What is Low Self-Esteem?

When it comes to mental afflictions that can happen at any age, one of the most prominent is low self esteem. Around the world, millions of people suffer from low self esteem in one form or another which hinders their own abilities to accomplish their dreams and may even lead to depression or worse if left unchecked.

However, defining low self esteem is not easy as the symptoms vary from person to person. Plus, the effects can be temporary or long lasting depending on a number of different factors. Before addressing the issues of low self esteem, it is important to understand what self esteem is and what are the causes or conditions for a person to view themselves in a negative light.

What is Self Esteem? 

Basically, self esteem is the subjective emotional viewpoint of a person’s value of their own worth. It is both a judgment and an attitude towards their own self-being that often involved questions such as;

  • Am I Confident?
  • Am I Worthy?
  • Am I Strong Enough?

Self esteem is the view that a person takes of themselves in terms of self-worth and how they perceive others viewing them. In addition, self esteem can be compartmentalized in the sense that a person may feel good about themselves generally, but have little confidence in a particular ability or attribute. Conversely, they may feel superior in a certain light while generally less appreciative of other attributes that they may possess.

The complicated nature of self esteem combined with how it differs from person to person makes detecting low self esteem a difficult task. In addition, the view of self esteem can change for a number of reasons which is why making the proper diagnosis and changes can be challenging. However, it is important to address issues of low self esteem when they arise.


There are a number of causes and usually it is a combination of different elements that causes periods of low self esteem to occur. Generally speaking, everyone undergoes period of self-doubt, but that is usually a very temporary state that may last for a few hours or days before it passes. The causes that drop the view of self esteem however are usually a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors that contribute to the condition.

In essence, there is no singular cause but a combination of different events with the overall mental outlook of the person that can lead to a lowering of self esteem. People go through terrible events in their lives and some come out with little to no self esteem issues because of their personality or genetic makeup while others seem to be affected by events of a far less serious nature.


Chronic Indecision: The inability to make a choice because you are too worried about the consequences no matter the gain. Quite often, the person becomes trapped because not making a decision also offers consequences that they do not want to face which only heightens the stress.

Self Criticism and Dissatisfaction: Being overly hard on yourself after taking a test, performing in an event, or other task is a common cause of low self esteem.

Hypersensitive to Criticism: Feelings of resentment and being attacked after receiving criticism no matter how constructive may be more of a genetic issue in how people handle criticism perhaps combined with past events.

Excessive Wanting to Please: The unwillingness to risk displeasing any particular person is a sign of low self esteem. This is because they are placing their worth below that of another person.

Floating Hostility: Being irritable and hostile or defensive for no particular reason. Attacking others for no reason is a powerful sign not having good self esteem issues.

Perfectionism: While the ideal of achieving perfection is not linked to self esteem, the inability to reach it and the frustration that follows is a sign that something is wrong.

Envy, Pessimism, and Guilt: While all three of these symptoms in and of themselves are not considered low self esteem, but in excessive amounts do point to issues that the person might be feeling.

Another sign is overreacting to a temporary setback which affects them far more than it should. Again, many of these symptoms when taking individually may not indicate a dire condition. However, if they persist or grow worse it is a sign that something might be wrong.


The general treatment for this condition does vary from person to person, but it is generally one for psychiatric treatment where the patient receives counseling that identifies and addresses the problem. This form of self esteem is one that is generally built up over time and needs to be addressed much in the same way bad habits or other mental conditions are treated.

Many people who suffer from this condition may not realize the severity of what they have until it is pointed out to them. Usually, treatments sessions from a psychiatrist offers the best solution as they can identify and see the effects of what their current state of self esteem has brought them.

Drugs or other treatments are generally not necessary unless it has progressed to the point of depression or other stage. For most people, it is general treatments in terms of psychological therapies designed to directly address the feelings and actions of the person that work the best.

Identifying when someone has a low opinion of themselves is never an easy one and today, millions of people who have this condition may be completely unaware that it exists. Furthermore, there is a noted difference between what a person says about themselves and how they act in public which may mean that self esteem is simply not all that important.

A person who says they are afraid of heights and yet climbs a mountain is probably expressing a fear and not a condition that expresses their own self esteem. Therefore, the actions of the person must be taken into account in order to obtain the right diagnosis.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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