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What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

photo of a woman staring at herself in the smiling

When you look in the mirror, are your imperfections the only things you can see? You might pick apart your body by the littlest details, comparing your flaws to the airbrushed images on billboards. Perhaps it’s even become such a habit that you don’t realize how much it’s affecting your life, from the clothes you wear to how you interact with others.

Let’s learn more about what causes low self-esteem.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Your past makes you into the person you are today. Adverse childhood experiences or ACEs are a term used to describe difficult experiences that individuals can experience in their childhood.

ACEs include negative family experiences like divorce, sickness, violence, neglect, poverty, or substance use or abuse. The feelings you carried with you when you were experiencing these events at a young age don’t just go away on their own.

Past Influences

In addition to adverse childhood experiences, poor parenting or having a poor attachment style can also be a cause of low self-esteem. If you were raised in an environment where you didn’t feel supported, you may have self-esteem issues as an adult.

It can be extremely difficult to have self-assurance in yourself and your abilities if you are constantly criticized or feel like you aren’t good enough. These feelings can carry with you, even in adulthood.


Trauma can be a negative event on its own. But trauma doesn’t just go away. If you experience emotional, physical, or sexual trauma, your body and brain can hold onto those negative thoughts and emotions and even carry them with you into your adult years.

Experiencing trauma can make it extremely difficult to have trust in yourself as well as others. It may also cause you to withdraw or self-isolate. If you have unresolved trauma, you may be carrying lingering negative feelings as well as unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Your Own Negative Thoughts

photo of a woman staring at herself in the smiling

Everyone has a set of their own beliefs, values, and morals. If those beliefs are positive, they can help you move through your life with more confidence in yourself. If those beliefs are on the negative side, it can lead to a negative influence on your self-esteem.

Positive core beliefs can look like the following:

  • I am loveable.
  • I deserve happiness
  • I have a purpose in life.

Negative core beliefs can look like the following:

  • I am unloveable.
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • Everyone else is better than I am.


Bullying can be detrimental to someone’s self-esteem. Being bullied or harassed by a peer or primary caregiver as a child or even by a classmate or coworker as an adult can impact you in the present day.

Bullying can impact not only your perception of yourself but also your view on other areas of your life like the relationships you hold. This can be a vicious cycle and can actually lead to worsening feelings about oneself.

Society and Social Media

In today’s world, society and social media can cause you to feel like you can’t measure up. Models in magazines and filtered and staged photos on social media can make it easy to compare yourself. It’s easy for your perception of yourself to take a hit with these unrealistic expectations.

Next Steps

If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, it’s extremely important to seek help as soon as you can. Your self-esteem is what drives you and carries you through each day. Working with a trained and licensed therapist can help you replace those negative thoughts and emotions with more positive ones. It’s time to regain your happiness and confidence again. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation for depression therapy.

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Green Heart Therapy provides in-person psychotherapy for adults, teens, and children in Los Angeles and online therapy across California.