Therapy Specialties: Self-Confidence

Low Self-Esteem/Low Self-Confidence

The problem with having low self-esteem is not that it’s just a global sense of being worthless; the problem is that it manifests itself in action, or in inaction, whenever one attempts to do anything. When one feels inadequate in certain situations and incapable of accomplishing any demanding and/or desirable results, it might affect how this person shows up (or avoids showing up) in a given situation. Feeling pessimistic, he or she will not try to accomplish important things. Anything challenging will seem to be too difficult. Expectations of failure can then become self-fulfilling.


People who have low self-esteem are likely to feel profoundly pessimistic and not try to accomplish anything worthwhile. In addition to feeling inadequate and ineffectual, they are also likely to feel guilty or ashamed. They blame themselves for everything. They see themselves as “a failure”. They are more likely to be depressed than people with higher self-esteem.


People who have low self-esteem suffer from a set of long-held beliefs about themselves. Very often these beliefs are formed in early childhood or adolescence. Some people with low self-esteem continue to feel bad about themselves despite having had significant successes in the world. This is called “imposter syndrome.” They think that, although everyone thinks well of them, and they themselves know they have accomplished specific goals, that very soon they will be asked to do something beyond their abilities. The world will see, then, that they have been “faking it.”


Self-esteem, however, is not always a useful concept. First of all, there is not necessarily one global self-esteem. One can have high self-esteem when it comes to one’s athletic abilities but low self-esteem about academic abilities. Also, it’s not necessarily good to have high self-esteem or bad to have low one. Each of us likely to have met someone who had very high self-esteem, yet we didn’t want to be around that person.


It’s more useful to consider self-confidence. While it is related to self-esteem, it is different. Self-confidence determines how likely we are to engage in behavior that is necessary to move us closer to our dreams. The more confidence we have in ourselves the more likely we are to take actions that are likely to create a desired change. And it’s the action that determines the outcome. Treatment, therefore, has to be directed towards changing behaviors and building self-confidence.