characteristic and How to Improve it

People who have low self-esteem are always hard on themselves. Sometimes they can’t even accept compliments because they suspect people’s intentions. Studies have linked low self-esteem and poor self-image to various issues that can affect anything from the way you view your career to the way you conduct your relationships.

What is low self-esteem?

It refers to a negative perception of one’s worth and is often characterized by a lack of confidence, negative thinking, difficulty making decisions, and communicating needs effectively. A person’s sense of competence and self-worth influences one’s ability to face new challenges. People with low self-esteem experience anxiety and self-criticism, leading to negative thoughts, lack of satisfying relationships, and reluctance to pursue future goals.

They may not take the initiative to set and pursue personal goals; they cannot put any effort into their education or career; They can accept abuse from family, friends, and romantic partners.

It is difficult to measure precisely how low self-esteem is, but several studies have found that levels fall as young people approach adolescence, more so for girls than for boys; 70% of girls believe that they do not “measure up” or are not “good enough” in some way, including physical appearance, school performance, and relationships. The numbers for children are not far behind.

Low self-esteem can easily continue into adulthood, interfering with a person’s ability to lead a whole and healthy life. One of the most important things to know is that this is not an accurate reflection of reality; sometimes, the cause may be rooted; in fact, the idea that your feelings towards you cannot simply be changed is inaccurate.

Self-esteem is a state of mind, and it can be changed. However, you can only improve your self-esteem if you are willing to challenge the negative feelings and judgments you have towards yourself; no matter how convinced you are of your current evaluation, you have nothing to lose, and the world wins if you consider that you have much more—control over your self-esteem than you believe. Deciding to challenge your way of thinking can change how you think and what you do, now and in the future.

Causes of low self-esteem

Uninvolved / Neglectful Parents: In many cases, and mainly when we are young, our feelings about ourselves are greatly influenced by how others feel and treat us, especially our parents or guardians, everyone deserves a loving family, but some young people have the misfortune of not receiving adequate support at home.

Parents or guardians with mental health, substance abuse, or other challenges may not be able to provide their children with the care, guidance, and attention they need and deserve; this can cause significant self-esteem issues for young people, as those who are supposed to take care of them the majority do not seem.


Abuse, be it physical, emotional, sexual, or a combination of these, causes feelings of shame and even guilt. A person may feel that they did something to deserve the abuse, that they were not worthy of the respect, love, and care of the abuser. People who have been abused can also have a significant amount of anxiety and depression associated with the event, interfering with a person’s ability to lead a whole life.

Body image

It is a massive factor in the self-esteem of young people, especially that of young women. From the moment we are born, we are surrounded by unrealistic images of what women should be like and what the “ideal” body type is.

Women’s bodies are constantly objectified in the media, making it appear that they exist for others to observe, touch, use, etc. When puberty hits and our bodies begin to change, they do not change to what we see on magazine covers or in music videos; this can make you feel unattractive and inappropriate, in addition to the profound lack of power that comes with looking at your body, as an object for others to contemplate.

While young women are disproportionately affected by body image messages, young men are not immune. Many young men struggle with low self-esteem associated with weight and body composition, particularly in regards to muscle mass, a man’s body is not treated in our culture as an object for others but as a sign of his masculinity; they may feel pressured to build large muscles as a show of strength and manliness.

Unrealistic goals

Whether the pressure comes from themselves, authority figures, or peers, some young people expect too much of themselves in school achievement, extracurricular involvement, and social status. Those who struggle academically may think they should be getting A’s all the time; those who do well academically may try to take up too many other activities and expect to be “the best.”

Young people who crave popularity can expect everyone to like them, something that doesn’t happen because no matter who you are, you can’t please everyone. The inevitable failure to meet unrealistic goals can lead to the feeling that you are an overall failure.

Bad performances and decisions

Sometimes we lock ourselves into a specific pattern of decision-making and action; maybe you have not been a perfect friend in the past, maybe you did not apply yourself at school, or perhaps you participated in risky behaviors such as drug use or drug use—unprotected sex. You might think that you are just “the kind of person” who behaves that way. You may not even like past choices very much, but I don’t think you can change course now. Therefore, you will not try; he will continue to make decisions that reinforce his negative view of himself.

Negative thought patterns

It becomes a habit when you get used to the feeling, thinking, and talking about yourself in a particular way. You’ve probably heard of muscle memory; once you’ve done a specific physical activity, like riding a bike repeatedly, your brain automatically signals your muscles to do whatever that activity requires, keeping you balanced on the seat.

Your thoughts and feelings work the same way at times; if you have felt that you are worthless or inferior, if you constantly think and say negative things about yourself, then you will probably still feel and think the same way unless you break the cycle by challenging your thoughts and feelings about yourself. In the same way, our muscle memory can learn incorrectly to perform physical activity, and our memories and memories can learn inaccurate patterns.

Constant comparison

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others these days, people put their best selves on social media, and we convince ourselves that we’re seeing the big picture when we’re only looking at a small slice of someone else’s life, one that they choose to present. To the world, it is easy to compare yourself and feel very bad.

Low Self-Esteem

Characteristics of low self-esteem

  • Heavy criticism of yourself or others. When you criticize yourself, you reinforce negative self-talk; your brain hears it and believes it. When you blame others, you are mirroring how you feel about yourself. Have you ever noticed that happy and positive people are not aware of the lives of others? They have enough self-esteem to keep these thoughts to themselves or to turn them into positive and loving comments.
  • Perfectionism, Nobody, is perfect; this is a fact. If you try to do everything perfectly and fail (which is sure to happen), frustration and negative self-talk ensue.
  • Pleasing people. It’s good to be good; it’s also a problem when you consistently put others in front of you. Going out of your way to constantly be there for someone else creates resentment and is a constant reminder that you are not number one, so your mental health should be put first.
  • Minimize or ignore their positive qualities.
  • You use negative words to describe yourself as stupid, fat, ugly, or disgusting.
  • He assumes that luck plays a vital role in all his achievements and does not take credit for them.
  • They blame themselves when things go wrong instead of taking into account other things over which they have no control, such as other people’s actions or economic forces.
  • Please do not believe a person who praises them.

Can we help drive low self-esteem issues with therapy and counseling?

There are many ways that therapy and counseling can help clients improve their self-esteem. If done correctly, therapy can be an excellent method. These are some of the ways:

  • When a client shares their inner thoughts and feelings with the therapist, and he responds with acceptance and compassion rather than judgment or correction, this can build healthy self-esteem for the client. This continued acceptance and unconditional positive regard encourages the client to rethink some of their assumptions and conclude that “nothing is wrong with me after all!”
  • The therapist can explain that self-esteem is a belief rather than a fact and that opinions are based on our experiences; This can help the client understand that they could be the same person they are right now and have high self-esteem rather than low if they had different experiences that cultivate a sense of high self-worth.
  • The therapist can offer the client new experiences to base this new belief about herself, experiences in which the client is “basically acceptable” rather than “basically wrong.” The therapist’s acceptance of the client can serve as a model for the client of how she can accept herself.

The most important thing is that the therapist can accept the client for who he is and affirm that his thoughts and feelings are acceptable rather than criticizing him. The therapist does not need to approve of every action taken by the client, but showing acceptance and approval of who he is at the deepest level will have an extremely positive impact on his own belief in his worth and worth as a person.

Following these guidelines will encourage your client to develop a better sense of self-esteem, self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-worth, discourage “unnecessary shame,” and learn to detach from their behavior.

How do you improve low self-esteem?

Take a self-esteem inventory to get a baseline. It can be as simple as writing down 10 of your strengths and 10 of your weaknesses; this will help you develop a natural and realistic conception of yourself.

Set realistic expectations.

It’s essential to set small, achievable goals within your power. For example, setting an extremely high expectation or the expectation that someone else will change your behavior virtually guarantees you to feel like a failure through no fault of your own.

Stop being a perfectionist and acknowledge both your achievements and your mistakes. No one is perfect, and trying to be alone will lead to disappointment. Recognizing your accomplishments and acknowledging your mistakes is the way to stay positive as you learn and grow from your mistakes.

Explore yourself. The importance of knowing yourself and being at peace with who you are cannot be overstated, this may take some trial and error, and you will constantly learn new things about yourself. Still, it is a journey that must be undertaken with determination and zeal.

Be willing to adjust your self-image. We all change as we age and grow, and we must keep up with our changing selves if we are to set and achieve meaningful goals.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing ourselves to others is a trap that is extremely easy to fall into, especially these days with social media and the ability to project a polished and honed look. The only person you should compare yourself to is you.

Practice visualizing your success. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to imagine the scenario where you have achieved your goals, using all five senses and paying attention to details.

Be prepared for whatever situation you are about to face. If you’re conducting a job interview, make sure you’ve practiced, know the company, and have some good questions ready to ask. If you are on a date, take some time to build your confidence, dress well, and have a plan A, a plan B, and maybe even a plan C to make sure everything goes smoothly.

To meditate. Establish a regular meditation practice to inspect, observe, and separate from your thoughts. Cultivating a sense of inner peace will go a long way toward developing healthy self-esteem.

Take the time to regularly say positive things about yourself and situations you often feel insecure about.

Build your confidence through failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow and seek failure by trying new things and taking calculated risks.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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