February 8, 2024

Self esteem and how we can help

What is self esteem?

Self-esteem concerns the beliefs and opinions we hold about ourselves. It relates to the value and worth with place on ourselves, sometimes in comparison to others. Those with higher self-esteem are likely to feel more self-assured and worry less about any negative judgement from others.

Low self-esteem usually develops in childhood within the context of our early experiences and the beliefs about the self, others and the world we form at this time. It is possible to experience low self-esteem as an adult and this is often in the context of a significant stressor or trauma which can change how we see ourselves, our ability to cope, and our self-confidence. Self-esteem is generally attributed to the experiences of negative or the absence of positive feedback from our experiences and those around us.

Having low self-esteem can affect:

  • How well you like and value yourself as a person
  • Your ability to make decisions
  • Your ability to assert yourself
  • How well you assess your strengths and weaknesses
  • Your ability to try new things
  • The level of blame and guilt you put on yourself for things in and outside of your control
  • How kind you are to yourself.

Long term difficulties or experiences with these can also have a lasting effect on our mental health.

Throughout life, it is natural to feel more or less confident in different aspects of yourself or your abilities. However, if feelings of low self-confidence is something which affects your life on a daily basis, it can lead to, or be a sign of something more significant. Often people with low self-esteem experience negative thoughts and anxiety when it comes to taking on new tasks and challenges. They often work incredibly hard to do well but a good performance is often never good enough in their eyes. This can lead to feelings of perceived failure and low mood. In this way low self-esteem can be associated with anxiety and low mood. To read more about anxiety or depression please see our anxiety and depression pages.

Actions that can help

  1. Seek out relationships with those who are positive and who appreciate you. It is important for us all to have social groups that are supportive, caring, and provide us with positive feedback.
  2. It can be beneficial to identify some of the negative beliefs that may impact your self-worth. Try to see if these beliefs are ‘fact’ or just your opinion, using evidence from your day-to-day life and interactions. This will help you to reframe these beliefs to be more accurate, and in turn this can help foster self-esteem.
  3. Take note of positive things that others say about you and things that happen during the day. Try and write these down and at the end of the day look over them and try and remember exactly what happened.
  4. Try to maintain a healthy routine and look after yourself. Making good choices when it comes to diet, exercise and sleep can make a world of difference to how you experience the world and your wellbeing
  5. Learn to be assertive. Practice saying ‘no’ and learn to set your boundaries where you feel appropriate. Taking too much on because you’re uncomfortable saying ‘no’ will make you feel worse in the long run.

How to get help

If you are struggling with low self-esteem it is important to speak to someone, preferably sooner rather than later as it is treatable. You could start by opening up to a friend or family member. Having this additional support may be all you need to get back on track. If you think you need more support, you can speak to your GP or another healthcare professional. In some instances, talking to a therapist or counsellor will be beneficial to improve self-esteem. There are also self-help resources available to purchase online.

Self-esteem - Five facts

  1. Our self-esteem can be affected by those around us and/or our environment.
  2. Higher levels of self-esteem can be helpful in achieving the goals we set for ourselves.
  3. Low self-esteem often develops in childhood but there are instances where self-esteem is affected during adulthood, for example in the context of a trauma which decreases confidence and self-worth.
  4. Low self-esteem can be triggered by both negative feedback and the absence of praise.
  5. Some people can hide their low self-esteem as a method of coping, so it is not always immediately obvious to the observer.

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