From Feeling Worthless To Worthy: A Guide To Reclaiming Your Self-Esteem

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Embarking on a journey from feeling worthless to worthy can be deeply personal and transformative. Through understanding, self-compassion, and persistence, you can start to gradually rebuild your sense of self, self-worth, and inherent value. 

This guide may provide the tools and insights to navigate your way toward self-esteem and resilience.

Understanding feelings of worthlessness


Many people encounter episodes of self-doubt and low self-esteem. However, some individuals may experience persistent feelings of worthlessness that can significantly hinder their daily lives and mental health. 

If you face these difficult emotions, knowing you're not alone may help you get your first foothold on climbing out of the pit of low self-esteem. Transformation and healing can be possible for many experiencing low self-worth.

One of the first steps you can take might be to understand low self-esteem and where these feelings began in your life.

Common causes of worthlessness

Several potential factors can potentially cause feelings of worthlessness:

  1. Childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, or a lack of positive reinforcement
  2. Negative experiences in adulthood, such as job loss or unhealthy relationships
  3. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), mood or personality disorders
  4. Social pressures and expectations, such as achieving life milestones or looking a particular way

Feelings of worthlessness can often result from a combination of factors, such as demanding expectations from parents as a child or difficulty with mental health struggles that keep you from achieving your goals. Identifying the root causes can be beneficial to understanding and overcoming these feelings.

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How to overcome feelings of worthlessness

Approaching this process with empathy, patience, and understanding may be helpful as you can start your journey by being kind to yourself. Everyone’s experience is different, and you may not feel like you’re progressing fast enough, but recognizing that moving at your own pace can help you be compassionate toward yourself.

We’ll explore strategies and techniques that can empower you to effectively challenge feelings of worthlessness and cultivate a stronger sense of self-worth and self-compassion.

Recognizing negative thought patterns

If you experience feelings of worthlessness, you may struggle with negative thought patterns and self-talk. These thoughts can feel overwhelming and hurtful if they persist throughout the day, but challenging them can be a powerful practice for reclaiming your mind and self-worth. 

Focusing on your inner dialogue and replacing self-critical thoughts with the opposite sentiment or what you’d like to believe about yourself may start to undo challenging thought patterns. For example, "I'm such a failure" can be reframed with, "I made a mistake, but that doesn't mean I’m a failure. It means I’m human."
Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Building self-compassion

Practicing self-compassion can be a confusing or difficult concept for many who’ve struggled with low self-esteem. But the basic idea can be broken down to “Would you treat a child the way you treat yourself?” or “Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself?” 

The goal of self-compassion is to relate to yourself the way you would to a friend or child. Recognizing that others may hurt, make mistakes, and experience setbacks can allow you to be imperfect and not judge yourself for it.

Cultivating gratitude

Focusing on the positive aspects of your life can help shift your perspective and foster a greater sense of self-worth. Keeping a gratitude journal and noting what you’re grateful for or proud of can give you tangible evidence to help you develop a more positive mindset and recognize your value.

Setting realistic goals

If you struggle with your self-worth because you feel like you get where you want in life, it might be helpful to reexamine how you set goals. The SMART method is an acronym that can help you break goals into Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound categories. Setting achievable, realistic goals can improve your self-esteem by providing a sense of accomplishment.

One potentially helpful tip is to celebrate your progress along the way! You might take yourself out to eat, buy yourself a gift, get outside and enjoy the weather, or take a weekend to relax and enjoy your favorite activity.

Developing a support network

It can help to surround yourself with people who lift you up and encourage you. You may discuss your experiences with low self-esteem with friends and family or seek support groups or online communities to connect with others who understand your feelings. 

Opening up and being vulnerable may feel scary, but building a solid support network can help you feel more connected, valued, and understood.

Embracing self-care

Self-care can be a significant step to taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health when trying to overcome feelings of worthlessness. Self-care differs based on each person’s definition and needs, but some examples include: 

  • Doing activities that bring you joy
  • Prioritizing sleep hygiene and nutrition
  • Practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises

Taking time to take care of yourself can give you room to stay in a good headspace while you recover your sense of self-worth and value. It can go hand-in-hand with self-compassion by imagining how you would care for a friend, child, or loved one if they were going through a difficult time.

Building resilience

Setbacks can happen, and they’re a natural part of the journey towards reclaiming your self-esteem. Building resilience to these experiences can help you maintain your progress by recognizing your path may not always be linear and going with the flow.

If you find yourself slipping back to old negative thought patterns or experiencing feelings of worthlessness more than usual, you can still make positive changes or seek help to get back on track.


Benefits of therapy for feelings of worthlessness

If you experience severe or persistent feelings of worthlessness, it may be a sign of a more serious mental health condition. Seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, can help you identify what you’re experiencing and if you need a clinical diagnosis from a doctor or psychiatrist to get the proper treatment. 

If you have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety disorder, therapists can provide guidance, support, and effective strategies to help you manage symptoms.

Research has demonstrated that online therapy can be as effective as face-to-face therapy in treating various mental health concerns, including feelings of worthlessness. In addition, the key therapeutic elements, such as rapport-building, therapeutic interventions, and personalized support, can be successfully delivered through online formats.

Online therapy can offer a valuable alternative for those who may experience barriers to traditional in-person therapy, such as geographical limitations, time constraints, or personal preferences. Individuals may benefit from online therapy's convenience and flexibility by connecting with a mental health professional through digital platforms like BetterHelp that use video calls, chat messaging, or email.


Embarking on the journey to overcome feelings of worthlessness can be challenging, but you can reclaim your self-esteem and sense of worth and rediscover yourself with the right strategies and support. A therapist can offer both by delving into the roots of these emotions and embracing a compassionate approach towards yourself. 

Therapy may also help you gradually reconstruct your self-worth and unveil the intrinsic value that has always been a part of who you are. Are you ready to start your journey with BetterHelp?

Understand how different outlooks can shape life
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