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It’s common to self-criticise now and then, but if you keep judging yourself negatively or think badly about yourself quite often, you might suffer from low self-esteem. There can be many reasons why someone develops low self-esteem, and even if you do not know what’s causing it, there are steps you can take to make it better.

In general, self-esteem indicates an individual’s personal opinion about themselves or their overall sense of self-value. Contrary to popular belief, it is more about liking yourself in general. The term is broad and encompasses multiple factors like self-confidence, sense of identity, feelings of belonging, and feelings of competence. Self-esteem undoubtedly plays a critical role in various areas of life. It determines your motivation to struggle for everything you want in life and can significantly impact your ability to form healthy relationships.

So if you or someone you know is struggling with poor self esteem, it’s critical to identify and manage it in time. This article will explore the signs of low self esteem, why you may be suffering from it, and its potential effects on life.

Low self-esteem can result from multiple factors, such as exposure to trauma or bullying, negative parenting styles, and even academic challenges. Below are some examples of what causes low self esteem in most people.

Disapproving Parents

People who grew up hearing that they weren’t good enough can struggle to hold a positive self-image throughout their lives. Sometimes, certain parents or other authoritative figures criticise their children no matter how hard they try. As a result, such children find it challenging to feel comfortable and confident in their skin. The constant shame forced on them for failing perpetually can be excruciating for them, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Uninvolved Parents

Motivating yourself or striving for more can be complicated when your parents or caregivers did not pay enough attention to you in childhood. When these authoritative figures do not pay attention to your most significant achievements, it may make children believe as if they are unimportant, unacknowledged, or forgotten.

Exposure to Parental Conflicts

Continuous fights between parents or the primary caregivers of a child can also contribute to their low self esteem symptoms later in life. These frequent fights expose vulnerable children to distrustful situations and negative emotions. If this continues for a long, some children start holding themselves accountable for the excessive conflicts between the authoritative figures.


Bullying can be a traumatic experience for most children, with lingering effects that they carry to adulthood. Among other negative impacts of bullying is the development of poor self-esteem. In most cases, having the support of a responsive, safe, and aware family provides most victims of bullying a better chance of salvaging their self-esteem after being bullied as a child. However, if you already feel unsafe at home due to unsupportive parents and keep bearing the torture from people outside, a sense of self-loathing often prevails.

Conversely, if your parents were overly supportive of you in similar circumstances, it may prevent you from developing a thick outer layer and make you unprepared for the cruel world. You may often find it challenging to withstand the struggles of life and even feel ashamed of it. Eventually, it may seem as if your parent’s opinions about you are in conflict with what the rest of the world thinks about you. This conflict may instil trust issues and push you to cling to things that are familiar in life. Sooner or later, you start questioning the validity of your parent’s views about you and stick to the idea that you are not good enough.

Academic Challenges

Academics can easily make or break anyone. Someone who struggles to understand what’s happening in school and continues to get further behind without anyone stepping in to help can easily make them believe that they are defective. With time, they may feel excessively self-conscious and start doubting their smartness. The shame associated with this feeling of not being smart enough can be challenging to get rid of, even if you learn to overcome these academic difficulties.


Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse are some of the most overt causes triggering the signs of low self-esteem. Being forced into an emotional or physical position against your will can make it difficult to trust yourself or others, which, in turn, significantly reduces your self-esteem.

Belief Systems

For some people, their religious beliefs constantly put them in a position to feel like they are perpetual sinners. This situation is similar to the experience of living with a disapproving parent and can hurt the individual’s self-esteem in the same way. Whether the constant criticism and judgment come from a parent or a belief system, it can quickly evoke conflict, shame, and self-hatred in anyone.

Poor self-esteem can cripple an individual’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviour patterns. In some cases, its signs are visible, but in others, they can be subtle and hard to recognise.

Mentioned below are some signs of low self esteem in a woman or a man:

Low Confidence

People with low self-esteem tend to have low self-confidence and vice versa. On the contrary, being confident in yourself and your talents can allow you to manage every situation, no matter how difficult. This self-trust indicates that you are confident about navigating different things in life, contributing to your overall well-being. But if you struggle with self-esteem, your confidence level may drop so much that you no longer trust yourself with anything.

Lack of Control

People with low self-esteem often have little control over their lives. This is usually due to the fact that they cannot change themselves or the circumstances around them. Because of this external locus of control, such people may also believe they do not have enough power to fix their problems.

Negative Social Comparison

Social comparison can often play a positive role in enhancing an individual’s sense of self and self-worth. However, for some, this comparison can damage their self-esteem. People with esteem issues are more likely to participate in an upward social comparison, i.e., comparing themselves to people they think are better than themselves.

Remember that upward social comparison is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, these comparisons can provide beneficial information for progress or inspire people to improve themselves and their lives. However, for people who are vulnerable to hopelessness and inadequacy, such comparisons may inhibit their self-esteem.

Social media tends to play a crucial role in triggering these comparisons. If you are habitual of comparing yourself with people on different social medial platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, your self-esteem automatically becomes vulnerable.

Difficulty Vocalising Needs

Individuals with low self-esteem may frequently struggle to ask for something they need. Such people may feel like they don’t deserve the help because of low self-regard. They may also feel incompetent or embarrassed by their need for support or assistance. Prioritising their needs also becomes challenging for them; as a result, they find it difficult to assert themselves in times of need.

Negative Self-Talk

Low self-esteem can often force people to focus on their flaws instead of their talents, abilities, and strengths. Instead of building their confidence with positive self-talk, such people always have something negative to think and say about themselves. They constantly blame themselves when things go South and always manage to find faults with a particular aspect of themselves, such as their personality, appearance, or skills.

Fear of Failure

Because of low self-confidence, people with esteem issues frequently doubt their ability to succeed. Their constant fear of failure forces them to avoid challenges or give up too soon without even trying properly. This fear of failure is particularly evident in their behaviours, and some low self esteem examples depicting these patterns include:

  • Acting out when things go wrong
  • Finding ways to hide feelings of inadequacy
  • Blaming external factors
  • Making excuses
  • Downplaying the importance of a certain task

Poor Outlook

Poor outlook is one of the most common characteristics of a man with low self esteem. This symptom causes people to feel hopeless about their life in the coming years. These intense feelings of hopelessness may make it challenging for them to struggle for a better future. To cope with these feelings, many people with esteem issues indulge in self-sabotage, i.e., they keep finding obstacles to prevent success and blame them for their shortcomings.

People Pleasing

Most people with low self-esteem have a habit of always trying to please others. To gain external validation, such individuals may go above and beyond to ensure that others around them are happy and comfortable. Due to this habit, they often neglect their own needs, feel guilty about saying no to others and say yes to things out of their comfort zone. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with poor self-esteem, remember that help is available. If your low self-esteem is due to a particular psychological problem, addressing it first is crucial for complete recovery. Moreover, if other factors like alcoholism or addiction exacerbate the issue, treatment must be directed towards addressing them.

Fortunately, addressing low self-esteem is possible with appropriate psychological treatment and medication. A combination of stress management, psychoeducation, and psychotherapy can significantly improve an individual’s confidence and esteem. While most people with self-esteem issues are reluctant to seek help, it is crucial to get help as soon as possible. A failure to resolve it can isolate you from your loved one, create academic or work-related difficulties, and reduce the overall quality, satisfaction, and pleasure in life.



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