Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Why Do I Feel So Low? Understanding the Top Causes of Low Self Esteem

Very few things in this life can be as disparaging as living with low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can cause a plethora of problems in our lives. It creates self-doubt in every aspect of lives.  It can create issues at work, at home, and in relationships.

Low self-esteem can be emotionally and even physically crippling.

If we don’t know why we have low self-esteem, we can’t begin to correct it.

Read on to uncover and understand some major causes of low self-esteem.

Disapproving or Uninvolved Parents, Guardians, and Authority Figures

There’s a high percentage of people who, even as adults, have a problem with one or both of their parents.

As children, our parents are the most prominent figures in our lives. It’s no surprise then, that bad parenting can be one of the leading causes of low self-esteem.

Take, for example, a parent who has impossibly high expectations for their children. Trying to bear up under a disapproving parent whom you can never please can create unshakeable low self-worth.

Indifferent parents can have the same effect, however. When we feel as though no matter what we do, we can never gain their attention or get them to care about us. It can make us feel incredibly small.

This feeling can evolve into low self-esteem, carrying on into adulthood.

Similarly, an authority figure who doesn’t appreciate or notice us can produce similar feelings of low self-worth at any age.

Be it a boss, instructor, coach or teacher, these people have considerable influence over our self-image.

In fact, disapproval and indifference of authority figures are some of the leading causes of low self-esteem in adults.


Societal expectations are always changing. One thing that doesn’t change about society’s expectations, however, is the impossibility to fulfill them.

Trying to fit into the uniquely shaped boxes society says we belong in is a never-ending battle in futility. These demands are largely due to the media such as movies, magazines, music, and TV.

With the explosive rise of social media in the last few years, things have gotten exponentially worse.

We’re told how we should look, how we should behave, and who we should be. We’re trained to believe that by not being any of those things, we have somehow failed at life.

Every decade, a woman’s “ideal” appearance changes. There are very few decades in which any woman could possibly achieve those standards.

Although women can acknowledge how ludicrous these expectations are, they still feel demoralized if they don’t fit the mold, leading to one of the most prevalent causes of low self-esteem among their gender.

Society’s demands on men can also be stringent. They must be either incredibly successful or look like the most recent action hero, or both.

While health and fitness are important, these expectations set by the media lead to unhealthy obsessions and attitudes towards food and exercise.


There are many traumatic events in life that can transform our self-concept into something negative.

For example, being bullied, as a child or an adult, can lead to the belief that we’re inferior and pathetic to those around us.

It’s understandable, though. How can we have high self-esteem when someone’s in our face telling us otherwise?

Abusive relationships also cause of low self-esteem.

As a child or an adult, being sexually abused can lead to life-long issues of low self-worth and insecurities. While men are not immune to sexual abuse, women are more likely to be victimized by sexual assault.

In fact, one in five women has been sexually assaulted, while only one in 71 men has been.

Repeated sexual abuse as a child can lead to severe mental health issues, low self-esteem included.

Non-physical abusive can cause low self-esteem, too. A partner who calls us names, tears us down, or makes us feel undesired doesn’t exactly bolster our self-confidence.

However, when we love someone, we stay with them, even if they are crushing our spirit. It’s unfortunate, but we tend to stay in abusive relationships long after the damage has been done.

Long-term verbal and emotional abuse can lead to permanent discrepancies in our self-image.

Belief Systems

Sometimes, our belief systems can hold just as much weight over us as a disapproving parent. Regardless of what religion we identify with, there are standards and expectations of how we should live our lives.

This isn’t always a bad thing. “Thou shalt not kill,” for example, is a pretty good rule to live by. However, there are some organizations, even if it is just individual churches, that take it to the extreme.

These establishments tend to focus on the dos and don’ts of religion rather than love and forgiveness, leading to the belief that we aren’t good enough, that we’re just wicked sinners.

If people buckled under the disapproving eyes of their parents, what do you think they will do under the disapproving eyes of their God, real or implied by those around them?


Guilt is one of the biggest self-induced causes of low self-esteem.

Whether we wronged someone, failed at something, or made a poor life decision, our own guilt can eat us alive.

We obsess over what we could have done differently and torture ourselves with guilt. By reliving our mistakes in our minds, we begin to diminish our self-worth. We begin to see ourselves as those failures.

If we have done wrong, we must ask for forgiveness and move on, whether or not our apology is accepted. Most importantly, we must learn to forgive ourselves.

Unrealistic Expectations of Ourselves

Unrealistic expectations of ourselves go hand-in-hand with guilt.

We set impractical goals and when we inevitably fall short of them, we punish ourselves. Setting goals that are unachievable creates an environment in which failure is not only an option but a certainty.

Making matters worse, we are our own worst critics.

We can’t see past things in our bodies, art, performance, and life that we find flawed, even though no one else notices them.

If we constantly tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, that is what we will believe.

Moving Past the Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem issues lie deep beneath the surface and are engrained in our personalities. To complicate things, most of us suffer from multiple causes of low self-esteem.

We must be careful, for if we stay in a place (low self-esteem) long enough, we become that place.

So how do we move past it?

Fortunately, there are hobbies we can pick up, people we can talk to, and confidence building exercises we can do to boost self-esteem.

Mostly, we need to understand three things. We aren’t alone, it’s not our fault, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

low self-esteem in relationships

The Terrible Truth About Low Self-Esteem in Relationships

The majority of women, adolescents and a rising number of men suffer from low self esteem. It’s something anyone can struggle with, but it’s having a damaging effect on women in every aspect of life.

Women in the workforce lack confidence, downplay or even apologize for their accomplishments and underestimate themselves constantly. Women are less likely to put in for a promotion and will even second guess their answers.

Low self-esteem in relationships whether personal or professional can limit your potential and leave you feeling unsatisfied and searching for more.

Keep reading to learn more about the effects of low self-esteem in relationships. We’ll discuss ways to deepen your relationships as you build a loving relationship with yourself.

Self-Esteem – What’s That?

Many people confuse self-esteem with being full of yourself. They are two totally different things. There is such a thing as being too confident though many people who come off that way are actually overcompensating for low self-esteem or self-doubt.

Self Esteem is not about thinking you’re better than everyone but it’s also not to worry that you’re worse. You have no problem confidently sharing your talents and there’s no need to convince others that you’re good because you know that you are- your value doesn’t come from their opinions.

It is to value yourself and the gifts and talents you have to offer. It is to accept your weaknesses and being willing to work on them because your worth does not come from your best or worst moment.

Self Esteem, Self Worth and Self Confidence

Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence are all different things. 

Self-esteem is how you truly feel about yourself. It is whether you care enough about yourself to put action and effort into reaching your dreams. It is knowing your dreams and feelings have worth. Low self-esteem means the person does not understand their worth 

Self-worth doesn’t change. You may not be aware of your worth as a human being, as a beautiful soul with talents to share and gifts to give the people and world around you.

Whether you are aware of those gifts and talents or not, they are there and your worth is always the same. No one person has more worth than another.

Self-confidence is whether you believe in yourself or not. It can change from one minute to the next and can often depend on the opinions of others or situation one is in.

Low Self Esteem in Relationships at Home

Low self-esteem not only interferes with your ability to enjoy each moment of the day but it interferes with your ability to trust in and enjoy any relationship to its fullest.

Second Guess Yourself

Low self-esteem can cause you to second guess your thoughts, needs, and wants. You may end up having difficulty making a decision or expressing yourself.

Often it can lead to putting the needs of others before your own and may even cause feelings of resentment towards your partner because your needs are going unmet.

Reading More Into Their Words 

Those who suffer from low self-esteem have difficulty accepting a compliment but will give great significance to insults. There can be a great deal of miscommunication because more is read into the words of a partner.

Difficulty with Intimacy

Low self-esteem can make it hard to be intimate and can interfere with the ability for partners to be uninhibited in their feelings and physical relationship.

A Hard Time Trusting or Making Commitments

When you don’t understand your own worth and know that you are lovable it can be hard to believe someone is genuine when they make a commitment to you.

Less Able to Find Joy in the Moment

Feelings of low self-esteem make it much harder to live in the moment and feel the joy if you’re worrying about whether you measure up. There is often guilt, fear, and depression associated with low self-esteem.

Greater Complications in Life

Those with low self-esteem are more likely to have issues with addiction, prostitution, and theft.

Many struggling with addiction feel they need a few drinks or some other substance to “loosen up” and relax. Promiscuity and prostitution are more likely as the individual searches for fulfillment through physical contact or they believe that is where their worth comes from.

Improving Your Self Esteem

Just because you struggle with low self-esteem now doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. You’re awesome! You just need to put some effort into realizing it.

There are some steps you can take to increase your self-confidence and improve your relationships at the same time.

Take Up a Hobby or Sport

There are several confidence-building hobbies that can help you feel better physically and allow you to mentally connect with a loved one.

Take up meditation, yoga, or learn a musical instrument. These activities can help you relax, focus, and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Any team sport and exercise, in general, is good for building social skills and boosting confidence while having a bit of fun. Joining a league with your partner can give you time together and get some healthy exercise in the process.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Whether it’s personal goals or relationship goals, you want to make sure you set yourself up for success. The best way to do this is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.


When you set specific goals you know what you’re striving for. If they’re too general you have no motivation to get started or continue to reach some vague destination


It’s easier to keep motivated if you can measure your progress and success. This will also help your self-esteem as you see how far you’ve come.


You aren’t doing yourself any good by setting goals you can’t achieve. This works on two levels. You need to know there’s a finish line to reach and that finish line isn’t too far away to ever make it to.


Is the goal you’re working on today getting you closer to your dreams? 

Time Sensitive

The great procrastinators of the world know if you don’t have a time limit it will never get started let alone accomplished. Setting a time limit gives you a reason to start working on your goal and continue moving forward.

It’s Okay to Have Needs

It’s perfectly okay to have needs and to express them. You can’t always get what you want but you deserve to have your needs met. You can’t expect your partner to be able to meet your needs if they don’t know what they are.

Often it’s hard for people with low self-esteem in relationships to express what they need but the more you do it the easier it will become.

Check out our blog for more suggestions including great tips on what to do if you love someone with low self-esteem.