I help others but underestimate myself

I help others but underestimate myself

I help others but underestimate myself

I help others but underestimate myself 1600 1200 Paterakis Michalis
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is an issue that can affect people from all walks of life. People with low self-esteem may find themselves neglecting their own needs for the benefit of others, leading to a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness.

This article delves into the root causes of low self-esteem and how it can affect our relationships and our daily lives.

Drawing on the theories of prominent psychoanalysts such as Freud, Jung, Adler, and Klein, this article seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the psychic superego and how it contributes to low self-esteem.

By exploring developmental influences, parental and environmental factors, and the impact of past experiences, the article aims to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the complexities of low self-esteem and how to deal with it.

Causes of low self-esteem

Low self-esteem, as seen in the context of helping others but leaving oneself alone and hopeless, can be analyzed as the result of complex processes involving personal development, relationship with parents, environmental influence, and experiences from past.

Emotional stimuli such as rejection, criticism and overprotection from parents or the environment are experiences that can affect the development of self-image and cause doubts and insecurity.

Social comparison and cultural influences can also play an important role in shaping a person’s self-esteem.

Self-talk patterns and perfectionistic tendencies can also contribute to low self-esteem. Negative patterns, such as constant self-criticism or focusing on flaws, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Perfectionist tendencies, on the other hand, can lead to unrealistic expectations and a constant fear of failure. These patterns are often deeply ingrained and can be difficult to overcome without intervention.

Overall, the causes of low self-esteem are multifaceted and complex. Personal development, relationship with parents, environmental influence and past experiences play a role in shaping a person’s self-esteem. Emotional triggers, social comparison, self-talk patterns, perfectionistic tendencies, and cultural influences can also have a significant impact.

Understanding these factors can help individuals develop a more positive self-image and improve their overall well-being.

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Developmental influences

Developmental influences during personal development, including parental relationships, environmental factors, and past experiences, can significantly influence the formation of an individual’s self-image and overall sense of self-confidence.

The debate between nature and nurture plays a role in shaping self-esteem, as both genetic factors and environmental influences contribute to a person’s personality and self-image.

Attachment styles, the way individuals form emotional bonds with others, also play a role in the development of self-esteem. Secure attachment styles, where individuals feel secure and supported by parents, are associated with higher levels of self-esteem.

Peer influence and cultural factors also play a role in shaping self-esteem. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to peer influence as they seek acceptance and validation from their peers. Negative interactions with peers can lead to feelings of rejection and low self-esteem.

Cultural factors, such as societal expectations and values, can also influence self-esteem. For example, cultures that place a high value on individual achievement and success may lead to higher levels of self-esteem in individuals who meet these expectations

Identity formation is another important factor in the development of self-esteem. During adolescence, individuals begin to develop a sense of self and may experience confusion or an identity crisis. How individuals perceive themselves, including their values, beliefs, and goals, can affect their self-esteem. Those who have a strong sense of identity and are comfortable with who they are tend to have higher levels of self-esteem.

Overall, developmental influences play an important role in shaping an individual’s self-esteem, and understanding these factors can help individuals improve their self-image and self-confidence.

Parental and environmental factors

Parental and environmental factors play an important role in shaping a person’s self-image and self-confidence. Childhood experiences such as rejection, criticism, and overprotection can affect the development of self-esteem. Parental influence is also an important factor contributing to self-esteem. Children who receive positive reinforcement from their parents are more likely to develop healthy self-esteem, while those who receive criticism or minimal recognition may struggle with low self-esteem.

Family dynamics and attachment style are also important in shaping a person’s self-image. Children who grow up in dysfunctional families or experience trauma may have a negative view of themselves and struggle with low self-esteem. In addition, people with insecure attachment styles may struggle to form healthy relationships and struggle with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Environmental factors, such as social pressures and cultural norms, can also affect a person’s self-esteem. For example, people belonging to marginalized groups may experience discrimination and prejudice, leading to feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem.

It is important to recognize the impact of environmental factors on self-esteem and work towards creating inclusive and supportive environments that promote positive self-image and self-confidence.

Influence of past experiences

Past experiences can have a significant impact on a person’s perception of themselves and their level of confidence. Trauma, abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences can lead to the development of low self-esteem. These experiences can create emotional triggers that can trigger negative patterns of self-talk, leading to a vicious cycle of low self-esteem.

However, it is important to note that healing from these past experiences is possible. Through therapy, self-criticism, and self-care, individuals can learn to recognize and challenge negative patterns of self-talk. They can also develop coping mechanisms to deal with emotional triggers and work toward building a healthier self-image.

Psychoanalytic approach

Psychoanalytic approaches offer valuable insights into the complex processes involved in the development of self-esteem. According to Freud, the superego plays a crucial role in shaping our self-image. The superego represents the internalized values, rules and moral standards we learn from our parents and society and monitors and criticizes our behaviors and thoughts. When the superego is overly harsh or punitive, it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness, which are central components of low self-esteem.

Unconscious conflicts and defense mechanisms are also important factors in the development of self-esteem. Our unconscious desires, fears, and traumas may interfere with our conscious efforts to construct a positive self-image, and we may use defense mechanisms such as denial, projection, or repression to protect ourselves from painful feelings or memories. These defense mechanisms may be adaptive in the short term, but they can also reinforce negative self-concept and limit our capacity for growth and self-awareness.

Object relations and ego psychology provide additional frameworks for understanding self-esteem. Object relations theory emphasizes the importance of early relationships with parents and how these relationships shape our internal representations of ourselves and others.

Freud’s theory of the Superego

Freud’s theory of the superego is an important aspect of the development of our self-image, which has a direct correlation with our self-esteem. According to Freud, the superego is a part of the psyche that acts as an internal judge and oversees our behavior and thoughts. This part of our psyche can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness, which are central components of low self-esteem.

The process of ego development takes place in early childhood and is influenced by both internal and external factors. The superego develops as a result of the internalization of parental values and standards. When the superego is overly critical, it can cause imbalance leading to low self-esteem.

Defense mechanisms such as suppression, denial, and projection can also affect the superego and contribute to low self-esteem.

Unconscious influences play a key role in the development of the superego and can affect our self-image. Therefore, it is important to recognize and address the negative influences that may lead to low self-esteem.

The views of Jung, Adler and Klein

Jung, Adler, and Klein also contributed to the understanding of the development of self-esteem and self-image by offering their own unique perspectives on the subject.

Jung believed that our sense of self-worth is influenced by our relationship with our own Jungian archetype or idealized image of ourselves. He argued that when individuals are disconnected from their Jungian archetype, they may experience feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. To address this problem, Jungian therapy focuses on helping individuals connect with their archetype and increase their self-awareness.

On the other hand, Adler’s therapy emphasizes the importance of self-actualization in the development of self-esteem. Adler believed that individuals should strive to reach their full potential and that feeling fulfilled in life can lead to a sense of self-worth. Adler’s therapy aims to help individuals identify and pursue their goals, as well as explore past experiences that may have hindered their self-actualization.

Klein’s object relations theory focuses on how early experiences with caregivers shape an individual’s sense of self. Klein believed that our sense of self-worth is deeply tied to our early attachment experiences and the objects or people we bond with. He suggested that individuals may internalize negative experiences with objects, leading to a negative self-image and low self-esteem. It aims to help individuals identify and process these internalized negative experiences, ultimately increasing their sense of self-worth.

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People with low self-esteem can display a number of warning signs, both physically and emotionally. These can include social withdrawal, lack of assertiveness, self-criticism, perfectionism and anxiety.

Social effects may also manifest, such as difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships, tendency to isolate and fear of rejection.

Self-talk patterns can also be a warning sign of low self-esteem. Negative self-talk, such as constantly putting oneself down or feeling unworthy, can become a vicious cycle that perpetuates low self-esteem.

On the physical side, there may also be symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and insomnia.

It is important to recognize these symptoms and signs and seek help if needed. Counseling, therapy, and self-care practices can help improve self-esteem and address the underlying causes of low self-esteem.

By taking action and seeking support, individuals can break the cycle of negative self-talk and begin to build a healthier relationship with themselves.

Emotional and behavioral effects

The emotional and behavioral effects of low self-esteem can manifest in a number of ways. A common effect is social withdrawal, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. People with low self-esteem may feel unworthy of the attention and companionship of others, causing them to avoid social situations altogether.

Another result of low self-esteem is negative self-talk. Individuals may engage in self-criticism, constantly belittling themselves and reinforcing negative self-beliefs. This can lead to a vicious cycle of low self-esteem, where the person continues to believe negative things about themselves and engage in self-sabotaging behaviors.

Coping mechanisms such as therapy, self-care, and positive affirmations can help combat the emotional and behavioral effects of low self-esteem.

Relationship issues

Communication barriers and trust issues are common factors that arise when someone struggles with low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem may find it difficult to adequately express their thoughts and feelings, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts. Additionally, they may fear rejection or abandonment, making it difficult to trust others or be vulnerable.

Attachment styles and codependency patterns may also be affected by low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem may develop insecure attachment styles such as anxious or avoidant attachment, leading to difficulties in relationships. They may also become overly dependent on others for validation and support, leading to patterns of codependency.

Additionally, people with low self-esteem may struggle with emotional intimacy, as they may fear rejection or being judged for their vulnerabilities.

Overall, low self-esteem can have a significant impact on a person’s relationships. Communication barriers, trust issues, attachment styles, codependency patterns, and emotional intimacy can all be affected when someone struggles with low self-esteem. Therefore, it is important to address low self-esteem to improve relationships and one’s overall well-being.

Treatment options

There are effective treatment options for people struggling with self-esteem issues, providing hope for those seeking to improve their mental health and overall well-being.

Cognitive restructuring is a form of therapy that can help individuals identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive and realistic ones. This type of therapy can be effective in reducing symptoms of low self-esteem, such as self-doubt and negative self-talk.

Positive affirmations, or repeating positive statements about ourselves, can also be helpful in improving self-esteem. This can be done through daily self-talk or writing down positive affirmations and reading them regularly.

Group therapy can also be beneficial as it provides a supportive environment where people can share their experiences and get feedback from others.

Art therapy and hypnotherapy are other forms of therapy that can help people explore their emotions and boost their confidence.

It is important to note that treatment options for low self-esteem may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Seeking help from a mental health professional can provide personalized treatment options and support for those struggling with self-esteem issues.

With the right treatment and support, individuals can overcome low self-esteem and improve their overall well-being.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This type of therapy is a common approach to treating low self-esteem, as it aims to identify the triggers of negative thoughts and beliefs and helps people change their thought patterns.

One of the key components of cognitive behavioral therapy is identifying the triggers of negative thoughts and beliefs. By recognizing the situations or thoughts that lead to low self-esteem, individuals can learn to challenge and change their beliefs about themselves. This may include exploring past experiences and how they may have influenced current beliefs, as well as learning new problem-solving skills to deal with difficult situations.

Relaxation techniques and graded exposure are also used in cognitive behavioral therapy to help people overcome their fears and anxieties. By gradually exposing themselves to situations they may have previously avoided, individuals can build confidence and self-esteem.

This approach is often combined with problem-solving skills to help individuals learn effective strategies for managing their thoughts and emotions. Through these techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective tool to help people with low self-esteem build a more positive and confident self-image.

Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation practices have been found to be effective in boosting self-esteem. These techniques include various exercises that increase self-awareness and reduce negative thought patterns.

Meditation techniques, for example, involve focusing on a particular object or thought and allowing oneself to be fully present in the moment. Mindfulness practices, on the other hand, encourage individuals to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment.

Self-awareness exercises are particularly useful for increasing self-esteem because they allow individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. This awareness helps individuals identify negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk.

In addition, mindfulness and meditation practices can promote self-criticism and encourage individuals to identify their values and goals. By focusing on what is truly important to them, individuals can gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, which can help boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Stress management strategies are also an important aspect of mindfulness and meditation practices, which can have a significant impact on self-esteem. These practices help individuals become more resilient in the face of stress and adversity. By learning how to manage stress effectively, individuals can improve their overall well-being, which can help increase their confidence and self-esteem.

Overall, mindfulness and meditation practices are powerful tools that can help individuals cultivate a positive self-image and improve self-esteem.

Self-care and self-compassion

Self-care and self-compassion practices are essential to improving low self-esteem. These practices include taking intentional actions to prioritize physical, emotional, and mental well-being and treating ourselves with kindness and understanding during difficult times. Self-compassion practices can help individuals develop a positive self-image, increase self-love, and promote better mental health.

Setting boundaries is a critical aspect of self-care. It includes saying no to things that do not serve one’s well-being and prioritizing one’s time and energy. Setting boundaries can help people avoid burnout and reduce stress levels.

Practicing self-care routines, such as regular exercise, healthy eating and adequate rest, can also improve self-esteem, promoting better physical health and increasing self-confidence.


In conclusion, low self-esteem is a complex issue that can have a profound impact on our relationships and our daily lives. It can come from various factors such as personal development, relationships with parents and past experiences.

While psychoanalytic perspectives have shed light on the dynamics of the psychic superego, therapeutic options such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and meditation, as well as self-care and self-compassion can help individuals recognize and address their own needs in order to cultivate a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to low self-esteem. Mindfulness and meditation can also be beneficial in promoting self-awareness and self-acceptance. In addition, practicing self-care and self-compassion can help individuals prioritize their own needs and build a positive relationship with themselves.

By addressing the root causes of low self-esteem and implementing effective treatment strategies, individuals can improve their overall well-being and live a more fulfilling life.

*Republication of the article without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is only for those who are serious about changing their lives. If you are considering embarking on this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and let’s see together how I can help you.

Michael Paterakis

Psychologist Psychotherapist

37 Karneadou Street, Kolonaki

I accept By appointment

Tel: 211 7151 801



    Πατεράκης Μιχάλης
    Ψυχολόγος Αθήνα


      Psychologist Athens