Why Do I Feel Worthless? Improving Self-Esteem One Day At A Time
If you're feeling worthless or helpless, you're not alone. However, with support and specific coping mechanisms, you may find ways to further understand why these thoughts are occurring and how to reframe them. Feelings of worthlessness often have an underlying cause and may be a sign of a serious mental health condition like depression. By taking specific steps to improve your self-esteem, you may find relief from this feeling.
Causes of low self-esteem
Self-esteem issues can stem from several sources, and the cause may vary from person to person. Below are potential causes for feelings of worthlessness:
- Early interpersonal traumas, including abuse, maltreatment, neglect, or frequent criticism from caregivers
- Childhood or adult bullying
- Termination from a job, financial issues, or divorce
- Feeling ostracized at school or work or in social situations
- Stress and pressure to meet demands
- Discrimination or rejection
- A mental illness like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The list above may not be exhaustive. If you're experiencing low self-esteem, reaching out to a professional like a therapist for guidance can be beneficial.
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
The connections of thoughts and feelings in therapy
Unwanted thoughts and thinking patterns can sometimes feel overpowering, and it might seem challenging to escape the negativity. However, many thoughts are learned through life experiences or common messages from others. A lack of self-esteem is one of the most common reasons people seek professional help, and therapy can effectively restructure learned thought patterns.
One of the most popular techniques for restructuring distressing thoughts is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has been referred to as the "gold standard" of therapy and helps clients identify connections between emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It may also help you develop practical skills to manage the causes of unhealthy behavioral patterns. Common goals of CBT are to increase positive thoughts, reduce unwanted behavior, and control emotional responses.
For example, if you believe you are uninteresting, annoying, or not fun, you might avoid social activities with friends. In CBT, you can learn to challenge this behavior by pinpointing the cause of the thoughts. If you feel inferior or fear social situations because you feel embarrassed or unlovable, changing thought patterns may help you change your behavior. CBT could also empower you to learn affirmations like, "I am full of life experiences, and I have a unique point of view. My ideas and perspectives are valid and interesting".
How to improve self-esteem
It can be human to make mistakes and embarrass yourself. Rather than striving for perfection and comparing yourself to others, try to focus on what makes you unique and how you can improve the lives of others and yourself. Below are a few tips for improving self-esteem one day at a time.
Avoid "should" thoughts
Try to avoid cognitive distortions like telling yourself what you "should" do or who you "should" be. Telling yourself that you should act a certain way, achieve a specific goal, or have certain material items may cause you to feel adversely toward yourself if you don't meet those expectations.
"Should" thoughts are not often self-directed goals and values but instead messages you may have learned in childhood, from society, or due to pressure in academic or career life. For example, if a teacher often told you as a child that you "should" be less creative, you might believe that your desire to express your emotions creatively is harmful and that you should be "more logical."
Communicate your feelings
At times, feeling unappreciated may lower your self-esteem. When interacting with others, communicate your feelings and boundaries. Valuing yourself can mean valuing the inner compass that tells you what you value. Celebrate your accomplishments, let others know when you need space, and talk positively about yourself in conversation.
Be realistic about your limits
If you feel overwhelmed, consider lowering your expectations or taking a break. Take your time if you're not ready to complete a difficult task. Try not to pressure yourself to succeed in all areas of life at once. Some people may feel shameful about themselves when struggling with multiple life challenges and don't know how to organize them all.
In these cases, try taking on one task at a time not to overwhelm yourself. For example, you can work on getting out of bed at the same time each morning before you try to start eating healthier, exercising, and practicing mindfulness. You can add these skills later as you feel more comfortable getting out of bed in the morning.
When is feeling worthless a symptom of depression?
Persistent and profound feelings of worthlessness can be a symptom of depression. Many depressive disorders leave individuals feeling alone and unworthy of social interaction and support. However, these feelings can become a cycle that may cause worsening symptoms of depression.
Note that depression is not a choice that a change of thought can quickly remedy. Depression, like all mood disorders, can occur due to various factors and is not a sign of "laziness" or caused by a lack of motivation. Genetics, brain differences, and environmental factors can all contribute to the development of this condition. Symptoms of depression may include:
- Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- Numbness or apathy
- A lack of enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities
- Withdrawal from social support systems
- Profound sadness or low mood
- Difficulty smiling, laughing, or connecting with others in joyous ways
- Difficulty caring for your hygiene or well-being
- Thoughts of death or suicide
For those who have had symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, consider seeking support from a professional, as you might be living with a depressive disorder. Your therapist or medical professional can ask questions and perform a screening to support you. You might also be referred for medication, outpatient therapy, treatment facilities, or case management.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also offers an online chat for those with an internet connection.
If you're living with feelings of worthlessness, reaching out to a therapist may be beneficial, even if you aren't living with a mental health condition. Mental health professionals are trained in specific skills to help individuals cope with challenging emotions and thoughts. However, if you're experiencing difficulty leaving home due to these thoughts or symptoms of a condition like depression, you might try online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, which can be done from home.
Online therapy is flexible with scheduling and can be more affordable than traditional, in-person sessions. In addition, researchers in the mental health field have confirmed online therapy is also an effective treatment option. One study suggests that internet-based interventions can reduce symptoms of depression and increase self-esteem. Study participants also reported an enhanced quality of life post-treatment.
"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 their thoughts and reevaluate habits for better mental health. She's also extremely kind and cares about what she is doing".
"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 divulge very particular 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 does it mean when you feel worthless?
If you feel worthless, it could mean you're experiencing negative feelings of inadequacy without being able to see your value. It could also be a common symptom of various mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder. You might also feel worthless after certain negative events in your own life. For example, you may have experienced childhood trauma or situations with family members who abuse alcohol.
Is it normal to feel like you're worthless?
Occasionally experiencing feelings of worthlessness is a normal part of the human experience, especially after stressful events or failures. However, if these feelings are persistent and strongly linked to negative thoughts of hopelessness and self-blame, they might indicate an underlying mental health problem.
What to do when you feel you have no worth?
If you feel you have no worth, you can first speak kindly to yourself and remember your strengths and achievements. Continue doing the things that bring you a greater sense of self-achievement and connect with supportive family members or friends. You may want to seek professional guidance if feelings of worthlessness become overwhelming.
Do people with depression tend to feel worthless?
Yes, a sense of worthlessness is a common symptom of depression, particularly major depressive disorder. This experience of worthlessness may often be accompanied by other symptoms like sadness, loss of interest in activities, and fatigue.
What is the root cause of unworthiness?
The root cause of experiencing unworthiness can vary from person to person. Factors like childhood trauma, negative feedback from family members, substance abuse, or other negative life experiences may all play a role. Overcoming a sense of unworthiness often involves identifying and resolving the root causes.
Can anxiety make you feel worthless?
Anxiety may increase the likelihood of experiencing worthlessness, especially if it’s chronic and unaddressed. Because anxiety can cause extreme worry and self-doubt, it can often tie into a sense of unworthiness. With the help of a mental health professional, an individual can work through their anxiety and manage its negative effects on self-esteem and overall emotional health.
How do I feel more worthy?
You can feel more worthy by remembering your strengths and achievements while making a conscious effort to improve. You might use positive self-talk, set realistic goals, and celebrate small successes to help build a stronger sense of self-worth. Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, may also be an effective tool in changing negative thought patterns about worthiness.
What is it called when someone makes you feel worthless?
If someone constantly makes you feel worthless, you may be experiencing emotional or psychological abuse. This abuse can take many forms, including criticism, manipulation, or belittling. If left unresolved, these experiences can have long-lasting negative effects on your self-esteem and mental health.
What are the 5 levels of depression?
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They describe the common emotional responses to loss. Initially, a person may refuse to accept the loss (denial), feel frustrated and helpless (anger), try to negotiate (bargaining), and experience deep sadness (depression). Ultimately, acceptance may be reached as the person acknowledges the reality of the loss and starts to move forward.
- Previous Article
- Next Article