The Causes and Impact of Low Self-Esteem

The Causes and Impact of Low Self-Esteem

Sam is a 28-year-old guy, an IT professional.  He recently got a promotion at work, and on the surface seems to be doing well.  Sam’s friends describe him as confident, reliable, and funny.  What they don’t know is that Sam is reliable because he struggles with boundaries and saying no.  Sam feels unable to assert himself, share his own views and thoughts confidently with others (especially when it is goes against popular opinion).  Sam’s boss describes him as hardworking, diligent and a valuable member of the team. However, Sam feels inferior and is often dismissive of praise from his boss and colleagues.  What they don’t know is that Sam is highly critical of himself, feels like he isn’t good enough, and that his work is reflective of this – subpar!  So, Sam overcompensates going the extra mile with every project.

Whilst on the outside Sam looks like he has it all together, he actually has a low opinion of himself.  He feels worthless and considers himself to be an imposter.

Sam has felt like this for most of his life but has developed strategies to hide this from the outside world. He grew up in what he describes as a successful family, and his parents had high expectations of him, and they were vocal about it.

Sam now feels overwhelmed.  He is starting to feel low and wants to stop putting on a brave face for everyone.  Sam is tired of the constant self-doubt, battle with the negative thoughts and dealing with feelings of shame. Sam wants help…

What is going on with Sam?

Sam might be dealing with low self-esteem.

What is low self-esteem?

Let’s start by defining self-esteem.  Self-esteem refers to the way you perceive and appraise yourself.  It is your personal judgment of your worth.

Low self-esteem is having a poor view of your self-worth.  It can show up as negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness, and a lack of confidence.

Although not a mental health condition itself, low self-esteem can be debilitating and can play a key role in the development of mental health, emotional and social issues, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, high risk behaviors and substance abuse.

Where does low self-esteem stem from?

It can come from:

  • Parental expectations
  • Childhood experiences
  • Being bullied
  • Critical teachers (or other significant people)
  • Trauma
  • Uninvolved/preoccupied caregivers
  • Lack of warmth, love and affection
  • Lack of reinforcement and praise
  • Society and the media
  • …and more

While self-esteem issues may seem overwhelming, therapy can be an effective way to manage and overcome them.  Therapy can help someone like Sam explore the root of his low self-esteem, it can uncover and challenge negative thought patterns and beliefs that maintain his low appraisal of himself.

If you are struggling with low self-esteem, at Sage, we can help you to build self-awareness, self-compassion, and confidence which are essential for developing a positive self-image and building a healthy sense of self.


Written by: Dr Bisi Laniyan
Clinical Psychologist at Sage Clinics

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