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Low Self Esteem and Depression

Self esteem is the term used to describe a person’s own measurement of his/her self-worth. It is how you think of yourself, describe yourself and the collection of beliefs you have pertaining to your abilities and worthiness.

The evaluations you make can be positive as in “I am a good person” or negative as in “I am stupid.” These beliefs are typically held regardless of any evidence being present; they merely represent what you think or believe to be true. Your self-esteem often dictates how you treat yourself or how you allow others to treat you.

Not surprisingly, depressed individuals normally have relatively poor self-esteem.

Anxious individuals typically worry constantly about performance and other issues, suggesting that they also suffer low or troubled self-esteem.

Self-Esteem is not a temperament quality or other quality that you inherit from your genetic background. It is usually a learned belief derived from information given you from your surroundings or your interpretation of the information. Abusive parents almost always produce children with low self-esteem as do critical or overly judgmental ones. Individuals from abandoning type families often have poor self-esteem as reflected in their attachment behavior as well as overall functioning.

Self esteem can also be affected by events in our lives. Sometimes we develop low self esteem after experiencing a particularly nasty failure of some sort or if we have been abandoned or divorced by someone we love. If we don’t have the correct emotional resources and resilience to get through these events they can do a number on us.

Self-esteem includes the concepts of self-confidence and self-respect. Self-confidence may have to do with the capacity to perform some activity or task. Self-respect involves a feeling of personal worth, which leads you to treat yourself well, take care of yourself, and believe that you have the right to be happy and be loved.

The good news is that no matter where you are starting from, you can build your self esteem. We are not born with low self esteem, it develops from learning dysfunctional thought patterns that are negative in nature. We can unlearn these without losing ourselves or our personalities in the process.

The importance of self-esteem is that it influences how you behave and interpret the world around you, including others. Self- esteem affects how you think, feel and make decisions in matters that relate to you.

Characteristics of High and Low Self-Esteem

Positive self-esteem possesses the following characteristics:

1. Believing in a set of firmly placed values and principles and being able to defend or assert yourself in the face of opposition to them. If after learning something new, the old value does not fit, individuals with positive self-esteem do not have difficulty modifying the belief.

2. Being able to make choices, trust your own judgment, and not feel guilty about choices if someone does not agree.

3. Not living in the past or future, not worrying about “what if ’s.” Living fully in the present.

4. Believing in your capacity to solve problems, adjust to failures, and ask for assistance.

5. Participating in and enjoying many activities and hobbies.

6. Believing that you are valuable, and that others will enjoy spending time with you.

7. Resisting manipulation by others.

8. Being sensitive to the feelings and needs of others; accept and abide by social norms.

9. Considering yourself self-worthy and equal to others, regardless of differences in finance and personal success.

In contrast, low self-esteem is characterized by:

1. Heavy self criticism, tending to create a habitual state of dissatisfaction with yourself. Exaggerating the magnitude of mistakes or behaviors and not able to reach self forgiveness.

2. Hypersensitivity to criticism leading to feeling attacked and not being open to constructive criticism.

3. Chronic indecision due to fear of making mistakes.

4. Excessive will to please out of fear of displeasing someone.

5. Perfectionism, which leads to constant frustration or underachievement when perceived perfection is not achieved.

6. Hostility or irritability—easily angered even over minor things.

7. Feelings of insignificance.

8. General negativity about life and often an inability to enjoy life.

Given the characteristics above, it is easy to see the commonalities in depression and poor self-esteem. Treating a poor self-esteem works wonders for depressed individuals. Challenging yourself, changing your focus, and learning some better thinking skills can boost self-esteem almost immediately.

Low Self Esteem and Depression

Audrey Sherman, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Sherman is a licensed psychologist, coach and the author of the book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now. Her expertise is in defining, describing and transforming dysfunctional behavior and thought patterns learned in childhood or beyond that keep you anxious, depressed, angry, stuck in unhappy and unproductive relationships, jobs and more. Dr. Sherman developed the Dysfunctional Patterns Quiz and other free resources to help you determine the effects of these on your life. She works with individuals, conducts live and online workshops and trains others in her programs. To learn more about Dr. Sherman, you can visit her website.

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APA Reference
Sherman, A. (2016). Low Self Esteem and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2016
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