Low Self Esteem

Q: What is low self-esteem?

When many problems are analyzed carefully, they often boil down to one common denominator. Low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is when someone has the general feeling deep down that there is something wrong with them, that they aren’t good enough, and that they simply are not ok. When someone feels that, they will often end up with many different automatic and unconscious defense mechanisms to try and not have to face that ‘fact’. Sometimes it will be a feeling like anger, anxiety, depression, or shame. Other times it will be desperate actions like binging, gambling, being a workaholic, being busy all the time, sex addiction, or other self-destructive behaviors. The common denominator is that underneath it all there is this inherent self of low self-worth which is extremely painful and unpleasant.

Q: What causes low self esteem?

Low self-esteem is often caused by multiple events and situations where the person gets the message that “you aren’t ok”. After enough of these events people come to the conclusion that there *is* something wrong with them on the deepest and most profound level. Some examples of situations that can build this up are:

  • Getting criticized over and over
  • Failing multiple times and getting the message that failure is not ok
  • Being taught that anything other than perfection is not ok
  • Traumatic events such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Traumatic events such as war or natural disasters, being over sheltered where the implicit message is “you can’t cope on your own”.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a sample of situations that can build up to having a low self-esteem.


Q: Can therapy help with low self-esteem?

In the vast majority of situations where people come to therapy, low self-esteem is present and is often a treatment target. After all, in many areas in life, treating the cause is a lot more effective than simply treating the symptom. Therapy can often help people with low self-esteem to re-conceptualize and reform their sense of self and their understanding of events they experienced so that they can finally free themselves from the choking hold of  low self-esteem.

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Low Self Esteem