Self-esteem refers to the beliefs we hold about ourselves, how we describe ourselves and how we see ourselves in the future.  People with a healthy self-esteem, will generally speaking, hold themselves with positive regard. They can manage difficult situations effectively and assertively.  On the other hand, people with low self-esteem will have negative beliefs about themselves, focus on their weaknesses and have low confidence in their abilities. 

Our self-esteem develops throughout childhood into adulthood.  It is influenced by our upbringing, things we are told about ourselves and our achievements, stressful life events (e.g experiences at school), our personality and our relationships to others.

Do I have low self-esteem?

Common signs of low self-esteem include:

  • Saying negative things about yourself, or having frequent negative thoughts
  • Lack of faith in your abilities
  • Avoiding situations such as trying new hobbies, applying for a new job or promotion 
  • Assuming that bad things are always your fault
  • Feeling low or as though you have little to offer others

When is low self-esteem a problem?

Low self-esteem itself is not considered to be a mental health problem. However, our self-esteem is closely linked to our mental well-being.  Low self-esteem can have an impact on your ability to have the life you want and cause anxiety and depression. Sometimes people begin to use strategies to cope or to feel better that are unhelpful in the long run, such as drinking, drugs, avoiding situations or forming damaging relationships. These can lead to vicious circles that are difficult to break.

What will help improve my self-esteem?

There are lots of things that can help you to build your self-esteem and confidence. These include challenging the negative beliefs, building up positive experiences, learning to be assertive, gradually setting yourself goals and challenges.  These strategies may sound simple, but can be really quite challenging to do, especially on your own. For some people extra support can be hugely beneficial. 

There are lots of different therapy models that can help, for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT).  Which approach is right for you will depend upon your goals and what is causing the low self-esteem. These can be discussed during the assessment so that you can make an informed choice about the treatment that feels right for you.