What Is Low Self Esteem and Low Self Worth?

Written by: Dr Brett Melanson – PhD (Psychology & Neuroscience)
Last updated date : January 27, 2023

Self-esteem is a large part of who we are as people. It helps us seek out social relationships and boost confidence. It can also help us feel good about ourselves.

Many agree that having a level of self-esteem that is too low or too high can be harmful to the mind and habits of a person. Because of this, it is thought that a medium level of self-esteem provides the best environment for someone to achieve their goals and thrive in life.

That said, what exactly is self-esteem? What causes someone to have low self-esteem? Are there signs that can tell us what self-esteem looks like?

Here, we will try and answer some of these questions. This will help you gain a better idea of what it means to have high or low self-esteem. In the end, we’ll also give you ways you may be able to boost your own self-esteem.

parents arguing near the family christmas tress affecting the child's mood and self-esteem

“Learnt a lot from this course” Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use
$9.00 $12.00

25% discount


Chapter 1:

What Is Self-Esteem?

This is a term used by scientists that helps them know how a person value’s themself. In other words, it gives someone an idea of the degree to which someone value’s or likes who they are as a person.

These thoughts and feelings about one’s self can give details about a person’s confidence, ability, and sense of belonging. At the same time, it can also shed light on a person’s sense of self-worth. As well, it can also tell someone how you think about your own thoughts, opinions, goals, and interests in life.

The way you think about yourself also guides your effort to become friends and partners with other people in the world. In other words, it drives us to be social and learn about other people. In doing so, it can help us form bonds with friends, family, and romantic partners. As such, a person with low self-esteem may find it hard to form healthy bonds with others.

Chapter 2:

Common Causes and Effects of Low Self-Esteem

While the causes are not fully known, scientists have gathered some common events in people who have low self-esteem.


Low self-esteem often stems from events that a person has experienced when they were a child. Some causes may include:

  • Lack of affection from parents
  • Being bullied as a child
  • Giving praise to some, but not all behaviours
  • Going through trauma
  • Having parents that were too strict
  • Getting punished all the time, in the absence of reward
  • Thinking badly about your body as you grew up
  • Having problems with school and learning

It is important for someone to know what can change self-esteem. But, it is also important for parents to know that the way they treat their children can influence the way a child thinks, feels, and behaves as they grow up.

Signs and symptoms

Knowing the signs of low self-esteem can help a person grasp some of the root causes that could be causing them to think or behave in certain ways. As such, here are some of the signs you can look out for:

  • Being too awkward or shy in social groups
  • Being insecure
  • Having poor views and thoughts about the world
  • Low mood
  • Low effort and energy
  • Negative thoughts about self-image
  • Poor ability to converse with people
  • May be unfriendly

Knowing the effects of low self-esteem can help a person change for the better. As well, knowing these effects can help one work on building confidence and feel better about themself. The following is a list of common effects that result from low self-esteem:

  • Mental health problems. Depression and anxiety are two common conditions in people who think low of themselves.
  • Risky sexual behaviour. A lack of love when growing up can result in a person seeking affection in uncommon ways, like risky sexual behaviours.
  • Substance abuse. Someone who has low self-esteem may resort to drugs or booze to “self-medicate” their symptoms.
  • Self-hate and poor self-image. A person who did not receive a lot of love as a child may not know how to love themself. This can cause the person to hate themself.
  • Victimhood. People with low self-esteem can be taken advantage of easily.
  • Low level of self-care. When someone does not feel good about themself, they tend to not care about their appearance. So, self-care declines.
  • Trying to be perfect all the time. Perfectionism can result from low self-esteem, because the person becomes too hard on themself.

Chapter 3:

How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?

There are many ways you can feel better about yourself. Mostly, these include working on signs related to low self-worth. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

  • Focus on others—you can boost self-confidence and self-worth by helping the community, being a volunteer, or helping out a friend at work
  • Set goals for yourself—try to get active. For example, set aside 15-20 minutes per day to get out for a brisk walk. Or, you can make a trip to your local gym. In doing so, this helps you get into a routine that you can stick to each day. This can also help you find ways to work on self-care and hygiene.
  • Reduce time on social media—we live in an age where image is everything…on the internet. That said, try and stay off of social media as much as you can. Instead, take a walk through the forest and listen to the surrounding nature. At the same time, you can try and practice mindfulness. This is a technique where you relax and reflect on the good qualities about yourself.
  • This can help you think and feel better about your thoughts and emotions.
  • Find support groups—you are likely not dealing with these negative feelings and thoughts alone. There may be others out there that have dealt the same things you have. Power in numbers can be a great way to build confidence and develop a better sense of self-worth.

Chapter 4:

Self-Help at Epsychonline

Aside from the approaches listed above, we have a series of self-help courses at Epsychonline such as one that directly deals with low self-esteem. You can find this course under the “Courses” tab on our website. Try it out today and boost your confidence!

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount