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.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *