Self-Esteem: Why Do I Feel Worthless?

By: Michael Puskar

Updated July 30, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley

If you have been struggling with self-esteem issues for any amount of time, you are not alone. People can develop discouraging thoughts about themselves for a variety of reasons, but with some support, you can transform these old ideas of worthlessness into new ones that are productive and promote positivity. You may feel down right now, but with practice, you can recover and feel good about yourself.

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Reasons You May Feel Worthless

Self-esteem issues can stem from several different sources and can vary between person to person. Here are some common reasons as to why you might be struggling right now:

- Childhood experiences such as bullying and domestic abuse

- Adult situations like terminated from a job, financial issues, or dealing with a divorce

- Feeling like "the odd one out" at school or work, and other social situations

- Stress and pressure to meet demands

- Discrimination in various capacities, especially on a regular basis

Some of these issues will be covered within the article, but it is important to note that even though yours might not be listed here, your self-esteem issues can be treated effectively, regardless of the cause of them. This does not mean that your reasons for feeling worthless do not matter; rather, the techniques used by therapists to treat self-esteem issues can be applied to just about anywhere.

"How Can I Change My Thoughts?"

Negative thinking patterns can feel overpowering at times, and it might seem very challenging to escape them; however, they are also learned behaviors, which means that it is possible to undo them and develop positive ones that uplift you. In fact, a lack of self-esteem is one of the most common reasons that people decide to seek help, and millions of people have successfully overcome their negative feelings.

One of the most popular techniques for fighting self-esteem issues is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) because it identifies connections between emotions, thoughts, and behavior, and aids you in developing the practical skills needed to manage any negative or harmful patterns.

For example, if you are thinking, "I don't have anything interesting to say," so you do not engage in social behavior, you can challenge this belief. Perhaps, you have had a negative life experience that caused it in the first place, and by understanding where your attitudes come from, you can address it and change them. For instance, if this thought does come up, CBT would empower you to recognize it, and combat it by telling yourself, "I am full of life experiences, and I have a unique point of view. My experiences and perspectives are valid and interesting."

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Finding a therapist who will not only listen to you but also give you the skills to cope and tackle the sources of your self-esteem issues should never be difficult, and BetterHelp offers a convenient way to do that through its online therapy services.

Online therapy is an attractive option for many people because it is flexible with scheduling, you can reap its benefits remotely, from the comfort of your own home, and it is more affordable than traditional, in-person sessions. Some people avoid getting help solely because of the costs, and traveling to meetings can contribute to more stress - BetterHelp aims to resolve this by making therapy convenient and accessible.

Seeking Help

Finding a therapist who will not only listen to you but also give you the skills to cope and tackle the sources of your self-esteem issues should never be difficult, and BetterHelp offers a convenient way to do that through its online therapy services.

Online therapy is an attractive option for many people because it is flexible with scheduling, you can reap its benefits remotely, from the comfort of your own home, and it is more affordable than traditional, in-person sessions. Some people avoid getting help solely because of the costs, and traveling to meetings can contribute to more stress - BetterHelp aims to resolve this by making therapy convenient and accessible Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Collin has been very helpful in my first few weeks using BetterHelp. Sessions seem to fly by because I value everything she says and it has made me think about things I've never examined about myself. I recommend her completely to anyone seeking better ways to control your thoughts and reevaluate habits for better mental health. She's also extremely kind and clearly cares about what she is doing".

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"I have been in therapy numerous times throughout my life. I feel that working with Dan has been much more productive than even face to face therapy with PhDs or MDs. I can disclose very personal information and always feel safe and unjudged. When I get off track, he gently and kindly gets me back on track. He has gotten me through what is probably the biggest crisis in my life thus far. I would recommend Dan to anyone seeking help."

What is Self-Worth?

Self-worth is a belief about how much you value yourself, and it is tied to self-esteem because self-esteem is what we perceive about ourselves. If you do not feel that you have any self-worth, then merely improving self-esteem is not enough because you will not believe it inside. You need to improve both to get real, positive beliefs about yourself, and one way to do that is through working with a therapist. A licensed mental health professional can help you to find the correct actions to take to improve both self-worth and self-esteem because they are so closely tied together.

The opposite of self-worth is worthlessness. Worthlessness is a strong feeling that can lead to suicide in depressed patients if they do not seek the help they deserve. Many people who experience multiple setbacks in their lives like job loss, financial struggle, divorce, or not liking how they look can end up feeling like their lives have no meaning. Depressed people may feel hopeless that their situations can improve, and they may internalize external events to mean that they themselves are failing or worse failures. These thoughts are unrealistic, and they are symptoms of depression.

Self-worth can change for many reasons. For example, if you are around people who are overly critical, beliefs about your self-worth can sink rapidly. Wondering why you feel worthless is not uncommon, and oftentimes, it is because someone else has projected these feelings onto you.

From childhood, we hear messages from other people about who we are and how we should be that begin to form our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves and the world. If you have established a self-concept that is harsh on yourself and overly negative, it probably is not serving you well when it comes to going after what you want from life. The problem with feelings of worthlessness is that they can cause bad treatment of yourself, as we often treat things we do not see as worthy in a poor manner.

Things to Improve on Self-Esteem

We all make mistakes, and concentrating on the big picture too much can make you feel quite small, especially when things do not go the way we want them to. Rather than striving for perfection and comparing yourself to others, choose to focus on how unique you are. Do not be mistaken though; a little competition in life can be a great motivator for a lot of people. However, if you find yourself often comparing yourself to others when it comes to what you should be striving for, you may be struggling with issues of self-acceptance. More often than not, when we are trying to "measure up" to something or someone, the measuring stick we are using is not realistic. When we compare ourselves against someone else, we often see what we want to see, or we see an ideal version of a real person.

Try to avoid "should" thinking. Telling yourself that you should be a certain way, achieve a certain goal, have certain things, etc. can set you up for failure. Usually, if you are thinking "should" thoughts, they are not truly self-directed goals and values but instead have been given to you by someone else. This can create unnecessary stress and pressure on yourself when instead, you can be creating more productive thoughts and goals that align with your own values.

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Valuing yourself means valuing the inner compass that tells you what is important to you. Celebrate the things you are good at - even the small accomplishments. Try to avoid looking down on yourself; instead, talk positively about yourself as if you were talking to someone that you care deeply about. When you talk to others, you often value them above yourself, which means that you are less likely to say something to upset them. By talking to yourself the same way, you will be less likely to use thoughts or words that bring you down. Be realistic about your limits; if you are feeling overwhelmed, lower your expectations a little. Taking supportive actions for yourself is not failing; it is merely giving yourself a chance to be successful in the long-run. When you have reached a goal, celebrate it. Always try to acknowledge compliments, and recognize that one thing you "should" do is treat yourself with care.

Actions for Improving Self-Worth

Valuing yourself means that you believe that you matter and you can make a difference, and you treat yourself accordingly. There are several ways to tap into your inherent value as a person. Some examples are by helping others and by valuing what you already know and what you have accomplished. Start by making a contribution to your community. Volunteering with other people can show you how much you have to be thankful for, and feeling like you are making a difference can give your mood a boost. By being thankful, you may also be able to see what aspects of your day are precious that sometimes get taken for granted. Try to pick five things each day that you feel grateful for; added bonus if they are things about yourself.

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Anytime you notice that you are talking negatively about yourself, take a moment to pause and think about what you would say if you were talking to someone else instead. It is likely you wouldn't be as critical. Ask yourself, "How is saying this to myself helping me?" You deserve an inner dialogue that helps you to achieve your goals and reach your dreams, so try to let go of the thoughts that stand in your own way.

Self-worth has to do with accepting yourself as you are, and knowing that even with your faults, you are a valued person. None of us is perfect. We all have things we want to change about ourselves, and that is okay! You can have a desire to push yourself to be healthier without letting it detract from your overall sense of worth and quality of life. The key is to accept yourself for everything you are while letting go of all the things you are not. In doing this, you will increase your overall level of happiness and even perhaps have an easier time making those changes that are within your control to change. Be proud of who you are and everything you have gone through to create yourself that way, regardless of any perceived imperfections.

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"Why Do I Feel Worthless?"

Often, feelings of worthlessness can be a symptom of depression. Many depressive disorders leave patients feeling alone, unworthy of social interaction, and unworthy of help. The trouble is, this is a vicious circle and those feelings often foster greater depression. Sometimes these persistent feelings can stem from a very young age, especially in those who have been bullied in the past.

For those who have had these symptoms for at least two weeks, it is recommended that you seek help from a professional, as it can be an indicator of clinical depression or a related condition.

Finding professional help means considering treatments like medication, outpatient therapy, or other kinds of treatment decided on by you and your team. Specialists, like those from BetterHelp, are available for convenient, online counseling. They can formulate a coping plan so that you do not have to suffer from depression any longer than necessary.

Feeling Worthless? You Are Not Alone

Feeling worthless is a deep, dark emotion many people experience without warning. It may be difficult to see things differently when life seems unfair or too complicated to deal with now. Many may not think about their mental health, but this feeling could signal something about your mental health you should further explore. Having this feeling does not feel good, but, likely, you’re not the only person experiencing it. Furthermore, others can relate who have found ways to overcome their feelings by taking a more in-depth look into themselves.

Understanding the status of your mental health includes assessing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Learning details about your mental health is significant because it helps you learn how to help yourself and gain awareness of what other people found helpful when dealing with the same issue. People with feelings of worthlessness may engage in unhealthy behaviors such as binge eating, substance abuse, or struggle with mental illness or eating disorders

Eating disorders and mental illness often go together, but sometimes they go unnoticed, or people overlook their symptoms. A person may use food to help them deal with unwanted feelings through binge eating. They may do the opposite and abstain from eating as self-punishment or self-harm. Drugs and alcohol are used just the same as food. People dealing with substance abuse or getting substance use treatment may feel bad about where they are in life. Perhaps you have received a medical diagnosis, and you’re worried about access to quality health care, especially health insurance is an issue.

As you assess your mental health, you may be drawn to an event or situation that occurred earlier in life. Do you feel worthless because of a mistake you made? Are you struggling to move past a choice you made you cannot take back? Many people have been in similar situations, but instead of viewing them as something negative, they saw it as a lesson learned or a moment of personal growth. They were able to admit they were not perfect, or the decision they made could have been better.

Some realize they were hurt in the past by an event and never confronted their feelings about it. Your mental health is affected when you overlook or continue to carry prolonged, unhealthy emotions. Maybe something did not happen to you personally, but you knew someone else that was going through a tough time, and it influenced you. Did you experience childhood ADHD or know someone who had childhood ADHD? There are other mental health concerns such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or panic disorder that could lead to feeling worthless.

As mentioned, there are different situations and reasons behind feeling worthless. You could have a mental illness or unaddressed mental health concern. You may be struggling to deal with unwanted feelings from the past. You may be under a lot of stress making it more challenging to assess your sense of self-worth. Many others are going through these situations but have found ways to cope.

Even if you do not understand why you feel worthless, you can do something about it. There are support groups to join to connect with peers and share your thoughts. Take advantage of online therapy sessions with therapists and counselors to talk about your feelings. Consider online mental health resources such as Psych Central to learn more about emotions and what they could mean when experiencing them. If you suspect having a mental illness or want to learn more about mental illness, contact your doctor or mental health professional to address your concerns.

Your mental health is essential. People continue taking advantage of online resources such as Psych Central to learn more about their feelings and emotions. Such sites have policy terms and rights reserved content to give insight about mental illness and emotional wellbeing. Similar sources have an advisory board comprised of mental health experts specializing in mental illness, emotional health, and ensuring high standards are met with the information provided. The advisory board reviews content and helps develop new ideas to keep people informed based on needs and interests.

People using online sources to learn more about their emotional health may use sites such as Psych Central to take tests or quizzes. The tests and quizzes available may not give advice, diagnosis of a condition, but it may help point to areas of concern about your mental health. You can take a test or quiz on a variety of interests, even if you suspect a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, adult ADHD, or for possible disorder symptoms. There are eating disorders test options along with relationship tests, schizophrenia test, ADHD quiz, and you could answer test autism questions and an anxiety test, autism concerns.

Why It Helps to Explore Your Feelings

The last thing you want to do is face your emotions and think about why you are hurting. Assessing your thoughts and feelings may give clues behind your hurting. Perhaps relationships with a family member or friend have gone sour. Your career isn’t taking off as you hoped. You feel overwhelmed by your emotions, but you are not sure why. Maybe you have health care concerns about yourself or someone close to you. You may not recall what led you to feeling worthless, but you can do something about it. You can learn more about how your emotions affect your life so you can take steps to address them and feel better.

Sharing your thoughts with people who can relate through online communities and support groups has helped people cope with unwanted feelings. People use support groups and online communities to connect with others dealing with mental disorders and similar situations. Some get answers to questions about disorder treatment options, substance use treatment experiences, and self-help tips. Others get insight on where to help if they do not have health care coverage.

When joining online self-help groups, you can connect with people dealing with eating disorders, bipolar disorder, adult ADHD, and more. You can ask questions about anything and provide support to others. You can get insight on how to talk to your doctor about whatever is bothering you. Get advice on what to do about binge eating, disorder symptoms, or other insight on mental disorders. If you are dealing with depression, depression has many support resources, including online communities and depression test eating disorders. When it comes to depression, depression may lead to other concerns such as bipolar disorder or other mental illness concerns.

Online communities through mental wellness resources provide support for people with mental illness. Advice and tips are available if you suspect having a mental illness. If you have a mental illness, you can learn other self-help options though the Psych Central online community. Many people seeking information about mental illness want to know more about disorder treatment options and types of mental disorders that affect people the most. You can find answers to commonly asked questions about mental illness that affects children and adults. Get support for situations such as childhood ADHD, ADHD treatment, or learn how to take an ADHD quiz.

Another option people do when they want to learn more about themselves is to answer questions. You can complete tests and quizzes through online mental health resources such as Psych Central. These resources provide regularly updated rights reserved information on a wide variety of topics associated with mental and emotional health. Using resources like Psych Central may help answer questions you have about your mental health or mental illness.

Answering questions about yourself helps determine if you have other mental or emotional health concerns. Psych Central tests and quizzes are free and straightforward to complete. Sites, including Psych Central, provide a wide range of tests and quizzes that could help you understand what is behind your sadness, anger, or why you feel empty. There are tests to help you analyze areas of your life, such as living habits, relationships with others, physical symptoms, and more.

Psych Central and similar sites let you take tests and quizzes within minutes with tests and quizzes such as relationship tests, personality tests relationship, anxiety test autism, panic disorder, autism test bipolar, depression test eating disorders, schizophrenia test, and other mental illness concerns.  If you or someone you know has concerns about eating, consider the eating disorders test. There are test eating disorders options if you suspect poor eating habits while depressed. Most don’t realize their eating habits have changed, and taking a test eating may help you see how food habits altered and why.

Through a test, eating disorders could be a personal concern to explore. Answers from the test eating may help determine a starting point for how to get help.  Upon assessing test eating habits, you can find support advice through self-help communities online. After learning test eating disorders results, assess your findings with your doctor or counselor.

Besides test eating habits and concerns, Psych Central and similar sites provide tests and quizzes about mental illness concerns such as childhood ADHD, ADHD symptoms, and ADHD treatment. For example, you can learn differences in ADHD symptoms in children vs. adults though test questions and other sources provided. For autism interests, test autism questions and quizzes are available. An autism test bipolar may help with learning if one or both disorders are concerns. Taking personality tests, relationship quizzes can help you understand how personality affects your relationships with others.

Using online self-help resources such as Psych Central and working with a therapist, counselor, or mental health specialist may help with finding effective ways to cope. Whether you have a mental illness, or you do not know why you feel worthless, help is available. Don’t give up! You can choose to do and be better.


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