Have you ever avoided certain situations and experiences due to fear of what people may think of you? Or does the thought of what other people think of you send you into a flood of anxious thoughts? If either of those questions are a yes for you, you may have low self- esteem.

Self -esteem, which is how one feels about one’s self,  affects almost every aspect of one’s life especially mental health. So as a therapist it is quite common to encounter clients with low self- esteem, though that’s not usually why they come in for therapy. Often times clients present with symptoms of  depression and anxiety, with low self -esteem often being a common feature of both.

According to Marilyn Sorensen, PhD, Clinical psychologist and the author of Breaking the Chains of Low Self-Esteem, “low self -esteem occurs  when one believes that they are inadequate (flawed) unworthy and unlovable, and or incompetent”. She posits that all sufferers of low self-esteem experience fear and anxiety stemming from their belief that are inadequate in one or more areas of their life. She also states that “the frequency to which fear drives a person’s reactions reflects the severity of their low self- esteem”. Here are four fears deemed by Dr. Sorensen that accompany low self- esteem:

  1. Fear of confirming one’s own inadequacies. Those who experience this fear are afraid of doing something that will prove what they already thinks is true, which is that they are in fact inadequate, unlovable, and inferior to others.

  1. Fear of revealing one’s inadequacies to others,  which could result in disapproval, criticism, rejection or blame. Those who experience this fear are vigilant in observing themselves in effort to do what is acceptable, believing that a mistake will result in the criticism or disapproval they so desire to avoid.

  1. Fear of losing what one has, fear that success cannot be sustained; fear of abandonment. Those who experience this fear are not only afraid that they will not succeed, they question whether they can keep what they have managed to attain.

  1. Fear of re- experiencing humiliation, depression, devastation or despair. Those who experience this fear, are afraid that these strong emotions will return and as a result they may experience extreme anxiety.

According to David Burns MD, psychiatrist and author of Ten Days to Better Self- Esteem and Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, “Most bad feelings come from bad thoughts”.  So, if you can relate to any of these fears here are a few affirmations from Glenn Schiraldi’s, The Self – Esteem Workbook to help you replace these fears and  negative thoughts.

Thoughts of Self-Esteem from The Self-Esteem Workbook

  • I think well of myself.
  • I accept myself because I know that I am more than my mistakes, foibles or any other externals.
  • Criticism is external. I examine it for ways to improve, without concluding that the criticism makes me less a worthwhile person.
  • I can criticize my own behavior without questioning my own worth.
  • I am aware of my strengths and I respect them.
  • I can laugh at some of the ridiculous things I do sometimes.

Ariane Allen, Psy.D
Orland Park, Il