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Grit and Low Self-Esteem

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From the U.S.: I was wondering if it were possible for people to have a strength called ‘grit’ while also having low self-esteem, and if that is considered rare, or what researchers would identify as an outlier in some studies. If it isn’t rare, then how is this possible?

I grew up with a battery of childhood traumatic experiences, and one of the resulting symptoms include low self-esteem. However, despite my lifelong internalizing adversities related to the traumas I had experienced, I’ve been able to somehow remain positive (at least intellectually, but not always emotionally), goal-oriented, empathetic toward others, a high achiever, etc. Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem have always been there, and it is a daunting, nearly everyday battle. I’ve had a lot of therapy to help me cope over the years, but even before treatment decades ago, I was always gritty. I won awards in college and was told by a few of my professors that I had this thing called ‘grit,’ or was very resilient or strong. I’ve been told by some friends (usually the ones who were safe and not ‘toxic’) that I have a positive and helpful way about me, and that my transparency for being honest and real is very influential.

Still, for as long as I can remember from childhood, I have been able to hold onto my dreams and believe deep inside that I have worth, despite my low self-esteem inside that says that I’m worthless, feelings of inferiority at times, feelings of shame at others, and a deep depression that is still grieving over all the pain from childhood abuse and mirroring/internalizing the abuses that happened to me.

I really believe that my grade school teachers helped me remain somewhat sane, despite my poor grades when I was a child and teen, and despite my having to move and change schools numerous times. I’ve experienced deep depression, and my internal grittiness has not always been externally shown, though cognitively I just knew all along that things would get better, even though inside and outside, for a while in my 20s and 30s, I was deeply depressed while experiencing a lot of flashbacks. I sought help for my depression, but I didn’t think to ever mention the grit that lied underneath, until now. I was wondering if there were others out there like me.

Grit and Low Self-Esteem

Answered by on -


It is absolutely possible to hold onto grit and still have low self esteem. Grit is a measure of someone’s perseverance. Self-esteem is a reflection of how much you like yourself.

You know that you have every reason to like yourself. You’ve demonstrated over and over again that you succeed where others in a similar position might give up. You also are a good friend to your friends. Sadly, you haven’t yet found a way to be a good friend to yourself in spite of years of therapy. Do give yourself credit for being gritty in therapy as well as in your daily life.

I think you are correct to thank your grade school teachers. Abused kids who survive and thrive often find adults who offer them an alternative view of themselves from what they are experiencing at home. I hope you will hold onto the fact that those teachers saw something in you beyond grit. They liked you!

I can’t answer your question about how many people out there are like you. However, you’ve come to the right place. PsychCentral has many online support groups. People in our community regularly connect with each other and share their stories and their support for one another. Click on the “Find Help” tab. Then go to “Forums.” I’m sure you’ll find a welcoming group who can provide you with good information and help.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Grit and Low Self-Esteem

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Grit and Low Self-Esteem. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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