What Causes Low Self Esteem? | Uncover Its Root Causes and Solutions

I understand how debilitating low self-esteem can be and the hardships it brings. As a transformational coach, I have helped many people uncover the root causes of their low self-esteem and teach them solutions to help them overcome it. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what causes low self esteem, its underlying root causes, and proven steps to help you build strong self-worth.

Low self-esteem can be caused by a variety of factors, including psychological and social influences. On the psychological side, trauma experienced in childhood, such as physical or emotional abuse, bullying, or an unsupportive home environment, can damage self-confidence and lead to low self-esteem. Social issues such as poverty and discrimination can also contribute to feelings of worthlessness or insecurity. In addition, people may develop negative thoughts on their own abilities due to past failures or criticism from others.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem can originate from a multitude of sources and circumstances—some of them dating back to childhood. Whether it’s authority conflicts, bullying, or unsupportive relationships, these elements can have far-reaching effects on self-worth.

Authority Figures in Conflict

When parents or other architypes of power test the limits of our autonomy by violating trust, we can be left feeling powerless and overwhelmed. This feeling of helplessness can directly influence feelings of self-worth.

Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse are particularly damaging examples of this kind of conflict, leading to a deep distrust in oneself and others that affects self-esteem profoundly.


Bullying has long been linked with low self-esteem. Those who endure such mistreatment often feel threatened, ashamed and unable to reason with those around them. As a result, they may feel incapable of facing their own potential, stifling any attempts at personal growth.

The cycle of mistreatment can then perpetuate itself by leading an individual to bully others out of anger or frustration.

Academic Challenges

For those who struggle academically during key learning years, the frustration and sense of inadequacy can lead to feelings of shame and worthlessness. This can manifest itself as fear when undertaking challenges later on in life due to the lack confidence in one’s abilities.


Trauma is another major cause for low self-esteem. Such events leave psychological scars that may take years to heal if not managed properly.

Societal and Media Pressure

Socio-cultural and media expectations can take a toll on self-esteem, creating unrealistic yardsticks of perfection. Pressure from peers, family, communities, and intense digital influence create an environment which can breed feelings of inadequacy. Self-doubts arise when we are unable to meet these standards and lead to low self-confidence.

Lack Of Supportive Relationships

Low self-esteem can be rooted in lacking supportive relationships. Whether its parents, mentors or friends, having a solid support system is essential for developing healthy self-worth. Without those who validate one’s worth, it can be hard to build a positive self-image.

One might lack supportive relationships because of social anxiety or difficulties building rapport with others. This can make it tough to meet new people, contribute in group settings and make meaningful connections. If one’s social capabilities are limited, they may find themselves without ample opportunity to cultivate relationships.

What Are the Signs of Low Self-Esteem?

When self-esteem is low, it can be difficult to recognize; however, there are some common warning signs. These might include feeling inadequate or worthless, not being able to accept compliments, struggling to set boundaries, avoiding eye contact, isolating oneself from others and having negative thoughts.

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is one of the root causes of low self-esteem. It’s a common habit that can be harmful and prevent us from achieving our goals. Signs of negative self-talk include shaming or berating ourselves for mistakes, comparing ourselves to others, ruminating on unpleasant memories, and using harsh language towards ourselves. These thoughts become deeply ingrained over time and can put a damper on happiness and confidence.

Feelings of Worthlessness

Low self-esteem can often fuel negative thoughts about oneself, leading to a deep sense of worthlessness. People with low self-esteem may feel like they are unworthy of love and affection or that they don’t deserve success or recognition. This can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and despair.

Some people express their lack of personal value by talking negatively about themselves and others, while others constantly put in extra effort to please those around them in an attempt to fill the emptiness. In either case, these feelings can have a devastating impact on one’s life and overall wellbeing.

Avoiding Challenging Tasks

When confronted with difficult tasks or demanding projects, those with low self-esteem want nothing more than to shrink away and hide. Fearful of making mistakes and being judged by peers or authority figures, they will go out of their way to avoid any potentially challenging situation.

When facing criticism or disapproval, those with low self-esteem tend to avoid confrontation rather than confront the issue head-on. This can lead to apprehension and a feeling of being overwhelmed, leaving them no choice but to retreat from activities and people. Procrastination then becomes the path of least resistance.

Rejecting Praise and Compliments

People with low self-esteem often struggle to accept compliments because deep down they do not believe that what is being said is true. They might reject the compliments outright or try to deflect the attention away from themselves in an effort to maintain a negative perception of themselves.

The fear that others will eventually see through the positive façade prevents people from embracing compliments that are sincerely given.

How to Improve Low Self-Esteem

Recognize What You’re Good At

One step towards improving your self-esteem is identifying your strengths and acknowledging your accomplishments. Start each day thinking positively about yourself and reminding yourself that you have something valuable or unique to offer. Focus on your successes rather than failures or shortcomings.

Allow yourself to appreciate your good qualities without comparing yourself negatively against others who may be better at something else.

Build Positive Relationships

  • Discuss your struggles with someone special to you. Reach out and seek the counsel of a confidant, close family member, or reliable companion that you trust in times of hardship. Open up and see if they can offer helpful advice on how to overcome the difficulties you face.
  • Browse online resources for further information.
  • See your doctor for advice.
  • Read books on self-development.
  • Take a course in personal development.
  • Gain a different perspective and seek counsel from an experienced counsellor who can help you to address your difficulties.

Be Kind to Yourself

  • Low self-esteem can make it hard for you to show kindness towards yourself, so it’s important that you actively work on this.
  • Start small – simple things like taking a long bath, engaging in mindful activities such as yoga or journaling, going out for walks in nature or eating a balanced diet all play an important role in boosting self-compassion.
  • Remember that you deserve care just as much as everyone else does.

Learn To Be Assertive

Low self – esteem can also cause individuals to become passive when it comes to dealing with other people. Being assertive involves expressing your needs, wants, opinions, and views clearly but respectfully. It ‘s important to remember that taking care of yourself doesn’ t mean putting other people ‘s needs behind yours but simply understanding what’ s best for you and how speaking up can help you achieve those goals.

Start Saying “No”

We’ve all been there; saying yes to too many requests, instead of taking a step back and prioritizing our own needs. But sometimes it can be hard to recognize when you should be saying no – or even how to say it! When it comes to empowering yourself and boosting your self-esteem, learning to confidently set boundaries is key. Saying ‘no’ might seem daunting but it is incredibly important in any successful relationship.

Give Yourself a Challenge

At times, starting something fresh may stir up a sense of uneasiness. Those who possess strong self-confidence, however, do not let this phobia stand in the way of tackling a new venture or taking on an intimidating task. To build self-assurance, set yourself ambitious aims; like attending an exercise program or joining a social gathering. Accomplishing these specific goals will help improve your assurance levels.

Where to Find Help for Low Self-Esteem

Counseling or Therapy

Nevertheless, if you find that trying to strengthen your self-regard on your own has not given you the results you wanted, it may be time to look for external assistance. Psychological therapies like counseling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be of great help.

Support Groups

If you experience low self-esteem, it can be beneficial to converse about your hardships with someone who provides unconditional support. This could be a relative or peer, but it could also be a healthcare specialist, therapist, educator, or religious leader.

Online Resources

If you feel like your self-regard may be lacking, there are online resources available to help evaluate your level of worth. The Open-Source Psychometrics Project offers a free tool for administering the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, which can offer insight into one’s emotional health. By filling out this survey, you can gain an understanding of how well your sense of value aligns with global perceptions.


What are the contributing factors to low self-esteem in children?

Low self-esteem from childhood can be caused by many factors, such as traumatic experiences, bullying or victimization, lack of positive relationships and not having a strong sense of self. Traumatic events and experiences can damage a child’s sense of security and trust in the world, leading to low self-esteem.

Being victims of bullying or other forms of abuse can also lead to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety and depression. Not having access to positive role models or meaningful relationships can create feelings of loneliness and disconnection, which can further dampen a child’s self-esteem.

Does having an unfavorable upbringing lead to low self-esteem?

Yes, a bad childhood can cause low self-esteem. Trauma in childhood is linked to difficulties regulating emotions and can have a negative impact on an individual’s sense of self-worth. Positive relationships and asserting oneself are key components of overcoming feelings of low self-esteem and restoring confidence.

What steps can be taken to improve an individual’s self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can be improved through positive relationships and building self-confidence. Developing assertiveness skills, such as communication and boundaries, can help enhance your sense of worth. It is also important to face traumatic experiences from childhood, allowing for healing and growth. Through keeping a positive outlook, engaging in activities that you enjoy and seeing a therapist if needed, it is possible to raise self-esteem.


In conclusion, there is no single cause of low self-esteem, but rather a variety of psychological and social influences that can lead to this decline in confidence. It is important to understand the root causes of low self-esteem in order to effectively address and improve it. From childhood trauma to poverty or discrimination, identifying what causes low self-esteem is the first step in regaining one’s sense of worthiness.

Finding solutions to low self-esteem can take time but is ultimately attainable. Seeking professional help may be necessary for those who have experienced intense trauma while building relationships with supportive people and positive affirmation can help boost self-confidence. With awareness and effort, it is possible to break down the walls that have been holding one back from reaching their full potential.

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