Low self-esteem can strike at any time in life. It does not necessarily come from having had a dysfunctional childhood. It can be from a myriad of reasons, such as having been in an unhealthy relationship where you faced a barrage of abuse about not being good enough, not attractive enough or seen to be inadequate. If you were made redundant or suffered from a debilitating illness, negative thoughts can follow.
It could stem from childhood where your family did not seem to quite fit into the neighbourhood because you were not from the same economic or cultural background. It can materialise if as a child comparisons were made between your siblings, being asked "why aren't you more like your sister?" or "what is wrong with you?", "why didn't you get a grade A?" "you're so thick". Comments about your body even said in jest, can over time impact how a person feels about themselves in adulthood.
These negative beliefs do not go away by themselves and ultimately can lead to self doubt and self loathing. Even though these beliefs are based on other people's past judgements of you they can affect your well-being in the present.
Once the feelings of low self-esteem are activated, it feels very difficult to escape the overwhelming emotions it brings up. For example if you receive an invitation to a party, rather than it feeling positive and exciting, for the person with low self-esteem there can be a feeling of fear and self doubt. "I won't find anything to wear as I am so gross", "I am bound to make a fool of myself", "I won't find anything of interest to say", "I have only been invited because they feel sorry for me."
Going for a job interview can also trigger anxiety as the negative thoughts come into play, as you imagine and play out the worst possible scenarios.
Even going to the shops when you have low self-esteem feels like a difficult task, staying indoors is preferable to facing the world.
Catastrophising about up and coming events is not the only form of anxiety, there is the replaying of all the mistakes that you think you made and all the internal language patterns again come into play. "Why am I such an idiot" and the associated feelings you get with that as you remember what you thought you said. Feelings of embarrassment, hopelessness, frustration and anger with yourself, are perfect example of this.
Low self-esteem can feel like an isolating experience when you are absorbed in self criticism and only focusing on what you believe are your flaws. It means missing out on many opportunities, experiences and relationships with people. It devalues your self worth and stops you from making important decisions such as choosing to go to university or applying for a position you are qualified for in the work place. It can prevent you from being able to say "no" or to ask for help when it is required or not asking questions for fear of sounding "stupid."
Feeling responsible for other people's emotional states can also be triggered by low self esteem. For example seeing your boss looking cross or seeing a friend upset can have you believe you are the cause.
Hypnotherapy, BWRT and GAD therapy can all help to overcome the disempowering effects of low self-esteem.