What is Self Esteem?

Self-esteem is best described as the degree to which we view our ‘worthiness’ as a person. The foundation of our self-image is first developed during childhood and continues throughout life.  If you have low self-worth, these earlier experiences have simply overshadowed you and have come to represent the sum total of who believe you are. 

If you or someone you love struggles with low self worth, we urge you to seek help from a licensed therapist on our site. Regardless of whom you are, or where you have been, there is real hope for living a life of renewed purpose, meaning, and discovery. You do not have to stay here any longer. Lets first talk a little bit about low self worth and then discuss how you can find help, and what to do to find new life again.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Self Esteem?

Low self esteem is not something that simply appears one morning. It is developed and nurtured over time. Every day we experience situations that either boost our self-confidence or tear it apart. The challenge for those of us who lack a strong identity is that once a poor self-image is accepted, we tend to make choices in our lives to support those beliefs. Or to put simply, once you have accepted the idea that you are worthless, most, if not all of your choices in life will be in harmony with that belief. Choices such as an abusive partner, disrespectful friends, or a dead-end job only serve to validate and compound an already fragile sense of worth. Suffering from low self esteem can become a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Peaceful Path

Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. -Descartes

Signs of Low Self Esteem?

Some of the classic signs of low self-esteem are: consistent anxiety and emotional turmoil, always accentuating the negative, unable to accept compliments, overly concerned about what others think, don’t trust one’s own opinions, constantly depressed, socially withdraw, self-neglect, eating disorders, unable to take on challenges, always quitting and resigning, controlling, needy, success driven, arrogant, extremely self-defensive (someone who retaliates far worse than what would normally be expected), exaggerated perfectionism, and a constant need for validation and recognition. Someone may throw a lot of "pity parties" as their unyielding thirst for validation, spotlight, and recognition helps them feel better. A person suffering from low self esteem may feel constantly worthless, and feel completely helpless to do anything to make his or her life better. They often feel defeated to think they can change other people for the better, let alone themselves, hence their personalities are driven inward, rather than outward.

Low self esteem is frequently seen in several different, and often serious conditions such as major depression, anorexia, body dysmorphic issues, "cutting", anti-social behavior, domestic violence, hoarding, borderline, and numerous types of addictions- just to name a few. This means that the presence of extreme low self worth can be a sign of another serious condition in someone's life, and should always be taken seriously and not ignored.

Low Self Esteem Is More Common Than You May Think

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately one out of every 4 adults will suffer from a psychological disorder in any given year, the majority of for which low self-esteem is an underlying factor. In relation to a population poll conducted by the Census Bureau, that translates to a staggering 57.7 million people in the US, and nearly 8 million in Canada. Poor self-image puts us at risk for eating disorders, teenage pregnancy, depression, suicide, criminal or violent behavior, bullying, victimization, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, poor job performance, divorce, and disastrous relationships to name only a few. The good news however, is that just as self-esteem is developed during childhood, as an adult, you can learn to counter self-defeating behavior. With self-esteem counseling and support, you can discover how to release your negative self-image and accept a more positive sense of self.

What Causes Low Self Worth?

As a child, parents are the biggest influence on self-esteem. Children who are consistently criticized, berated, yelled at or beaten by a parent quickly learn they are worthless. If a child is continually ignored, teased or ridiculed or if they are expected to be perfect all the time in order to be accepted, they eventually develop a poor self-image. If a child constantly fails at school or does poorly in sports, they will experience identity issues, especially when they reach their teens. How a parent deals with the situation is what directly impacts whether or not a child will develop a healthy self-image. Low self esteem can often occur as a result of a harsh or neglectful parent.

If you have feelings of worthlessness, it has probably manifested in one of the following ways. You may have taken on the role of the constant loser, the person who is always waiting for the other shoe to drop and is helpless to do anything about it. Self-pity provides an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for your life. You lack assertiveness and feel you must be in a relationship to be worthy. You are the typical underachiever.

You could also try to mask your low self-esteem by over compensating. You are the person who always appears happy. You are the highly competitive perfectionist who continually reminds others of your successes. Underneath however, you live in terror, worrying your true identity will be unmasked. You suffer from intense identity issues and tend to “burn out”.

Possibly, you go to the other extreme and act as though you simply “don’t care”. You tend to be angry and nothing anyone does for you is ever enough. You feel you are “unworthy” so you blame everyone else for your problems. You are controlling, the rule breaker and you have issues with authority, something that rarely ends well.

How To Improve Low Self Esteem and Negative Self Image

A healthy self esteem is developed during childhood, underscoring the great need in our society to ensure children are raised in a loving, yet sturdy environment guided by strong moral values. By your teens you will have already decided whether or not you are a “worthy” person. Identity issues are hard enough during this tumultuous time without the added burden of low self-image. So, it’s no wonder so many adults grow up to feel they simply aren’t good enough. Sometimes all it takes is one incident, in which you adapt an exaggerated and incorrect belief about yourself, to set off a lifetime of problems. Our choices are the biggest factor in how we lead our lives and to change our choices, we must first change the way we think about ourselves. This is no easy task, but with support and guidance from a self-esteem counselor, you can learn how to create a new self-image. You don’t have to become your negative beliefs.

Treatment For Low Self-Esteem

If you are suffering or know someone who suffers from a negative self-image, understand that this is a deep-rooted problem, and not something that will be fixed by a mere online article. Professional psychotherapy is a very important avenue and resource that can peel back years of hurt and begin a new work towards a rewarding life. Sometimes the best help is through spiritual counseling, such as a pastor, a spiritual counselor, or a priest, as belief in God is a deep, fundamental part of many people. A rich spiritual life has an immense and positive effect on how someone views him or herself. Other times, working through issues with a trained and licensed therapist is the right step. Most likely, moving beyond internet 'self-help' is vital, as deep issues are unlikely to be solved through online self-help.

At Theravive, we believe that all people, no matter who they are or where they have been, have purpose, value, and meaning. This belief is one of our core values. It is so important in life that individuals discover their purpose, as this lack of understanding is a frequent cause of low self-worth. When you begin counseling with a Theravive self-esteem counsellor, we start by identifying those assumptions that are contributing to a sense of low self value. These could include the belief that “I am never good enough”, “there is nothing special about me”, or “I never seem to be able to find direction or purpose in life.” The emotions that are tied to these negative assumptions maintain a hold on an individual from feeling a sense of value and identity. By identifying and understanding events in life that contribute to low self worth and discovering a clear picture of a future without those assumptions, we are able to resolve these feelings and provide hope and release from harmful beliefs.

Low self worth is experienced in unique ways for each person, counselling determines what self-defeating behavior is contributing to the maintenance of low self worth and lack of identity and challenges these thoughts and behaviors towards positive change. Further, working with the counsellor, individuals identify relationships that are contributing to low self esteem and work to develop healthy boundaries to reduce the negative impact on the individual’s identity.

With values counselling individuals can expect to identify and resolve underlying issues that are contributing to their sense of low self worth and lack of personal identity and embrace a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life. As a result, being overshadowed by fear of failure, not feeling good enough, and a lack of confidence is alleviated and individuals come away from counseling with a sense of personal value and an identity independent of what they do or how others view them.

If you need a therapist to help you, we have a large selection of online therapists who are professional and licensed counselors, able to help you right where you are over the phone, via email, or webcam/messenger. If you prefer face to face counseling, please use our therapist directory and find a city close to you with a therapist who can meet your needs.


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