Unlocking The Mystery: 13 Sneaky Causes Of Low Self-Esteem

It can be incredibly tough to step back from your life and identify the causes of low self-esteem. That’s because no one really wakes up wanting to feel terrible about themselves. However, the negative thought patterns and everyday habits that you might not even notice can slowly chip away at your self-esteem. 

Having low self-esteem can overshadow your entire life. 

Your lack of confidence in your abilities can affect your relationships with others. This, in turn, makes it difficult for you to thrive in social situations truly. In the long run, you find it tough to hold on to your loved ones. Additionally, having low self-esteem can also affect your career and professional opportunities

However, the worst effect of low self-esteem is the emptiness it makes you feel inside of you when you are all by yourself. You continuously feel inadequate, routinely compare yourself to others, and feel miserable being who you are every day. 

Therefore, it’s imperative to address your self-worth issues. And there is nothing better than starting with the causes of low self-esteem that fuel these tendencies in the first place. 

So, in the true spirit of identifying the reasons that might be affecting your confidence and, eventually, the overall quality of your life, let’s dive into the various causes of low self-esteem in early childhood, adolescence, and adults – basically everyone!

The Causes Of Low Self-Esteem In Psychology That You Might Not Even Notice

Causes Of Low Self-Esteem

1. Traumatic life experiences

Traumatic life experiences are one of the biggest causes of low self-esteem in psychology. If you have ever been through abuse or any other form of trauma, it can get tough to start feeling good about yourself again.

FYI – It’s totally normal and definitely not your fault. 

It’s really difficult to find goodness in the world and trust yourself or others after having lived through adverse life experiences. This eventually becomes one of the biggest reasons for low self-esteem. 

2. Negative parental opinions

All of us have been affected by the words and actions of our parents, caregivers, or authority figures in life, no matter what age we are in. And that’s precisely why growing up in a toxic family environment is one of the biggest causes of low self-esteem in early childhood. The negative outlook of your family members, especially parents, can significantly affect how you perceive yourself.  

Much of your negative outlook and anger comes from knowing that you lost some of the most precious years of your life due to the actions of people who were supposed to take care of you. You might even grow up blaming yourself for your parents’ actions, which can also be one of the causes of low self-esteem in adults. 

3. The overwhelming burden of social media

Social media is obviously one of the most prominent parts of our life. It’s all fun and nice until it just isn’t. Even if you are one of the most self-assured people on the planet, seeing the pictures of your friends vacationing in Hawaii while you slog your days working can give you major FOMO. These pangs of jealousy become major causes of low self-confidence.

Since everyone curates their profile thoughtfully, the online world can seem wildly beautiful and fun compared to your life. Therefore, continuously scrolling through your social media feeds and getting affected by it can be one of the causes of low self-esteem for you.  

Sneaky Causes of Low Self Esteem

4. Unhealthy relationships 

A bad relationship is one of the biggest reasons for low self-esteem, especially if the relationship ended on a sour note or was turbulent or abusive at any point. A bad breakup can make you question yourself. You might end up doubting who you are as a person. You can even end up blaming yourself for what went wrong in your relationship. 

These self-criticizing thoughts and feelings of loneliness and emptiness followed by a breakup are significant causes of low self-esteem in people. 

5. Constantly comparing your life with others. 

Comparing yourself to others is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. The whole process of comparing your life with someone else is an instant trigger for shame and one of the biggest, most significant reasons for low self-esteem in psychology. 

This lack of self-esteem, shame, and embarrassment combine to deepen the gap between what you should have been and what you are. The more the gap, the greater the pain associated with it. 

Eventually, these behaviors can make you feel like literally everyone around you is better and more capable than you. It can make you feel extremely sad in the long run and significantly affect your ability to feel true joy and contentment. 

6. Perfectionist tendencies

Whether it’s our personal or professional lives, we all have perfectionist tendencies. And while these tendencies are expected to a certain level, when they start affecting your perception of who you are, they become one of the biggest causes of low self-esteem.

The problem with relying on perfectionist tendencies is that it leads to inaction. It stagnates growth and constantly makes you feel like you aren’t doing enough. These feelings, combined with inaction, are one of the biggest reasons for low self-esteem. 

7. Surrounding yourself with negative people 

The company you choose to keep can have a pretty direct impact on how you perceive yourself. The kind of people you hang out with affects how you feel about yourself. Therefore, if your company is toxic, that’s one of the causes of low self-esteem in psychology. 

Toxic friends or relationships are parasitic and consume a lot of your energy. They affect your sanity, and the time you spend with them slowly chips away your inner peace reserves. The more they put you down or affect your thoughts, the greater their effect on your self-esteem.

8. Persistent negative self-talk

The way you talk to yourself is extremely important. The way you converse with yourself throughout the day can either put you down or pull you up. 

Therefore, if you criticize yourself or believe that harsh inner voice of yours, it affects your self-esteem. When these habits become too familiar, they become one of the primary reasons for low self-esteem in psychology. 

9. Unattainable social beauty standards

Clearly, there isn’t enough that you can do to escape the perfect body and beauty advertisements!

They are like in your face all the time, right? 

And while the creatives of such brands have their own reasons, a string of idealized and socially accepted standards of beauty advertisements can be particularly damaging to your self-esteem. The effects of this low self-esteem on people (and women especially) can be daunting. 

People start feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. And the worst part? It affects the younger generation. As per research by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 70% of female students in grades five to 12 accepted that magazines influenced what they perceived as a perfect body. 

10. Having poorly defined boundaries

When it comes to work, relationships, or friends – having a lack of boundaries can be detrimental to your self-esteem.

A consistent lack of boundaries can drag you down. Whenever you let your well-being suffer due to someone else, you start valuing yourself even less. Not having the right boundaries disempowers you. It hurts your well-being and is one of the biggest reasons for low self-esteem in adults. 

11. Struggling academically or professionally with little to no support from outside. 

Children who struggle through their childhood in terms of academic achievements or adults dealing with professional setbacks might be more susceptible to low self-esteem. Especially if they are constantly reminded of their shortcomings, they might constantly feel like they are not enough. 

The effects of low self-esteem might make these individuals highly underconfident in the long run. They might be paranoid about failing in life and, therefore, never take chances or make the most of the opportunities that come their way.

12. A lack of assertiveness

Another one of the primary causes of low self-esteem is not being able to stand up for yourself. If you cannot voice your opinions or speak up for yourself, you might constantly feel bogged down by the weight of your thoughts. 

Anytime someone treats you disrespectfully, and you let it slide, your self-esteem takes a hit. Therefore, it’s important to convey to people how you deserve to be treated. Now, this does not mean you need to be aggressive toward anyone. All you need to do is give yourself the same dignity and respect as you give to others. 

13. Putting your needs behind other people. 

Caring about other people, being kind, and being generous are great qualities and obviously pretty important. But if you constantly put yourself on the line for others, it’s one of the reasons for your low self-esteem. 

When you constantly disregard your needs, you put your well-being on a back burner. This disempowers you and affects your self-image drastically. So, while those around you might feel good, you will feel terrible at the end of the day. 


The effects of low self-esteem are visible in almost every aspect of your life. It decides the way you interact with yourself and the world around you. Therefore, understanding the causes of low self-esteem is essential to highlight the factors fuelling your self-image issues. 

Once you have identified the causes of low self-esteem, it’s time to shift to the signs. To learn more about the sneaky signs of low self-esteem, click here. To continue learning about mental health, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.

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