Surprising Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Do you suffer from low self-esteem? If so, to truly work towards building a stronger self-esteem it’s important to understand the origins of your problems. There is typically a defining factor, sometimes a combination of many that are responsible for the beginnings of low self-esteem. Some of these contributing factors might surprise you.

Childhood Influences

Growing up around someone who struggled with low self-esteem can often cause a child to develop similar issues. It is a learned behavior that follows you into adulthood and throughout your life.

Authority Figures

Whether you had a parent or other person that struggled with low self-esteem, the authority figures in your life often contributes to feelings of inadequacy. This can happen many ways.

In some cases, a parent or other authority figure can be un-supportive of your decisions and accomplishments, which makes you feel like you were not good enough no matter how hard you tried. These often unrealistic expectations can bring out the worst in anyone.

In other cases, there is such a thing as being too involved. Parents or other authority figures that put too much responsibility or stress to be perfect on a child often do so out of love, but are in fact causing pain and anguish that come in the form of self-esteem. Again, no one can live up to unrealistic expectations.

Unstable Childhood

An unstable or chaotic childhood can often make a child feel insecure, and those feelings can reflect on a child’s feelings of self-worth. Very authoritarian or overly permissive households, lots of arguing or yelling, split families, and moving around a lot can all create chaotic childhoods like this.

Past Abuse

Traumatic events in any form can cause low self-esteem. This can be past emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, especially when the abuse occurred during childhood or at the hand of a trusted family member or authority figure.

Bad Relationships

A bad relationship – especially one that is emotionally abusive or bereft, can bring on feelings of inadequacy and contribute to low self-esteem. A bad break-up or being left by a loved one can cause you to focus on your own faults as a partner, eventually leading to self-esteem issues.

Influential Friends

There are some people who, perhaps without realizing it, project their own self-esteem issues on others by making them feel bad about themselves. To build themselves up, they tend to pick on the people around them. Being close to someone like this can tend to have a toxic effect on your own self-esteem.


Competition can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Whether it is at work, at school, or even at home in some situations, too much competition can sometimes cause feelings of inadequacy. This can happen in childhood and even in adulthood.

Pressures of Society

The overall pressures of society are probably one of the number one causes of low self-esteem. Trying to make your way in the world is hard enough without worrying about the expectations of everyone around you. Giving in too much to the pressure can often lead to low self-esteem.

Where do you think your self-esteem issues began? If you can pinpoint even a few of the contributing factors, it can go a long way towards overcoming low self-esteem and becoming a stronger, healthier person.

“My first thought was, who am I to teach?”

– Mary Kate McDevitt, Skillshare teacher with 50,000 students


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