Low self-esteem can be the result of negative childhood/adolescent experiences which can become an obstacle to personal growth and self-fulfillment in adulthood. Some of these experiences include systematic punishment, neglect, abuse, feelings of failure due to not meeting parental standards, having a sibling who was favored, growing up in an authoritarian family, and unresolved disappointments/rejections during adolescence. These kinds of experiences can lead to self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, and, eventually, low self-esteem.
In childhood and adolescence external experiences can outweigh how we feel, and what we believe is true, about ourselves more than our own perceptions and opinions of ourselves. Why does this happen? Mostly because we do not have a strong sense of ourselves as children and adolescents but instead rely more on the people around us to “tell us” who we are. The “equation” goes something like this: “If I am treated badly, I must deserve it.” As a result, our self- perceptions may be biased and inaccurate in a negative direction because they are based on what we have taken in from others. So, we end up with low self-esteem. This type of biased thinking is hard to change because we have learned to give others more credence as our judges than our own self-evaluation.