Why Your Self-Esteem Isn't Improving

September 5, 2014 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

There are many articles, books, and resources on improving self-esteem and confidence. The problem for many people out there, is that these tips just don’t stick. There is something deeper or something in their lives right now that is keeping them from adopting these tools. You may have been working diligently on your self-esteem but are finding that you still feel pretty down in the dumps. Maybe you were feeling confident but recently you've been more critical or unhappy with who you are. There are some surprising reasons why you are having trouble developing self-esteem.

It’s not just your willfulness, or stubbornness. I disagree with people who say, “Well you just have to try harder.” It’s not that easy; depending on the root cause or your current lifestyle, healthy self-esteem can feel impossible to obtain. Here’s why.

Factors That Contribute to Low Self-Esteem

Do you feels like you are stuck in a cycle of low self-esteem? There are a few reasons why you are having trouble improving your self-esteem.

  1. Your lifestyle can be emotionally, mentally and physically taxing. Are there areas in your life that you find yourself looking forward to as much as a root canal? Whether it be your demanding job, annoying roommates, ungrateful family or all of the above, the everyday stress can be causing you to stay stuck in negativity. Add in unhealthy behaviors like eating on the go, staying up late or struggling to keep up with what everyone else is doing and you have a recipe for burnout. This can make it harder to feel good about yourself and your life.
  2. Blame your brain. Your brain is a network of billions of cells that communicate through neurotransmitters. Serotonin is a mood-elevating brain chemical, but when we face stress, anxiety, depression and even gastrointestinal issues, serotonin is impacted. It has been said that 95 percent of serotonin is made in the gut, if you tummy is having trouble, your brain will be too. When your serotonin is at an ideal level, you feel mellow, relaxed, hopeful and optimistic. You have a sense of being at peace with life. You are creative, thoughtful, and focused. You also have a lot of impulse control, which enables you to "just say no" more easily.
  3. Trauma and childhood stressors. Whether you were bullied on the playground, experienced abuse, witnessed something tragic or experienced verbal or physical abuse in your adult life, this doesn't go away with time. You may have “let it go” but your body remembers, and no matter how far you push it under the rug, it will eventually show itself in your life. It is also a reason so many people suffer from low self-esteem. These memories are imprinted into your mind, even though they feel like you've stored them in a file cabinet far away.

The most effective way for you to feel good again is to work on resolving your inner conflicts with yourself and processing your experience with someone who can help. There are many professionals and people who are trained to help you with trauma. Somatic Experiencing Therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), hypnosis, emotional freedom technique, coaching, spiritual guidance and many others can help you to reduce the pain and patterns that keep you stuck and increase your self-esteem.

As any scientist or psychotherapist will tell you, your biology isn't your destiny. You have a whole host of options that can positively increase your self-esteem—like adding regular exercise, meditation, healthy eating, positive thinking, personal growth classes, consistent sleep patterns and more to your life. But if you find that this isn't enough, it’s time to look at the other factors.

Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2014, September 5). Why Your Self-Esteem Isn't Improving, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

October, 2 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thank you so much for this article and acknowledging the deep and lasting effects of childhood trauma. They really don't "go away". We can only learn how to cope/ deal with them better. I've been in therapy for many years using multiple modalities. I'm an insatiable self help seeker, have books of journaling emotions and do all the distractions such as reading, biking , exercise, etc. I still often struggle with low self esteem. Sometimes the more mired in self help I get the worse I end up feeling worse about myself because it's always trite, pat advice that sounds so easy with an implicit message that you don't really want it enough or are too stubborn to change. This article is very validating by acknowledging how implacable childhood trauma can be and how incredibly difficult the fight to self esteem can be and how much courage and determination it takes. Thank you for this!!

Cyndi Shoemaker
September, 13 2014 at 7:24 am

I love this page. It's so right on, I have such a hard time at work. I am bullied at work and my boss will not talk to me and even avoids me. I work as a Restorative aide and the other aides, or some of them really give me a hard time. It's a nursing home. I work hard at trying to have good self esteem, even getting employee of the month 2x. But there are the ones that are very close my boss that try to tear me down. I can't job hop and my husband is disabled. I was a Special Ed student and worked very hard to get through a 4 year college, all to be taunted by co-workers who tease and laugh at me, with comments like "why do you work here if you have a college degree?!" They work hard to get me in trouble and there are days it's very hard. Thank you for the Page I enjoy reading them. Cyndi

September, 13 2014 at 4:31 am

i loved this article so very true childhood incidents leave a deep imprint on the mind and it doesnt go away easily it remains there for a lifetime with spiritual healing, meditation, cutting off from birth family as helped me gain my self esteem back.
and taking baby steps towards regaining my self esteem i pray it will come back

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