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Crippling low self esteem

Finding the Source of Low Self-Esteem & Breaking the Cycle

Confidence, or self-esteem, is a mental state that can affect every layer of our lives. The state of your self-esteem can affect personal and professional relationships, successes and mental health.  “Self-esteem is one’s confidence in the ability to navigate and cope with life’s challenges and the confidence that one is worthy of love, accomplishment, success, joy and happiness,” says Dr. Crystal Frazier, psychologist at UT Health East Texas.

“Low self-esteem occurs when an individual feels unprepared to manage ordinary life challenges, has low self-confidence in their ability for accomplishment, is afraid of asserting their thoughts and desires and feels unworthy or underserving of love or happiness,” says Dr. Frazier. “When self-esteem is low one’s ability to thrive, adapt and recover when faced with ordinary adversity is diminished.”

The importance of self-esteem is significant, which is why sources of bad self-esteem should be identified and eliminated from your life. Dr. Frazier shares information on the effects of self-esteem and how to make positive changes to give it a lasting boost.


Why Low Self-Esteem is an Issue

Low self-esteem can impact personal, social and professional functioning and reduce overall quality of life. When experiencing low self-esteem, one may shy away from challenging situations, avoid social situations and stop trying new things. Avoidance can be protective in the short term; however, this avoidance serves to reinforce self-doubt and unhealthy coping.

Living with low self-esteem long term can impact mental health and lead to problems such as anxiety and depression. Individuals with low self-esteem may develop unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking as another way to cope with low confidence, fear and self-doubt.


Finding the Source

Low self-esteem often begins during childhood and results from hearing or interpreting messages from significant people including parents, siblings, friends and teachers, who were often very critical. This type of feedback results in thoughts such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not loveable,” or feeling as if they are unable to live up to others or their own expectations.

Other causes throughout the lifespan include poor or abusive treatment from a partner or parent. A stressful life event (loss of a loved one, financial problems, unemployment), chronic medical or mental health illnesses and disabilities can also lessen our view of ourselves. Consistently setting unachievable high standards for one’s self can impact level of self-esteem, too.


Other Factors Impacting Self-Esteem

There are many factors impacting self-esteem or one’s confidence. If you have a negative opinion of yourself or engage in self-criticism, self-doubt and are uncertain whether you are deserving of happiness, the way you engage in life in general will be impacted.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are suffering from low self-esteem:

  • Is my partner supportive?
  • Do I participate in engaging social activities?
  • Am I consistent in my fitness routine?
  • Is my diet helping or hurting my mood and overall wellbeing?
  • Do I spend too much time on social media?


How to Break the Negative Cycle

Chronic low self-esteem can be debilitating and demoralizing, possibly leading to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing significant impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of your life, you may want to seek assistance from a mental health professional.  However, there are my many self-help actions you can take to increase your self-esteem.


Tips for building self-esteem on your own:


Identify Your Strengths

Finding and enjoying what you’re good at can elevate your mood and increase positive thinking.

Build a Positive Environment

Surround yourself with people who are positive, and distance yourself from people who tend to lower your mood or who themselves engage in negative thoughts or comments.

Set a Goal

Challenge yourself by setting a realistic goal, and once achieved, recognize and write down thoughts and feelings associated with your accomplishment. Success helps to increase self-esteem.

Make Yourself Heard

Practice being assertive. Challenge yourself to express wants, desires, thoughts and opinions. Initially, you may feel emotionally uncomfortable. Afterward write down and reflect on thoughts and feelings. Focus on the positive.

List Affirmations

Read and write positive messages daily. Browse inspirational and self-help sites, or find self-help guides you identify with.

Shutdown the Negative Self-Talk

Challenge negative self-talk. For example, one may write “I’m not lovable.” Disproving this thought can include writing down who calls or visits regularly such as a parent, child, or friend or writing down good things people say about you.

Kill Comparisons

Stop comparing yourself to others. Accept that everyone is different, and your life has as much value as others.

Feel the Self-Love

Appreciate yourself. Don’t minimize compliments, achievements or attribute successes to “luck.”


It’s Common and Ever Changing

At times, we all experience reduced confidence and do not have the best opinion of ourselves. But chronic low confidence/self-esteem can be destructive, lead to mental health concerns and reduce quality of life. The good news is self-esteem is not static and can be changed with consistent effort. Increasing self-esteem takes time and practice, so the more frequently you engage in the tips listed above or more formal assistance when needed, the more likely you are to build and sustain improvements in self-confidence.




UT Health East Texas can assist you with increasing self-esteem and with treating commonly associated mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Our team of licensed mental health providers including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, counselors and other trained staff, are dedicated to providing comprehensive and compassionate mental health care. Treatment can be pharmacologic, or talk-based using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is effective for treating characteristics associated with low-self-esteem including excessive self-criticism, fear, self-doubt, low assertiveness, and a sense of being unworthy.

For more information about the mental health services available at UT Health East Texas, please visit our website at




Dr. Crystal Frazier is a doctoral level trained Licensed Psychologist with extensive education in clinical psychology. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and a member of the doctoral psychology internship program training committee. Dr. Frazier has managed her own psychological services practice where she provided care to older adolescents, and adults. She has a special interest in caring for patients struggling with anxiety, depression, and trauma related symptoms. She is passionate about helping clients complete the often very challenging therapeutic work and helping them achieve their goals for positive life changes. Patients can see Dr. Frazier by appointment in our Adult Psychiatry Clinic at North Campus Tyler.

How to deal with the crippling effects of low self-esteem

Everyone has bad days, and everyone goes through rough patches – times when you feel uncertain about yourself, and your abilities, when you lack confidence in yourself, your relationships and your career.

That's life!

There are also times when nothing seems to go according to plan, everything you do seems to go wrong, and you feel useless and worthless.

That’s normal, that’s life, and it happens to everyone!

But for a growing number of people, this feeling of worthlessness never seems to go away and has a constant negative effect on their life.  

Megan Hosking, psychiatric intake clinician at Akeso Specialised Psychiatric Clinics, explains that low self-esteem is on the rise, and that it can have major destructive repercussions for those caught in the cycle.

What is low self-esteem?

The Oxford Dictionary defines “self-esteem” as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities”. Low self-esteem, therefore, is a lack of confidence in your own worth and/or abilities.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions takes the description a little further, describing those with low self-esteem as having “deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are”.

Read: Beauty product ads hurt self-esteem

This, for Hosking, is what defines true low self-esteem, when negative self-belief becomes a "fact" in the patient’s mind, when a negative self-image becomes part of a person's identity.  


  • “I had a bad hair day” versus “I have bad hair”.
  • “I played terribly” versus “I play terribly”.
  • “I handled that situation badly” versus “I handle situations badly”.

It’s a little simplistic, and people with really low self-esteem will tend to use stronger words, like “ugly”, “useless”, and “stupid” when describing themselves, but this subtle difference in how people perceive their world can have a huge impact on their lives.

“Of course, low self-esteem will impact different people in different ways, ranging from struggling to make friends and entering into personal relationships as a result of shyness to avoiding challenges and under-achieving due to an innate belief of incapability. But it can also result in bigger issues like anxiety, depression, dependency, abuse, to name but a few,” says Hosking.

Low self-esteem on the rise

Hosking believes that low self-esteem is a growing problem in our modern world, although figures are difficult to come by and most of what can be found relates specifically to appearance. That said, professionals do agree that children and adolescents specifically girls – are more prone to suffering from low self-esteem, which is then transferred through to adulthood if not addressed.

For example, a recent study reveals that a massive 70% of girls feel that they are not meeting expectations and do not feel “good enough”.

By 17, 78% of girls are unhappy with their bodies, and more than 90% admit to feeling pressure to look a certain way or would change something about how they look if they could. 

The reasons are not hard to find:

Read: Facebook not good for those with low self-esteem

“There is an increased focus on appearance, success and the pressure to look, act and feel a certain way,” says Hosking. It comes from friends, family, work and society in general, including the ever-prevalent media.

“Of course, the rise of social media has also played a role, because our access to what is perceived as ‘perfection’ is always right there in front of us, and the opportunities to compare our looks and lives with those of others, are too many to count.”

According to Hosking, one of the biggest concerns around the rise of low-self-esteem is how unaware society remains of this condition.

“We do not realise how negative and critical we are being of ourselves, and as a result we continue to cement negative ideas in our minds, and so the cycle continues,” she says.

Breaking the cycle

On a positive note, however, Hosking does add that the rise of social media has brought about an increased awareness of low self-esteem and a strong movement to address it and encourage people – especially women – to love themselves.

There are a number of things that can be done to help improve self-esteem, she says.

“One of the most important things is to accept yourself for who you are, with strengths and weaknesses, as a beautiful individual. Focusing on the abilities you do have, and working to develop more/different abilities or improve them, is better than focusing on what you think you are not able to do.

"It is important to recognise those aspects of yourself that you are proud of and that you like, and to remind yourself of these. It is also important to move beyond just appearance-based acceptance to other aspects of life, such as work success, good relationships, and setting other achievable goals for yourself.”

In addition, she believes that psychotherapy can be extremely beneficial, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which assists patients to change the way in which they think and act.

Read: Is social media bad for your mental health?

She adds that the choice of therapist is as important as the choice of programme:

“The relationship with the therapist is of extreme importance, especially due to the very personal nature of self-esteem issues. Finding a therapist that you can trust, open up to, and that challenges you within a safe environment is crucial.”

In closing, Hosking comments that the most important key to preventing low self-esteem is to be kind to yourself:

“Each and every person has worth, and is important, and learning to love yourself and the good things about you is one of the greatest things you can do.”

You may suffer from low self-esteem if:

  • You experience constant feelings of not being “good enough”.
  • You have a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities.
  • You are highly sensitive to comments others make about you, your appearance, your behaviour etc.
  • You engage in continuous comparisons of yourself with others.
  • You have constant feelings of fear, anxiety and depression.

It is important to note that some of these symptoms may also be representative of other disorders and/or dependent on particular circumstances. If you experience any of these, or other feelings impacting how you feel about yourself, how you behave, or how you view your life, it is best to seek professional assistance.

What is negative self-talk? 

Negative self-talk is anything you say about yourself, either to yourself or others, that is not positive. This can include running yourself down, negative judgements about yourself (including your appearance and abilities), comparisons to others, and negative thoughts. Common examples could be “I’m not good enough”, “I wish I looked…”, “why am I not…”, or “I can’t…”

Identifying negative self-talk is an excellent first step in combatting low self-esteem. Opening up to someone close to you about what you are feeling can help as they can also encourage you. Try to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones, and try to prevent labelling yourself – rather acknowledge the feeling, and try to think about what may have contributed to it and how you can move forward from it. Positive notes and reminders can also be helpful.

Also, minimising the negative thoughts and comments you may have about others can also assist in making your self-talk more positive. In a comparison situation, someone always ends up “losing” so try to avoid comparing yourself and/or others.

Read more:

The stigma of mental illness

10 things to do when you're down

6 tactics used to control women


What is low self-esteem? How do you know what self-esteem you have?

Problems with self-esteem are quite common and occur in people of different age groups. However, low self-esteem develops in childhood. This is fraught with the development of shyness, envy, self-flagellation. All this greatly complicates the quality of life.

The concept of “self-assessment”

This concept includes how a person perceives his personal qualities, his own significance. Self-esteem plays an important role in communicating with other people and their perception of a person. It is an important motivator in setting goals and their further implementation, determines the range of interests, future prospects.

Low self-esteem is an underestimation of one's own merits. People with low self-esteem are constantly tormented by doubts, looking for support, and often engage in self-digging.

Causes of low self-esteem

Since quite often low self-esteem arises in childhood, in this case, the predisposing factors will be:

  • neglect of the child;
  • overprotection;
  • frequent accusations.

In this case, the child will understand that he does not meet parental requirements.

Other reasons are:

  • severe conflict situations - bullying at school, in a team;
  • psychological trauma;
  • propaganda on the Internet about unattainable standards of beauty, success, etc.

If you are not confident in yourself, doubt every step, looking for people's support to make a decision - contact our psychologists for advice. Our doctors at a remote consultation will sort out the problem, find the cause of low self-esteem, help to cope and control emotions, and will be in touch at any time of the day.

Manifestations of low self-esteem

The signs of low self-esteem are varied. Psychologists identify a hefty list of “symptoms” for people with low self-esteem:

  • lack of self-esteem;
  • loss of control over your life;
  • constantly comparing yourself to others
  • contempt for their priorities, needs;
  • frequent doubts;
  • the need for approval;
  • focus on their shortcomings, negative traits;
  • fear of failure;
  • indecision;
  • inability to establish and defend personal boundaries;
  • helpfulness.

The manifestation of low self-esteem is expressed in the manner of behaving, talking. So, in a conversation, such a person will talk about himself in a negative way, exposing only shortcomings. In a conversation, he usually takes an exculpatory, defensive position.


A 25-year-old young man turned to a psychologist for advice. The patient described his problems as follows: it is difficult to refuse, to express his opinion, feelings, emotions, full confidence that nothing will work out. The young man is clearly aware that he is being manipulated and used. During therapy, it turned out that at the age of 7 he, his father and uncle went fishing. The boy was famous and proud of the fact that he knows how to fish well. This time nothing worked, he received condemnation from his uncle and criticism in his address. Instead of interceding, his father supported the criticism. At an older age, the problem of self-doubt became more prominent. Often made mistakes, did everything wrong. In the future, he turned into a silent, closed loner.

Scheme of the process of formation of self-doubt

Formation goes through several successive stages. Different people go through stages. An approximate diagram is:




Life difficulty, failures that were sharply criticized by loved ones


Negative, low, negative assessment of oneself, one’s “I”


The birth of a sense of insecurity


The occurrence of a similar situation with subsequent failure


Criticism from loved ones, negative self-esteem


Formation of self-doubt with subsequent consolidation as a character trait

Important! In order to avoid the appearance of self-doubt, it is necessary to stop destructively criticizing the child. In this case, it is constructive criticism with a subsequent explanation that is important.

Why low self-esteem is dangerous

Low self-esteem is a source of constant self-digging, self-criticism. It prevents you from revealing your own potential and achieving success. The consequences of low self-esteem can be:

  • inability to feel happiness. In this case, a person does not accept himself, he is disgusted with himself. Such people do not notice positive moments, they focus on the negative. This does not allow you to see the positive side, happiness;
  • the predominance of the negative. Negative emotions include suspicion, depression, anxiety. A person begins to worry over trifles;
  • dependence on someone else's opinion. Painful caution becomes the cause of dependence on people. Further, people with low self-esteem try to earn attention, approval, praise. Often at the same time they “step on the throat” to themselves.

People with low self-esteem have a high risk of being in the Karpman triangle, in other words, getting into a co-dependent relationship.

Read also Codependent relationship: how to determine dependence on a partner. Ways to get out of dependent relationships

We increase self-esteem

Correcting the situation can be quite problematic. This takes a lot of time. To try to cope with the problem on your own, psychologists recommend:

  • do not pay attention to the destructive criticism of others;
  • refuse self-criticism;
  • highlight only positive character traits;
  • focus on your own successes;
  • do not program yourself for negativity;
  • help others, do not dwell on yourself and your failures.

An excellent way to increase self-esteem and improve social skills is to work with a psychologist. Choose a tariff convenient for you and get remote consultations with our psychologists. They will carry out psychocorrection of fears, anxieties, help in finding tools for self-realization, establishing and observing personal boundaries, work with beliefs, with self-attitude. And all this at any time convenient for you.

Pros and cons of low self-esteem

With the disadvantages of low self-esteem, it is more or less clear. But what are the benefits of this state?

The positive points with tension include the following points:

  • vulnerability, but not resentment. Such people are not offended for a long time, they quickly leave. Knowing their own imperfection, they forgive the shortcomings of others;
  • non-conflict. From acute situations, conflicts come out with minimal losses.

It should be noted that there are much more minuses from this state than pluses. That is why low self-esteem must be raised with the help of specialists.


Are low self-esteem and impaired self-esteem related?


Of course there is a connection here. Once self-esteem drops, self-respect is out of the question. Since such a person does not know how to build personal boundaries, to defend them. Therefore, quite often he does something against his will, seeking approval.

Why is self-esteem important in a relationship?


Thanks to a healthy, adequate self-esteem, a person will not fall under the influence of a manipulator, countless complexes will not develop. The main function of self-esteem is protective. That is, the relative independence of the individual from the opinions of others. Which positively affects the quality of life in general.

How do you know when it's time to see a psychologist?


First you need to analyze the whole situation. Understand what is low self-esteem and what is not. Very often, the main signals are indecisiveness, distrust, self-doubt, sometimes lack of will, constant self-criticism, and an emphasis only on negative character traits.

What is adequate self-esteem?


This is the correspondence of one's own opinion about oneself and one's real abilities. This is not only what a person imagines about himself, but also their correspondence to external confirmations.

Expert opinion

Self-esteem in psychology is the significance that a person gives himself. This includes individual aspects of the personality and in general. Allocate general and private self-esteem. The general reflects the level of self-esteem, acceptance or non-acceptance of oneself. Private - characterizes the attitude of a person to various aspects of his personality, success, deeds. With low self-esteem, a person treats himself as critically as possible, notices only shortcomings, constantly doubts everything, and is unable to make decisions. All this can lead to negative consequences.

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Article author

Monakhova Albina Petrovna clinical psychologist

Experience 17 years

Consultations 1439

Articles 255

Specialist in clinical psychology. Help in finding tools for self-realization, working out beliefs, fears and anxieties. Work with self-attitude, internal boundaries, understanding of interaction with society through conscious personal changes.

  • 2007 - 2008 MUS Children's polyclinic No. 4 - teacher psychologist
  • 2008 - 2009Healthy Country LLC - Clinical Psychologist
  • 2009 - 2021 Republican Narcological Dispensary - psychologist
  • 2012 - 2013 Occupational medicine - psychologist
  • 2013 - 2015 LLC Vozrozhdenie - psychologist
  • 2019 to present Teledoctor24 LLC - psychologist

Low Self-Esteem - Psychologos

October 01, 2022, 9:38 PM

Movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

Low personal self-esteem - a person's low internal assessment of his qualities, capabilities and merits. First of all, this is what a person thinks about himself, and secondly, how he behaves and what he decides to do.

There may be variants with external behavior: sometimes a person behaves excessively self-confident just because of his own internal uncertainty.

Low self-esteem can be stable, sometimes floating - depending on the situation or mood.

Young children are often cowardly when they are alone, and act quite confidently and boldly when their mother is around. Mom will help!

Before the exam, the girls begin to tremble and lower their self-esteem: "I don't know anything at all!"

What is behind low self-esteem

A variety of things can be behind low self-esteem. Behind low self-esteem, there may be an adequate assessment of one's small capabilities, or perhaps fear and self-doubt. However, more often behind low self-esteem is something else entirely, "supposedly low self-esteem." More often it is a game, declaration, demonstration, window dressing, with the aim of abdicating responsibility, doing nothing, not making any effort. Sometimes it is a conscious game, sometimes it is an unconscious psychological defense, sometimes it is a philosophy of life. See →

People with low personal self-esteem in human life

An adult with low personal self-esteem tends to be less successful. Low personal self-esteem is closely related to feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and sometimes hostility to the outside world. It is connected - that is, it is generated by this, and generates this, and is expressed in this. People with low personal self-esteem are usually not respected, they are difficult to admire, they are rarely liked - but they like to use them. Girls often choose not the brightest and not the most self-confident as their friends in order to look more interesting against their background.

How to Protect Your Self-Esteem

Professor William Swann of the University of Texas advises: Treasure your association with those who like you and who are willing to stimulate the growth of your self-esteem. And try to minimize communication with those who, with their hostility, threaten to shake your self-esteem. It is impossible to please everyone, to please everyone and everyone, but in most cases it is in our power to choose with whom to deal and whose judgments to listen to.

How to improve low self-esteem

A series of severe failures often gives rise to situational low self-esteem. However, the support of loved ones and significant others in such cases can be very effective.

If low self-esteem is not situational, but stable (personal), then in any case it cannot be quickly improved or corrected. That is, it is possible to increase it for a short time, but it is possible to increase it steadily, but not quickly. At the very least, it's a job for a few months. High-quality self-confidence training and positive psychotherapy can help.

Situational low self-esteem is usually easy to improve: it is enough to distract from the negative situation being experienced, to involve in a new business or another situation where success is quite possible. and just to give a soft or hard form of support.

In any case, check out the articles Confidence, Dealing with Uncertainty and Confidence Starts With You

  • Low self-esteem

Comments (7):

Guest, January 16, 2015 1:00 pm

Didn't like the article.



Guest 2, March 13, 2015 at 00:32

What specifically didn't you like?



Guest, 08 January 2018, 06:14

And I really liked it. Everything is constructive. Thank you

Alexander Migoryan, March 13, 2015, 2:52 pm

Positive thinking and a positive attitude can be the factor that will budge low self-esteem. However, in order for a positive attitude to appear, it is often necessary to change the way of life or, as a rule, change the situation for a while.

Guest, October 25, 2017 3:40 PM

Even people who have low self-esteem can become successful. I know those.



Guest, February 15, 2022, 4:29 PM

To be honest, it's hard to believe in this, I would say, before the 1st year in college. I have noticed that almost all nerds (whether girls/boys) have low self-esteem.

Guest, June 28, 2018, 09:53

I liked it, everything is clear, short, accessible.

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