Updated: Jun 7
Self-esteem is how you value and perceive yourself. Many of us struggle with low self esteem. Your self esteem is based on your opinions and beliefs about yourself, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change.
According to MIND* your self-esteem can affect whether you:
like and value yourself as a person
are able to make decisions and assert yourself
recognise your strengths and positives
feel able to try new or difficult things
show kindness towards yourself
move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
take the time you need for yourself
believe you matter and are good enough
believe you deserve happiness
Low self esteem can hold us back from achieving the things we want in life- including in study/at work, in romantic relationships and friendships. It can affect how we feel about ourselves and our worth and directly impact how we look, how we feel and how we interact with others.
With the above in mind its very important that we understand where our low self esteem is coming from and address it to improve our lives all round.
Possible reasons behind low self esteem
There are a lot of potential reasons behind low self esteem, below are just a few very common examples;
1) Mental health problems
2) Problems at work/while studying
3) Self criticism learned as a child
4) Relationship problems, separation or divorce
5) Ongoing stress
6) Sexual abuse
7) Physical health problems
9) Bullying/prejudice, discrimination or stigma
10) Negative comparisons
11) Losing your job or difficulty finding employment
12) Problems with money or housing
Tips to improve
Although there are plenty of reasons behind low self esteem the good thing is it can be vastly improved with a little bit of work.
Look after yourself/self care- in whatever way works for you, nap, watch a good film, go for a walk, have a bath, do some crafting, listed to music. Do the stuff you love often.
Be kind to your self- be gentle with yourself and talk to yourself and about yourself with kindness and respect. What we hear about us impact us and how we feel about ourselves. As a general rule if you wouldn't say it to your best friend about them then you should not be saying it about yourself, be that out loud or even in your own head.
Try affirmations- if you tell yourself something enough times you start to believe it. have a go at saying something positive such as "I am enough" in the mirror 3 times twice a day and see if it starts to help. You should start to feel the effects after about 2-3 weeks.
Support network- create a strong support network of friends and/or family around you, make sure they are the people who genuinely have you best interest at heart.
Remove those who aren't good enough for you from your life- you have a choice, chose to surround yourself with only people who are good for you and want what's best for you. This includes family.
Note down the good things/something you are proud of every day- writing these in a notepad can be very beneficial as you then have something lovely to refer back to on any challenging days.
Learn to be assertive- (not aggressive) including saying no sometimes, especially when its something you really don't want to do or you need a break.
Stop apologising unnecessarily- don't start a sentence with "I'm sorry" or apologise for standing up for your own rights and boundaries.
Set yourself challenges- be they some of the above, in work or life in general. Start small and work up from there. The small wins will give you encouragement to keep going and achieve all those goals.
Talk- to a trusted friend or a professional. Learning coping techniques and strategies can help in the short term but it important to also address the underlying reasons behind your low self esteem in order to banish it for good.
Author: Gill Jackson of Gill Jackson Therapeutic Counselling, BA Hons Counselling, Diploma in Couples and Family Therapy, Diploma in EFT, CIPD, SMACCPH
Bio: I am a Therapist/Psychotherapist and Accredited Mentor in private practice in the UK. Qualified since 2007. Working with adults, young adults and children. I specialise in Anxiety Disorders and Depression.
If you would like to book an introductory call or an appointment with Gill please get in touch via email.
This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, if you are suffering from any physical or mental ill health please seek advice of your Doctor where necessary.