Signs of Low Self Esteem

Signs Of Low Self Esteem

And How to Overcome Them


Signs of Low Self Esteem: Do you struggle to feel good about yourself? Do you compare yourself unfavorably to others? If you make a mistake or experience a setback, do you assume that it’s because of your personal flaws or shortcomings? Do you assume that people don’t like you, and anticipate rejection at every turn? 

These are just a few of  signs of low self esteem, and if they’re present in you, it's hard to feel confident in your own abilities, and generally secure around other people. As a Denver Therapist and online life coach I've worked with countless clients over the years who struggled with low self esteem. I know that this is an exhausting and disempowering way to live, but the good news is that with the right support you can start to feel good about yourself again. 

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, we’re talking all about self esteem in order to provide you with insight and direction about how to achieve healthy self esteem and stay confidently connected to your self-worth through the ups and downs of life. 

Specifically, we’re discussing:

The importance of Self Esteem

Self esteem refers to your basic trust in yourself, and your sense that you are worthy of love and respect. People with healthy self esteem are usually able to take setbacks in stride and cope with disappointment, set healthy boundaries with others, take guidance from their feelings, be appropriately assertive, and trust in their ability to be effective and make good decisions.  

People with healthy self esteem typically feel good about themselves and, more importantly, are able to support themselves compassionately when they don't. (Instead of beating themselves up and judging themselves when they're feeling down.) When people with high self esteem experience inevitable rejection or disappointment, they have a realistic understanding of all the factors that may have contributed to their negative experience — not just singular focus on their own shortcomings.

Perhaps most importantly, people with healthy self esteem tend to be effective in relationships. Because they have a strong sense of themselves, they are able to stay calm(ish) when their partner or loved one is upset. They’re also able to have empathy for their partner’s feelings and perspective without feeling that their own is being attacked or criticised. Because they do not need approval or external validation to feel okay about themselves, they are able to tolerate moments when their partner is not at their best without becoming over-reactive. 

Because people with high self esteem trust their feelings and have a general core belief that they are worthy of being treated well, they tend to talk openly about how they feel, ask for what they need, and swiftly set healthy boundaries with people who are being abusive or disrespectful to them. 

Low Self Esteem Symptoms

If you don’t feel like you are a fundamentally “good enough” person who is worthy of love and respect, you may blame yourself for many things and have a vicious inner critic berating you from the inside out. People with low self esteem often feel inappropriately guilty and ashamed, and are often consumed by negative thoughts about themselves. 

One of the hallmark signs of low self esteem is a tendency to compare yourself to other people, and often feel that you’re not as good as others are. Particularly for young people, feelings of low self esteem can be amplified by social media use, as they compare the curated images and “highlight reel” of others to their own life experiences… and feel like they’re falling short.

If you're suffering from low self esteem it’s difficult for you to trust yourself. This often takes the form of minimizing your own feelings — particularly dark (and protective!) emotions like sadness and legitimate anger. When you feel guilt or shame for feeling upset, it is difficult to set healthy boundaries with other people, or talk about how you feel or what you need with others. This, in turn, has a negative impact on relationships. (And having difficult relationships, contributes further to your feelings of low self esteem). 

Causes of Low Self Esteem

If you’re wondering, “Why do I have low self esteem?” here’s an overview of some of the common causes of low self esteem:

  • Self Esteem and Depression:

    • Low self esteem is one of the symptoms of major depressive disorder. This is an important distinction, because if depression is present, it may be causing feelings of low self esteem. (Low self esteem does not necessarily cause depression!) If you get into mental health treatment for depression, ideally using and evidence based form of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, as your depression lifts it will also contribute to raising your self esteem.
  • Self Esteem and Trauma:

    • People who have experienced a number adverse life experiences including childhood abuse or neglect, or other significant, early rejections of traumas are often suffering from low self esteem as a result. Getting involved in high-quality, sometimes longer-term trauma-focused, evidenced-based psychotherapy will often help heal your self esteem as you work through the trauma.
  • Other Causes of Low Self Esteem:

    • While mental illnesses like depression or PTSD can create feelings of low self esteem, it is also true that many people who suffer from low self esteem (perhaps most!) have not lived through extreme abuse, neglect or trauma, nor are they suffering from symptoms of depression. Sometimes they’ve experienced a loss such as a breakup, divorce, or layoff that has been a gut punch to their self esteem. People who've been stuck in a toxic relationship will often feel badly about themselves. Other times, what causes low self esteem is simply a long-standing negative thought pattern that emphasizes personal shortcomings, and overlooks strengths and successes. Shifting that inner dialogue can help people start feeling better about themselves and their lives.

How to Improve Your Self Esteem

There are a number of effective strategies for how to overcome low self esteem. Generally speaking, passive, insight-oriented, traditional, vague “talk therapy” that seeks to create connections between life events and why you feel so badly about yourself (if not rooted in actual trauma work) will often just make you feel worse and more broken. Endlessly talking about how badly you feel about yourself, and why, will only amplify these feelings and make you feel increasingly stuck in them. 

A far more effective approach for how to overcome low self esteem is through a more positive, action-oriented approach such as CBT for self esteem. This type of therapy for self esteem does not keep you focused on the past, but rather teaches you new strategies to identify and shift negative, self-limiting thoughts. It also emphasizes empowerment, and encourages you to actively participate in behaviors that challenge you, and provide you with opportunities to experience your own competence. This strengths-based approach to self esteem counseling helps you correct the core beliefs about your “worthlessness” because it teaches you how to feel confident and effective in different situations. 

Another fantastic strategy for how to have high self esteem is through evidence-based life coaching that utilizes cognitive behavioral strategies. Particularly if your low self esteem is related to a recent loss or setback, like low self esteem after a breakup, or low self esteem after a layoff, this type of life coaching can help you feel better about yourself. 

Positive, future-focused life coaching can also teach you how to change the way you think, teaches you new skills for how to be more effective in common situations (particularly around communication and emotional intelligence). But good life coaching for self esteem will also help you set achievable goals and then take action to achieve them. Doing so, and creating a new reality for yourself, will help you feel positive, confident, and more trusting in your own abilities. 

Self Esteem Test

One helpful tool to measure your self esteem is our “How Healthy is Your Self Esteem Quiz.” This is an online self esteem test that explores whether or not (and to what extent) you have the signs of low self esteem. You can take this self esteem test online, and then get a report showing your results and recommendations for how to raise your self esteem. 

Self Esteem Podcast

For even more on this topic and a deep dive into the signs of low self esteem, the difference between “high self esteem” and “healthy self esteem,” an exploration of the causes of low self esteem, why traditional therapy can amplify feelings of low self esteem, and insight into the most effective ways of raising your self esteem, listen to this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. 

It’s all for you!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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The Signs of Low Self Esteem

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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