Causes of Low Self Esteem?

Why? wasn't I born like that?

Well no, you were not born with low self esteem and this is the good news, if there are causes of low self esteem, there must be solutions.

Our self esteem is the result of experiences we have had throughout our lives, starting from day one.

From early childhood we process, analyse and store information about who we are in relation to others and the world in general based on situations and conditions we have experienced.

This sense of "who am I?", "am I good or bad?" and the need to situate ourselves starts as early as birth.

We say children are like sponges, they can learn three languages at the same time as well as a multitude of other things all day long.

This also means that they are emotional sponges as well and that any feedback from their behavior as small as a loving smile or a look of disapproval is absorbed and store in the mind (consciously or unconsciously) in a folder called "who am I?" which in turn will contribute to forge or manufacture their self beliefs or self esteem.

Yes, you heard me well, I said manifacture. Over the years, you build and shape an opinion of yourself based on your life experiences and circumstances. It is only YOUR opinion, others may see you in a different light. for example you may think "I'm stupid" when someone else thinks that you are smart, because YOU, thinking "I'm stupid", is merely an opinion, not a fact.

"I weight 85kg" is a fact, "I am a fat blob" is an opinion.

Make sure to understand the difference, because your self esteem is based on an opinion, a view of yourself, not a fact. Nevertheless, you will always act in accordance to this view, as distorted as it can be.

Causes of low self esteem in a nutshell

Ok, here are a few (and just few) causes that can contribute to shape our low self esteem.

  • Abused as a child physically or mentally.
  • bullied.
  • Negative feedback in early childhood from:
    • Our parents
    • Teachers
    • Family authority like uncle, big sister
    • Friends, school mates, work mates etc....

    Every negative feedback, especially from an authority like a father, can be one of the causes of low self esteem.
  • No feedback.
    As bad as negative feedback. For example, let say that your brother wins a trophy at a tennis event, the whole family is ecstatic, joyful and throw a party to celebrate. Later, you win a competition in an art event for a painting you've done and all you get is "well done" or "does that mean you can sell it?". How would you feel?...that's right.. straight in the folder: "who am I?", sub-folder: "not that important".
  • Lack of attention and encouragement.
    Parents may be too busy working hard for a living or too worried about bills and as a result giving the essential for a child growth but not the attention, encouragement and affection needed for a healthy self esteem build up.
  • Embarassing event at school or at work, especially a public one.
  • Failures.
    We all fail at some stage, it is part of the learning process but for someone who already has self defeating beliefs, failing will only establish and aggravate her low self esteem.
  • An accident for example, that kept you incapacitated for a while can damage someone's self worth.

So here you are, some causes of low self esteem, not all obviously but enough to give you an idea on how you can develop and forge a negative self-opinion.

So what do I do now?

Although I am not a big fan of sticking around the past for too long, we do need to look at where we come from, to understand where we are at. In other words, finding the causes of low self esteem is a good start for recovery.

Sit down, get yourself a drink and relax (so far so good:)

Think of the areas in your life where you are not comfortable and have self defeating beliefs. Now look at the causes of self esteem list and see if you can find some links with your current self beliefs, look for patterns. It could be a comment from your father or a teacher who repeatedly said you're stupid or a speech at school or work that turned out to be an embarrassment. You may probably grow that list as you go.

It may be very uncomfortable now, to challenge and doubt authority like your parents but as the french saying goes: "you don't make an omelette without breaking the eggs"

Go on, stir up the mud and find YOUR causes of low self esteem, but do not hold grief for what was done or what happened because everyone acts in accordance with what he knows and what he believes in at the time.

For example, if someone grew up with low self esteem, she will most likely transmit it to her children because she can only pass on what she knows and believes.

What's next?

Alright... you have gone through the causes of low self esteem list, maybe made some connections with your personal life

But the purpose of this exercise was merely to understand what led to where you are now, not to victimize yourself (which is another low self esteem behavior).


You cannot change the past, it is done and gone and only YOU
can keep it alive and going in your mind.

Now is the time to look ahead,
to look for solutions and to reverse the process towards a healthy self esteem.

Now is the only time you can act upon. Right now, right here, you can start building new self beliefs based on compassion and respect for yourself, for others but also from others. You are neither above nor below anyone, you are just you, and from now on, you can start rejecting anything or anyone that will try to diminishes you.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."
~Eleanor Roosevelt~

To finish, I would like to give you a quote from Charles Haanel in The Master Key System. It may sound simplistic but hey... making things complicated is the main reason of our struggles, and I have found this quote very helpful especially in times of doubts, regrets or decision making.

"There is no standing still in a life where everything is in motion, you either go forward or backwards and the only way not to go backwards.. is to go forward."


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Effects of low self esteem

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