The Relationship Between Low Self-Esteem and Self-Sabotage

Low self-esteem and self-sabotage form a dangerous combination. The mix of insecurity and obsessive and persistent thoughts negatively affect your sense of self-worth and potential. It's living a life controlled by fear.
The Relationship Between Low Self-Esteem and Self-Sabotage
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Low self-esteem and self-sabotage are a bad combination that can negatively affect human potential, self-worth, and personal integrity. When this occurs, you lack self-confidence, feel insecure, and a little voice in your head tells you that you’re going to fail, that there’s no point in dreaming or feeling hopeful.

If you could hear the little voices of even half the people you encounter on a daily basis, you’d discover something as revealing as it is scary. Many people have self-deprecating thought patterns and constantly criticize themselves. Most of us are our own worst enemies.

Self-sabotage is common. It’s all too easy to engage in it, and many situations have the potential to trigger it. It becomes a real problem when you let it control your life and that little voice becomes the dominant one. No one should mistreat themselves. However, it happens when you neglect your self-esteem and well-being.

“A man can’t be comfortable without his own approval.”

-Mark Twain-

A tree with two faces.

Low self-esteem and self-sabotage

We know that low self-esteem and self-sabotage go hand in hand. But which comes first? An underappreciation of who you are or that negative inner dialogue that eats away at your self-esteem? The truth is that you can’t really separate the two, as they’re both responding to a mindset that’s focused on failure, insecurity, and lack of self-esteem.

It’s really easy to tell someone you love that they need to love themselves more and try to boost their self-esteem. However, that advice will fall on deaf ears if they don’t know how to be kind to themselves. Maybe they’ve suffered from low self-esteem since childhood. If that’s the case, those negative thought patterns and self-talk are very difficult to change. Self-sabotage becomes a chronic pattern.

In a study conducted by Jennifer Campbell at the University of British Columbia, researchers gained some interesting insights about self-esteem. They found that self-esteem clarifies your self-concept. Consequently, encouraging healthy self-esteem from an early age helps children grow up with a resilient personality and better tools to help them deal with challenges.

On the contrary, if your childhood is filled with fear, insecurity, and anxiety about meeting other people’s expectations, it won’t be easy to change your mindset. That kind of chronic problem requires deeper work.

A sad girl by a tree.

Free yourself from the Trojan horse of your thoughts

It’s important to know if self-esteem and self-sabotage are a constant in your life. You can think of them as “Trojan Horses” or “viruses” that are infecting your mindset. They have clear purposes: to interfere with your projects, destroy your dreams, and turn you into someone you don’t particularly like.

  • Don’t blame your upbringing or what other people have said or made you believe about yourself. Your self-esteem is a product of how you talk to yourself and how you interpret your experiences and the world around you.
  • Getting rid of those Trojan horses will heal your inner dialogue. Never say or think “I can’t” or “I’m useless, everyone’s going to think I’m a failure”. Don’t discredit your own humanity. You were born for a reason, so try to clarify your goals and your purpose. What gives your life meaning?

Doing nothing is also self-sabotage

When we talk about self-sabotage, you probably picture someone thinking negative things about themselves. Although that’s true, self-sabotage has many other faces. Two of them, perhaps the most relevant, are procrastination and not reacting to things that hurt, worry, or scare you. Giving up on your projects and letting your fear of failure paralyze you can also damage your self-esteem.

If you truly wish to have a positive self-image, use your strengths wisely. Be proactive, finish what you started, make commitments, and find ways to enjoy the journey.

Low self-esteem and self-sabotage affecting a man.


If you want to fight against your low self-esteem and self-sabotaging tendencies, you need to have a strong sense of self-responsibility. After all, some situations will put you to the test in your life. You have to know how to react, adapt, and respond to them. Your obligation is to do it in the best way you possibly can.

Consequently, if you want to have good self-esteem, loving yourself isn’t enough. You need to accept your rough edges as well and own all your mistakes, traumas, disappointments, and contradictions. You’re the whole package. Also, it’s key for you to learn to be compassionate enough with yourself to allow yourself to make mistakes but demanding enough that you’re motivated to grow and evolve every day.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.