Self-esteem is your overall attitude and sense of worth about yourself; low self-esteem may develop independently or be a symptom of another disorder. Chronic feelings of low self-esteem should be taken seriously, because they can become more intense over time and progressively invade nearly every aspect of your life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a practical, solution-focused approach to low self-esteem and other mental health issues.

Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem

Individuals with low self-esteem exhibit a combination of characteristics that may include:

  • Intense self-criticism
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Indecisiveness
  • Insecurity
  • Perfectionism
  • Pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal

People with low self-esteem tend to believe that others’ approval of them is dependent on their performance or success. For those who suffer from low self-esteem, even seemingly minor criticism can register as highly personal and have negative emotional effects.

Factors that Influence Self-Esteem

Factors that shape a person’s self-esteem include:

  • Your beliefs about of yourself
  • How others respond to you
  • Personal experiences at home, school, work or socially
  • Your cultural or religious upbringing

What you encounter through media like television, film and the Internet—and how you perceive what you experience—can also impact your self-esteem. Brain chemistry and hereditary factors are also thought to play roles in your self-esteem.

Low Self-Esteem and Your Mental Health

Low self-esteem may be a sole mental health issue or a symptom of another condition, such as bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder. While occasional feelings of low self-worth are normal, chronic low self-esteem may worsen without treatment and eventually lead to major depressive disorder, a severe form of depression that can adversely impact schoolwork, job and relationships, as well as contribute to suicidal thoughts.

CBT has proven a highly effective therapy for coping with low self-esteem and building a positive sense of self. CBT helps you to recognize your beliefs about yourself, your “story” that you live your life around.  CBT provides you with the tools you need to develop a balanced view of yourself and to treat yourself and others with more compassion and flexibility.

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