Low Self-Esteem

August 30, 2017



Dhurva Davis

Counsellor & Psychotherapist

M App Sci (Critical Psych) 


Our team of psychologists offer treatment for individuals, couples and family groups.


One of the most common problems I see in my practice is women suffering from low self- esteem. Self-esteem is something learned in childhood and certain experiences while growing up can interfere in the development of self-esteem.

These include:

  • Being subjected to criticism or abuse from parents or caregivers, 

  • Missing out on experiences that would foster a sense of confidence and identity

  • Receiving little or no positive reinforcement for accomplishments

  • Being teased for looking or behaving differently

When suffering from low self-esteem people regard themselves very critically and struggle to manage negative self-talk. They may also have a perpetual sense of failure or lack of accomplishment. They may constantly compare themselves to others and criticise themselves for their perceived faults and failings. These behaviours can be so habitual that a person cannot see how regularly they occur and how inaccurate they are.


Low self-esteem is also closely associated with the following issues:

  • Social anxiety

  • General anxiety

  • Depression

  • Shame

  • Feelings of powerlessness

  • Co-dependency

  • Perfectionism 

In adulthood, even a well-developed self-esteem can be challenged by sudden life changes, such as losing a job or changing jobs and not coping, the ending of a relationship, having a legal or financial difficulty, struggling with an addiction, having physical health problems, or children with emotional difficulties.


How Therapy Can Help

Therapy can help put things in perspective for someone suffering from low self-esteem. It can help by focusing on and enhancing strengths to increase resilience and a positive view of the future. A good therapist can help a person gain a stronger sense of themselves, become more assertive, confident and self-aware. Therapy can also help in developing self-compassion which leads to setting realistic and achievable goals.


A Case Example

Belinda* is 31 years old and came to see me feeling very depressed and unhappy with her life. She had a sense of worthlessness and was struggling to feel good about anything she was doing. Her relationships were suffering and she felt unable to share with her family or friends what she was really feeling and afraid that they might judge her and reject her.


Through her work in therapy, Belinda discovered that she craves approval, in particular from males, and especially her partner. She realised that this longing stemmed from a very stormy relationship with her father who was emotionally distant and irresponsible in his behaviour when she was growing up.


Belinda’s work in therapy helped her to understand her emotions and realise that her feelings arose as a result of a chaotic childhood in which Belinda often felt uncertain about her family situation. Because of these realisations Belinda was able to begin to evaluate her own strengths and weaknesses and to develop clarity about her own needs and values. 


She was then able to set realistic goals and clearly state what she wanted from her relationships. As a result, her relationships improved at home and at work, her real sense of self increased and she was inspired to study a course she had always wanted to do but had lacked the confidence.


*Name changed for patient privacy


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F: (03) 8676 1997

2 Gore St, South Hobart TAS 7004, Australia