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Low Self-Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem, sometimes referred to as self-worth or self-respect, is an important psychological resource and factor for success and satisfaction. Having low self-esteem is associated with feeling defeated or depressed, and can lead to bad choices and tolerating destructive or unhealthy relationships. On the other hand, too much self-esteem can also be off-putting, resulting in an inability to learn from others or an extreme sense of entitlement. This can also be a sign of clinical narcissism, characterised by arrogance, self-centred and manipulative behaviour.

Self-esteem at extreme high and low levels can be harmful, so it is ideal to find a balance where you have a realistic, yet positive view of yourself.

  • Self-esteem is sometimes seen as a personality trait; therefore it is relatively stable and enduring.
  • Self-esteem can involve your beliefs about yourself, including appraisal of your appearance, beliefs, emotions and behaviours.

While it is considered relatively stable, self-esteem is not unchangeable. Successes and setbacks, both personal and professional can create fluctuations in our feelings of self-worth. Each individual is different, but research shows that self-esteem rises and falls throughout the lifespan, and tends to grow until the age of 60, when it remains steady before beginning to decline in old age.

What are some of the signs of low self-esteem?


  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches


  • Hostility
  • Feelings of isolation and social withdrawal
  • Embarrassment in social or intimate situations


  • Thinking oneself unworthy
  • Self-criticism
  • Feeling wounded by criticism
  • Feeling victimised and put upon

Causes of low self-esteem

There are many contributing factors in an individual’s life that can have a direct effect on one's self esteem. Some of the many causes may include:

  • Unhappy childhood where parents or teachers were extremely critical
  • Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence
  • Ongoing stressful life event
  • Poor treatment from a partner, parent or carer
  • Ongoing medical problems
  • Anxiety or depression

When to seek professional assistance

Low self-esteem can be treated and there are a number of effective and specialist treatments available. These well-researched interventions aim to change unhelpful patterns of low self-worth and esteem and improve the person's day-to-day functioning. If you want to increase your self-esteem it is important to challenge and change these beliefs. This might feel like an impossible task, but there are different ways that you can do this with the support of a skilled psychologist.

How Psychology Melbourne can help

A number of our psychologists have wide experience in helping people overcome chronic feelings of low self-esteem.

For more information or to make an appointment contact us on our Live Chat or phone (03) 9629 1001 or send us an email via our contact form.

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"Depression is still the great enemy ... yet through depression we enter depths and in depth find soul."

—Carl Jung

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