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Self-Esteem Counseling in Portland, Oregon

If you could choose just one characteristic to help you face life’s challenges, positive self-esteem would be a really good choice. It would help you in all areas of life, such as with school, romantic relationships, developing friendships, job interviews, career challenges, and feeling secure about trying new things in life.

Self-esteem is a measure of how much you value yourself. Qualities that naturally manifest from healthy self-esteem include self-confidence, self-worth, and self-respect. Put simply, when your self-esteem is solid you feel good about yourself. You also feel entitled to enjoy your life. When self-esteem is strong, it’s easier to accept flaws in yourself and others – this leads to greater acceptance and compassion for yourself and others.

Low self-esteem, on the other hand, can be very painful and a significant disadvantage in all areas of life. Ironically, arrogance, egotism, and narcissism do not come from having too much self-esteem, but rather too little. Without feeling a healthy sense of value from within, low self-esteem can lead to seeking and/or reliance on other’s approval and admiration to feel worthy. Common signs of low self-esteem include:

  • Anxiety, especially in new situations
  • Fear of failing, making mistakes, or rejection
  • Discomfort in social situations
  • Depression
  • Self criticism and/or negative thinking
  • Insecurity (often masked by grandiosity)
  • Relationships with abusive, disrespectful people
  • Difficulty setting boundaries (e.g., saying “no”)
  • Passivity/lack of assertiveness
  • Perfectionist, pleasing, or workaholic tendencies
  • Continually trying to prove your worth to others
  • Overachievement or underachievement

To make sense of low self-esteem, it can help to understand the role of shame and negative beliefs.


Shame is an emotion that is often underlying low self-esteem. Shame can be described as an inner sense of inferiority or defectiveness. In exploring shame, it’s useful to compare it to guilt. Guilt is a focus on your behavior – “I did something bad.” Shame is a focus on your sense of self - “I am bad.” Shame leads to feeling unworthy of love, belonging, or acceptance. Shaming in childhood - by parents, teachers, peers, or other important people – is a common source of low self-esteem.

Negative beliefs typically go hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. Whether conscious or unconscious, negative beliefs wield a significant influence over how you see yourself in the world. Negative beliefs function a lot like a lens that you view life through. Life looks a lot different when you’re looking through an “I’m not good enough” lens versus an “I am good enough” lens. Common negative beliefs that are connected to shame and low self-esteem include: “I’m inadequate,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m a failure,” and “I’m bad.”

Traumatic childhood experiences can have a significant impact on your sense of self.


Trauma refers to difficult experiences that have a lasting negative impact. Trauma can be the result of a severe event – like an abusive experience - or a common occurrence – such as ongoing criticism by a parent. Examples of traumatic experiences that can lead to childhood shaming and low self-esteem include:

  • Abuse – verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse can be extremely damaging and lead to a sense of worthlessness, defectiveness, and a lack of safety.
  • Abandonment or Neglect – it’s difficult to feel good about yourself when the most important people in your life – your parents – are uninvolved or uninterested in who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing in your life. In some cases, such as due to illness or depression, a parent may be unavailable. Either way, feeling dismissed, abandoned, or neglected are strong sources of shame.
  • Criticism – being repetitively told that you’re not good enough by parents, teachers, coaches, and/or other authority figures can be a serious barrier to feeling secure and confident and can result in a pattern of inner criticism.
  • Teasing or bullying – being subjected to teasing or bullying can leave you feeling unsafe and worthless, especially if no one stood up for you or helped you to deal with this problem.
  • Lack of support around a childhood challenge (e.g., a learning disability, peer teasing, or bullying) – it’s expected that you would face challenges when growing up. The key is whether anyone was there to support you through those challenges. If you we’re supported, you had an opportunity to grow; if you were unsupported, you may have felt defective, worthless, and lonely.
  • Childhood needs not being sufficiently met – attachment needs, such as love, nurture, affection, support, safety, and guidance are the building blocks of healthy self-esteem. Low self-esteem can be a result of not getting these needs met sufficiently.

Counseling for Low Self-Esteem can help!


Positive self-esteem is such an important and valuable quality. If you’ve experienced childhood trauma and unmet attachment needs, your self-esteem may not be as strong as you’d like. Low self-esteem can block you from pursuing important life goals (e.g., traveling, starting a business, going back to school, getting in shape, increasing emotional intimacy) and applying healthy life skills (e.g., assertiveness, initiative, determination, discipline). Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that counseling for low self-esteem can help:

  1. With counseling approaches such as EMDR and Brainspotting, the traumatic experiences that initially weakened your self-esteem can be addressed.
  2. With Brainspotting, the Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS), and Imaginal Nurturing, attachment and developmental needs can be strengthened.
  3. Another important way that self-esteem can be addressed is through Resource Development Installation (RDI), which is a specific EMDR intervention used to strengthen positive qualities and experiences such as feeling self-assured, empowered, and fulfilled.
  4. A crucial step to improving self-esteem is learning to be aware of and challenging your self-critical thoughts (e.g., I’m inadequate, I’m a failure). The next step is learning to replace these negative thoughts with adaptive, rational, self-supportive thoughts (e.g., I’m capable, I can succeed).
  5. By developing new skills you can start to build confidence, learn to self-care, strengthen relationships, and cultivate empathy, acceptance, and compassion for yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about counseling for self-esteem or how we could work together to address your self-esteem and confidence, feel free to contact me to set up a free phone consultation.

For more information about self-esteem, please click the link below:

Wikipedia: Self-esteem

For Counseling in Portland, feel free to call me today at (503) 887-3309, email me, or use my Contact Form to book a counseling session or to set up a FREE consultation.

Office located in NW Portland, Oregon. Serving the Portland metro area, including Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Tigard, West Linn, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Tualatin, Gresham, and Vancouver, WA.

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