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3 Surprising Expressions of Low Self Esteem in Young Adults

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Self-esteem is the opinion that we have of ourselves. Low self-esteem is a negative or low opinion of oneself.

A young adult with low self-esteem is someone who does not think very highly of themselves. Young adults with self-esteem tend to judge themselves harshly. They do not feel like they measure up to others and tend to struggle with chronic shame.

Typical manifestations of low self-esteem include self-depreciation statements like, "I'm no good" or "I'm a failure." Young adults with low self-esteem have can struggle with avoidance since they fear they are not good enough to connect and participate.

A young adult who struggles with self-esteem can the face other challenges such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks and other struggles. It is important to be able to identify the subtle signs that a young adult may be struggling.

Besides these common manifestations of low-self-esteem, young adults can also express their low self-esteem in surprising ways. These expressions of low self-esteem are not apparently obvious. They are subtle but powerful ways young adults behave when they are struggling with low self-esteem.

3 Examples of How Low Self-Esteem May Manifest in Young Adults

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The need that low self-esteem is trying to get met drives young adults to certain behaviors. Understanding the motivation and drive behind the behaviors will help to determine whether it's a compensatory behavior for low self-esteem.

The following are some of those behaviors:

1. Overachievement

Some young adults express their low self-esteem through overachievement. This may sound confusing since we usually assume that high achieving people feel good about themselves.

While not every example of overachievement is rooted in low self-esteem, some of it is. Overachievement can be a response to a deep sense of inferiority.

A young adult may work extra hours to "prove" to themselves they are worthy. The problem with relentless overachievement is that it leaves the person longing for more and does not address the core issue of low self-esteem.

2. Generosity

This is another confusing one. Generosity is a virtue and seen as something positive by most people. The danger is that it can come from a place of lack and inadequacy.

The young adult that does not like him/herself can give to others as a means of compensating for their low self-esteem. This pattern of giving to others out of a place of psychological lack only creates further disappointment and resentment.

In the end it leads to a person feeling worse about themselves.

3. Meanness

This is the classic example of the bully on the playground beating up on others because he doesn't feel good about himself. Meanness towards others is a way to manage the self-hatred and disappointment that a young adult feels toward themselves.

Biting sarcasm, strong criticism, and constant complaining are examples of this interpersonal meanness that stems from low self- esteem.

Therapy for Young Adults Can Help With Low-Self-Esteem

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All these manifestations of low self-esteem are disguises aimed at managing real psychological pain. They are misguided attempts to feel better and to deal with a deeper issue. Therapy can help young adults improve their low self-esteem.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps improve low self-esteem by helping young adults become aware of their negative thoughts. Instead of accepting self-depreciation statements, young adult therapists help their client challenge and reframe their irrational thinking.

CBT also encourages young adults to begin practicing new ways of thinking and behaving that reinforce a healthy self-esteem.

Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Providing Young Adult Counseling in Katy, Tx & Houston

At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have 70+ years in combined experience in providing counseling for young adults. Our young adult counselors can help young adults overcome anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, school anxiety, depression, ADHD/ADD and other emotional or behavioral struggles.

The transition into young adulthood can be stressful. Starting young adult counseling can help you to overcome the stressors, challenges, and obstacles that stand in your way of happiness and success.

If you are ready to start your healing journey with one of our young adult therapists, you can follow these three simple steps:

  1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling

  2. Meet with one of our experienced young adult counselors

  3. Take that first step in your young adult therapy journey

Other Counseling & Therapeutic Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling

At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide other counseling and therapeutic services such as Marriage counseling and couples therapy.

Often, when parenting a struggling teen, this can have a direct impact on the parent's relationship. Our marriage counselors and couples therapists can help.

We also provide other counseling and therapeutic services for teens, young adults, & families at our Katy, Tx location:

Board Certified Neurofeedback

Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)

Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)

Group Therapy for Teens

Body Image

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

About the Author

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Quique Autrey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Quique specializes in young adult counseling and helping young adults build upon their innate strengths while developing skills and tools to overcome depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, and more.

Quique views each individual through that lens and provides therapy for the family system which includes: teen therapy, young adult counseling, family counseling, marriage counseling & couples therapy.

Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

If you're ready to start your healing journey in teen therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at

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