Low self-esteem is characterized by a discrepancy between personal standards of coping and perceived reality. Usually people who have very high demands on themselves (or have internalized demands from their parents) fail to experience real success and overlap in reality. Often, this is due to misinterpretation of the information received from the environment, leaving a person with low self-esteem no real chance to reach the high standards he or she finds. Often, there are cases where real successes are ignored or the positive qualities of the individual are undermined, with a stronger focus on the weaknesses.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy offers a model for a rational analisis which breaks down the dysfunctional circle of the information perception. The work involves a number of behavioral experiments and relies on an objective demonstration by the client that they are capable of handling as much or better than others.