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How does Low
affect your life?

Descriptions of what life with Low Self-Esteem is like.

The Cycle of Low Self-Esteem

Early Life Experiences

Difficult Emotions

Negative Core Beliefs

Unachievable Values

Unhelpful Behaviours

Feeling you are...

  • worthless

  • abnormal

  • unlovable

  • different

  • a bad person

  • weak

  • broken or faulty

  • pathetic or useless...

I must always...

  • be strong

  • fit in

  • put others first

  • try harder...

I must never...

  • let others down

  • be abnormal

  • make mistakes

  • be weak...


Caregivers who were...

  • neglectful

  • abusive

  • strict or inconsistent

  • never satisfied with you 

  • unpredictable

  • controlling

  • over-protective...

  • shame

  • hurt

  • anger

  • numbness

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • fear of death

  • self-disgust

  • sadness

  • hopelessness...

  • people pleasing

  • procrastination

  • perfectionism

  • withdrawing socially

  • rejecting others

  • comparing yourself to others

  • worry and rumination

  • addictions and obsessions

  • neglecting self care

  • obsess over work or interests

  • seeing flaws but not your worth

  • hiding your 'true self' and fearing if others ever see it...

What does Low Self-Esteem Feel Like?

At the core of low self-esteem is a strong desire for others to value you and feel you are a good person.

However, with low self-esteem you may feel alienated from others, like you are worthless, weak, a bad person, or abnormal. You might need to hide parts of yourself and are afraid people might 'find out who you really are'.

Low self-esteem can be a harsh self-critical feeling, or a sinking feeling, making you want to curl up and hide from the world. It's uncomfortable thinking about how you are in life.

However, it can take the form of many feelings, like being ashamed, angry, hurt, numb, disgusted, and many others. They might be overwhelming and you may feel like giving up.

You might feel like you are trying really hard to stay afloat, but nothing works for long.

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These are a key part of low self- esteem. Here are some common self-criticisms...

'I'm worthless'

'I'm useless'

'I let everyone down'

'It's all my fault'

'I'm not normal like others'

'Everyone's laughing behind my back'

'I'm just a bad person'

'Nothing ever works out for me'

Negative core-beliefs

With Low Self-Esteem, it feels justified to hold these beliefs and it wouldn't make sense to see it a different way - you would have to be 'ignoring the facts'.


It may feel selfish to not think these things, like you are not taking responsibility for yourself. They feel like undeniable facts that you have seen throughout your life - but the reality is they are opinions that can be changed.

Unachievable Values and Rules

Low self-esteem feels unpleasant, so you may have adapted to living with it by forming rules and values to avoid these feelings.


You are most likely unaware of these rules and values as they were formed years ago, but they influence everything you do without you knowing.

Some examples are:

'I must try harder'

'I must never let others down'

'I can never be late'

'Mistakes mean I'm being lazy and not trying'

'I need to fit in and stop being so weird'

'I can't be weak'

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The problem with these rules and values is they are often too strict or unrealistic to achieve - When you don't achieve them, it can make you feel even more 'useless' or 'worthless', confirming your negative self-beliefs - this creates a vicious cycle.

You may end up exhausted trying to stay on top of your rules and eventually avoid any situations that trigger them.

Cognitive bias

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When you fear negative judgments and feeling like you don't fit in, you are constantly on the lookout for signs of these things. You are trying to pre-empt situations that might end up badly, so you can take a different approach or avoid them.

However, this means you may misinterpret what is really happening and miss other information - you are looking at life through 'the lens of low self-esteem', also known as a 'cognitive bias', or making assumptions.


Every situation becomes about how you will be judged negatively, look like a fool, or be exposed as an incapable or bad person.

For example, you may believe you are boring someone and making them feel tense, but in reality they may just be tired and worried about something they have to do later.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy too - You think you are making them tense, so you become self-conscious and anxious. Then they feel tense because they see you are uncomfortable. It's almost as if your fears always come true - but the strange thing is, they only come true because you fear them.

With this 'cognitive bias' or 'lens' you see lots of evidence that the negative beliefs you hold about yourself are true.

It may feel undeniably true to you.

However, it may just be because this is what you are tuning in to - this is what you fear and you want to pay attention to it so you can find a way out of it.

Throughout therapy, when your fears are worked through, you can learn to see the world through different lenses. This means you see a more balanced picture of yourself,

and your self-beliefs change.

Examples of Low
Self Esteem

Here are 6 examples.

Do any describe you?

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1 / People pleasing

You feel valuable helping others. However, saying no would be letting them down and feel inconsiderate or selfish - it's hard to think someone has a bad view of you. When someone offers to help you, you say you'll be fine because you don't want to cause them any trouble. However, you feel exhausted because you don't have time for yourself.

2 / Angry and guilty

You might need to defend yourself, believing others are too critical or don't care about you. Others might find you angry or unpredictable, and might be wary around you - you might feel guilty later and apologise for being a bad friend, but soon you feel angry towards them again. You might resent how they are with you and want distance from them, and they might not understand why or feel you are being unfair.

3 / High achievement

You put all your energy into a passion, job, or projects - it becomes your identity. You may neglect your own wellbeing to do this, staying up late and drinking coffee. You are hard on yourself when you make mistakes, becoming moody or irritable if you do something that isn't your best. You compare yourself to others - you feel like you're not good enough. Your friends often feel neglected and you might find them needy or irritating. When you get good feedback for your work, it's a massive boost. However, most of the time you are anxious and exhausted staying on top of it - sometimes leading to procrastination.

4 / All your fault

You might feel responsible for how social interactions go and feel like you let others down all the time. It might feel like you have to make sure others are happy, and if they aren't then it's your fault. You feel tense around angry or stressed people and wonder if it's something you have done.

5 / Withdrawn and isolated

You withdraw from the world and spend most of your time on your own - you distract yourself and try to escape your anxiety with comforts and familiar things. Socialising feels too anxiety provoking - you believe people think negatively about you and it would be tense. Others might find you distant and feel concerned for you - they want you to come out but you think they're just being polite and don't really want you there. Your life feels isolated and lacks meaning, and you might feel anxious about death.

6 / Wasted potential

You might feel like wasted potential, always starting things but not seeing them through - procrastinating or losing motivation. When people give compliments, you downplay your achievements and point out the mistakes. You have so many projects you wished you had done, and you feel like a failure to think you haven’t put the effort in – you feel both excitement and dread about pursuing them. There's always pressure to do things, so you either do them and feel stressed to get things wrong, or avoid them and feel stressed for avoiding them.

Ready for a change?

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How do I work with Low Self-Esteem?

I specialise in Low Self-Esteem.

Using Integrative therapy, we can approach the cycle of Low Self-Esteem from many angles, giving more opportunities to find change.

Click here to read about overcoming Low Self-Esteem.


You can book a free initial therapy consultation with me here, where I can answer any queries you have about therapy for low self-esteem.

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