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How to Deal with Low Self-Esteem

Updated on October 15, 2012

Self-Esteem is so cliche!

The word "self-esteem" has been overused and repeated endlessly in campaigns specifically to help our youth with their education and success. If you are an adult, you may just breeze over the phrase and think, "I don't need to read about self-esteem. I get it, I have it, and if I don't, I'll just figure it out myself." If that is what you are thinking, I challenge you to keep reading. You may just discover something about yourself that you didn't know before!

How would you rate your self esteem?

Most of us fall on one extreme or the other- "My self-esteem is fine!" or "I suck at everything, including how to measure my own self-esteem." So first things first; how do you perceive your own sense of worth and self-confidence?

Before getting into the meat of this article, I would like you to rate your self-esteem.

See results

Answer the following questions...

So now, we are going to take an assessment quiz. Answer the questions as honestly as you can. Obviously, the test is simplified from real life, so just choose the option that is closest to how you have reacted in the past.

1. How did you react the first time you were reprimanded on the job or at an important function where you had some responsibility?

0- I was upset for days, obsessing about what I could have done differently (whether by talking about it to lots of people or stewing alone). Other people noticed how depressed I was.
3- I was upset, but dealt with it by asking for advice about next time. Within a day, I was back to normal.
5- I didn't really care since the boss is a jerk and didn't see the whole picture.

2. After a party (where you didn't know many people), do you:

0- Analyze every word you spoke, your outfit, how well you fit in, or what people thought?
3- Think about the evening and try to remember what people you were excited to meet and who you weren't so fond of?
5- Don't bother to think about it at all because they were strangers and you probably won't see them again anyway. It doesn't matter what they think or how you came across, besides most of them were lame.

3. If you are in a situation where you do not know the answer, the next step, or what to do, do you:

0- Freak out internally and scramble to figure out how to get the answer so you don't look like an idiot.
3- Make a self-deprecating joke and ask for help.
5- Announce that you don't know and make a joke about how silly it is for anyone to know the answer anyway.

4. When you are shopping for clothes for a new job, wedding, or because you have gained weight and need a new size, do you:

0- Get in a horrible mood before, during, and after shopping. Nothing fits or feels right and you should just diet because you are way too overweight anyway.
3- Bring along a friend and make jokes about your expanding waistline, but continue to shop for clothes that you like and feel good on you.
5- Quickly run through a store and grab whatever you think looks good. No reason to obsess in the dressing room. You've got better things to do.


5. When you are complimented or commended for a job well done, how do you react?

0- Quickly point out all the things you do wrong, just in case they didn't see that it wasn't perfect.
3- Thank them and blush slightly. You aren't used to the attention, but you love it.
5- Well of course it was good...I did it.

6. When you are in a disagreement with someone important to you, do you:

0- Try anything and everything in your arsenal to make sure you both work it out because you can't stand conflict.
3- Try to stay on target even when the other person is getting distracted or emotional.
5- Just leave it alone! No sense in getting worked up.

7. When a new neighbor moves in next store, how do you react?

0- Make a giant batch of homemade muffins, a welcome to the neighborhood card, and invite them over for dinner. You quickly pick up your yard so they don't think you are white trash.
3- Say hello when you see them outside and offer a future dinner invitation.
5- Wave if you see them, but neighbors don't have to be buddies. If they want to be friends, let them make the first move. They probably are a pain in the ass anyway.

8. When you find yourself in a situation where you must try something you aren't good at (sport, hobby, etc.), how do you react?

0- Either stay out of it or drive everyone crazy with your apologies about how bad you are.
3- Try it if you absolutely have to. Joke frequently about how much you suck.
5- Nah, I'm not gonna bother. Everyone can't be good at everything, and besides, it looks boring.

Analyzing the results

No test anxiety now! If you score having low self-esteem, there is no point in berating yourself for having low self-esteem. Instead, you should commend yourself for having the courage to do introspective work. It takes strength and bravery to look inside ourselves for the answers to our problems. Okay, if you promise you won't charge into negative self-talk, go ahead and score yourself.

If you scored more zero's than anything else-
This means you struggle to feel confident in your strengths or your weaknesses. You often want to please other people, because you feel okay when others are okay with you. I would categorize you as having low self-esteem, thinking of yourself as less than others who you perceive are more talented, beautiful, or successful.

If you scored more three's than anything else-
You are doing decent with your self-esteem! You have a good mix of confidence and the ability to laugh at yourself. You aren't made of stone or paper, but are working on balance. Keep reading, we all can get encouraged in the area of self-esteem!

If you scored more five's than anything else-
I bet you are waiting to hear that you are arrogant. Actually, if you score mostly five's, then you might have a seriously bad case of low self-esteem! You put up a front of confidence and "who cares?" but really, you are terrified that if you care or show concern, that someone will say you aren't worth the effort, and you will be crushed. Your defense mechanism is hiding well your low self-esteem.

Another look

Now here is the hard part: You need to find someone else to read this quiz and answer it with what they think you would do in that situation. There are a couple of disclaimers first: The person you choose should be someone who knows you well, loves you deeply, and someone who you feel safe with. Find someone in your life that you think has decent self-esteem and confidence themselves and ask them to answer the questions trying to guess how you would react in the circumstances.

Why could this be helpful? Sometimes our own perspective isn't accurate. If you truly do have low self-esteem, you may not even be able to answer the questions accurately. You might assume you always react negatively when in fact you do not! Have the other person answer them and then see if they came up with the same answers for you.

So my self-esteem is in the toilet: Now what?

Target the areas that trip you up most. All of us have triggers that can send our negative self-talk reeling. Go ahead and circle the ones that you feel you personally struggle with.

The situation that causes it
You see a reflection of yourself in the store window
Someone makes a joke when you pronounce a word incorrectly
You hang out at a party and notice that nobody is saying hello to you
You feel depressed after hanging out with a friend who has a gorgeous house
Financial wealth
You fall into a slump after looking at your monthly budget and berate yourself for not making enough money
Your kids get in trouble at school and you feel like a terrible parent
Your job
A boss or co-worker points out areas that need improvement
If you are a parent, taking care of your own self-esteem will help influence your children positively.
If you are a parent, taking care of your own self-esteem will help influence your children positively. | Source

Identify your beliefs

A trigger is pushed when you have a belief about yourself that is negative. For example, if you have a bad day when you can't stay on your diet, you are believing something about yourself in that moment.

"I am not okay at the weight I am and if I can't stay on a diet, I am only getting more unlovable by the minute!"

At the root of every trigger is a lie. Your value and intrinsic worth is tied up in a standard that you believe. Many of these beliefs and lies are so ingrained in our psyche, we do not bother to question them. They start in childhood, with dysfunctional parents or cruel bullying or some other negative experience. To untangle these beliefs takes some time and introspection. You might say that you think all people are created equal, but when you lose your job and have no money, you begin to realize that your constant negative self-talk reveals that you think less of yourself because you aren't contributing to society financially.

Parenting is a great way to bring these lies to the surface. If your child does something wrong at school and you feel horribly guilty, your inability to separate from your child indicates that you believe something about how others influence your worth. If your kids grow up to be delinquents, are you now a worthless human being because you didn't raise them properly? How about them?

Knowing there is someone higher than us who loves us unconditionally can bring great peace and contentment.
Knowing there is someone higher than us who loves us unconditionally can bring great peace and contentment. | Source

Know your limits

Though it sounds counter-intuitive, self-confidence and self-esteem can be built when you recognize your limitations as a frail and imperfect human being. We are all valuable because of our uniqueness, not because we do things right all the time.

It is my personal belief that a human being will never arrive at a place of peace and a sense of well-being and confidence, until they recognize their frail condition and reach out to someone higher and bigger than themselves (for me, that is God). When we become our own gods, we produce the opposite of self-confidence. Instead we create an arrogant attitude that hides our secret terror that are we are worth nothing.

Practical tips to build your self-confidence

So what can you do today to start treating yourself with the same love and care that you treat others?

  1. Take care of your physical needs. Dress yourself in a way that feels comfortable to you. Disregard society's rules about what you should wear. Eat meals that are healthful and are made with consideration to what you need and want. Get a good amount of sleep each night paying special care to treat yourself well as nighttime approaches.
  2. Keep a journal of all the things you have done each day. Rather than focusing on what you missed, remind yourself of all the things you accomplish each day. Make sure you include all tasks- even if it having a chat with the cashier at the grocery store.
  3. Avoid negative people as much as possible. When you spend time with others who are constantly gossiping, complaining, or criticizing, you will inevitably be affected by that atmosphere. Find those who are happy, helpful, and compassionate. Spend lots of time with children and animals as well.
  4. Practice speaking up. People who hate conflict find this task terrifying, but when you begin to speak up, you realize that your world doesn't collapse, even if another person is upset with you.
  5. Practice daily deep breathing and meditation. For me personally, this includes prayer to God, helping me to remember what He thinks of me.
  6. Do things you love. Don't wait for retirement or the time to appear. Just as you would make time for your child to explore a new hobby, find that time for yourself as well.
  7. Laugh every day. Whether it means perusing online at some funny cards, watching a sitcom, or playing a game with friends, find a way to belly laugh every day.
  8. Act like you like yourself. Even if it isn't true to start with, behaviors eventually influence our beliefs. If you pretend you like yourself by complimenting your hard work and treating yourself well, eventually those behaviors will start to influence how you feel about yourself.
  9. Find a counselor. Many people with serious self-esteem issues need a therapist to help them sort through their feelings.
  10. Try art therapy! My dear friend Carly Sullens is an art therapist and has offered me some great tools and tips to expressing myself through art. You often come to find hidden feelings and ideas behind your art that can give you clues to why you feel so down on yourself. Processing those emotions is crucial to moving beyond them.

Now that you have read the article, how would you rate your self esteem?

See results

The truth about arrogance

Arrogance is thought to be an illness of too much self-esteem. The reality is that arrogance is often the sign of no self-esteem. People who think of themselves more highly than they ought, usually carry tremendous fear and self-hatred. The arrogance or narcissism becomes a well-developed defense mechanism to keep people from knowing the real person inside.

Narcissism is one of the most difficult disorders to treat, so do not feel that you can help someone who is narcissistic by getting them in touch with their sensitive side. The best thing to do when you come in contact with someone who is extremely arrogant or narcissistic? Get away.

And by the way, if you have read to this point in the article, narcissism isn't your problem! Most narcissists will not even feel the need to check on their own self-esteem by consulting someone else because that in itself shows weakness or incomplete intelligence!

I hope this article has shed some light on your own self-esteem, its importance, and why we should all strive to understand and love ourselves more.


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mother of three children living in Connecticut. She has a special interest in music, adoption, and technology, and has her bachelor's degree in clinical and community psychology. She also runs a forum for people who need mentoring during difficult reunions after adoption.

Are you interested in writing for Hubpages? It is free to sign up and you can publish your first article today!


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    • msginger profile image


      5 years ago from AMSTERDAM

      Interesting hub Julie. I never like quizzes, because the answers are very extreme most of the time, but your overall hub is great! I have been dealing with some deeply rooted self-esteem issues myself and found your article useful. Thank you!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 

      6 years ago from Oregon

      This was the first time I've seen someone else connect arrogance and low self-esteem! I think that the culture's obsession over healthy self esteem brings on a lot of problems. We shouldn't be analyzing ourselves so much, because an inward focus only causes self-deterioration. Instead we should focus on what will truly make us be all that we can be: a relationship with the BEST person around, Jesus Christ. I wrote an article on self esteem and arrogance too! And that was my thesis.

      Thanks for your great and thorough writing on this topic! A lot of food for thought on here!

    • maggs224 profile image


      6 years ago from Sunny Spain

      An excellent hub I enjoyed it very much, when I was younger I was a bit of a mess and had very low self esteem.

      However, thank God that is not a problem now, and when I say thank God I mean thank God because, it was an encounter with him that changed me and set me free from that awful trap of low self esteem.

      Voting up and hitting some buttons on my way out :D

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      all my thumbs up on this very inspiring and well written hub of your Julie. enjoyed reading it.

    • CarlySullens profile image

      Carly Sullens 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      ok.... I got issues.... :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Julie, this is an amazing hub! You took a topic that has been done a lot, and really made it your own. I loved the quiz and the examples that you gave. Wonderful writing! Voted up, more and sharing.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      6 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello Julie. I just loved this hub. I like this thought -

      "Knowing there is someone higher than us who loves us unconditionally can bring great peace and contentment" SO TRUE!

      Thank you for this, very helpful. I'm voting up, sharing and using all the tips! Blessings to you and your family!:=)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Julie: Excellent article. I found your quiz/test very interesting and helpful. Fortunately I have good self-esteem. Your analysis of certain people types is spot on, but then you are a psychologist. I am a retired teacher and dealt with sel-esteem of my students on a daily basis. This article is so helpful in that area. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. Voted up!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I love this article, you've listed some simple and very clever ways to practice self-confidence every day. Voted up and across the board!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Self-esteem is definitely something to keep up with and improve on (either if you have too much or too little). If you have the right amount of self-esteem, then you can basically connect with anyone in anyone, in my opinion.

      This is definitely a great source of information that some people should read :) I definitely shared this, pinned, liked, and tweeted along with voting it up :)

    • Vitallani profile image

      Bryony Harrison 

      6 years ago from UK

      A very informative hub, Julie, but I would not say that it gave any new information that other self-help guides have. I have low self-esteem and did not read anything here that I have not read before, ir that I ave found helpful in tackling the problem. That is not a criticism as I think your hub is very good and voted it up. I just don't think there is anymore on the topica that can be added to that is ot already out there.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. My self esteem came from Gloria. She was "the most beautiful girl in school". I found out too late she liked me.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      A wonderful and very helpful hub on self-esteem, Julie. Well done and a very interesting read. VUM.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I don't think I suffer from low self esteem. Maybe when I was teen, but not now. Great hub. I used to be such an introvert people mistook that for arrogance, and thought I was a snob!

      I voted this UP, etc.

    • christin53 profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      Excellent hub I found this really interesting. Voted up and sharing.

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @thoughts- three is good! The fives have a problem just like the 0's :) You did the test right...LOL

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      I agree with Bill and I too had lower self esteem when I was younger, especially in my teen years. Really did enjoy your article and especially liked the quiz too. You constantly amaze me and have to tell you this article was so detailed and just a wonderful read. Shared and voted way up too!!!

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      Turns out I am more threes than anything else...I was trying to be more fives...but I suck.

      Interesting topic!


    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think self-esteem is a hard subject to gauge. I don't know exactly where my self-esteem is but I know with each decision it does grow and if it doesn't I try to see why I lacked confidence in myself. Great hub!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I scored off the charts, but I'm not arrogant just confident. Well done Julie!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Awesome Julie! This is pretty cool...I didn't keep score but when I got to the end I realized I mentally answered and didn't pay attention to the number first. It was neat because I really didn't know. I got mostly 3's the only thing I said 5 on - don't surprise me. #5 & 6 - I definitley have a number 5 in those.

      I do feel sometimes like I could have more self esteem and maybe it is being in my 40's and learning to be comfortable with those numbers? idk?

      Excellent hub - I loved it - you took a topic that is really over done and made it your own and made it very interesting. I bet this will be shared many times - should be too!

      Thanks! Great, great job!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      Great Hub, useful for many. Sharing with followers.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Now this is an awesome hub! Well thought out! Very thought provoking and an enjoyable read. You presented the information so clearly! I love how you mentioned the balance between pride and low confidence. I have always believed pride to be a factor in self-esteem and am glad you brought that out!

      Awesome hub Julie!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a beautiful hub, Julie, and right on! This is valuable stuff for those with low self-esteem. Great job! It is something I struggled with when I was younger but today, not a problem. It takes work!


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