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What is Self-Esteem and Improving Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is how much we like or accept or approve of ourselves. This takes place through an ongoing unconscious self-evaluation.



What is self-esteem or self-worth?

We tend to go through life evaluating ourselves and others according to a scale of worth.  The concept of self esteem is the amount of value that we consider we are worth.  These values vary from person to person.  Whilst we might rate ourselves as being of little value, others might rate us much higher.  If we get into the habit of thinking negatively about ourselves or comparing ourselves against others, then low self esteem, or placing little value on ourselves, is the result.

High self-esteem means you have a positive view of yourself. It includes -

  • Confidence

  • Self acceptance

  • Not worrying about what others think

  • Optimism


Low self-esteem means you have a negative view of yourself. It includes - 

  • Lack of confidence

  • Want to be / look like someone else

  • Always worrying what others may think

  • Pessimism


How does self-esteem affect us?

Low self-esteem can affect us as -


Emotions, such as depressed, hurt, angry, frustrated, anxious, ashamed, guilty, stressed.


Thoughts - Negative, self-critical ('I'm so stupid, I'm worthless, It's my fault, I'm a failure, I'm not good enough, I'm incompetent') and unhelpful thinking habits including mind reading, self blame, internal critic, compare and despair, shoulds and musts, black and white thinking.


Behaviours. Trying to please others; getting defensive when we believe we're being criticised; under-achieve or work harder to compensate and cover up our incompetence; shy and passive around others; avoid situations and people; neglect or abuse ourselves.

Self-esteem can be seen by considering our behaviour, in that we act out how we feel about ourselves. In essence, what we do is a reflection of how we evaluate ourselves.

Low self esteem can be a result of negative life experiences, particularly when we're young and most vulnerable.  These experiences may include being criticised or judged negatively, such as from a parent or school bullies.  As adults, abusive relationships and very stressful life events can also cause low self esteem.

Low self esteem can stay low, because of our own self-critical thoughts, which can be triggered by criticism, or perceived criticism (even if none is intended, we believe we are being criticised). 

People with low self-esteem often find themselves constantly seeking positive regard from others to make themselves feel happy. However, chasing positive regard will leave you vulnerable to being surrounded by the critical and judgemental forces of others. A reliance on others is debilitating. Trying to please everyone will leave you with negative feelings and thoughts arising from your inconsistent and false behaviour.


How can I improve my self-esteem?

Communicate with others assertively

Stand straight and push your shoulders back

Be confident

Set achievable and realistic goals

Accept compliments

Say thank you and smile

Act the person you want to be

Look after yourself and do more things you enjoy doing

Take up a new hobby or learning

Overcome avoidance

Reward yourself for achievements

Thank others and show your appreciation

Problem solve

Do things for others and let them notice so their opinion of you will be raised and this raises your own self-esteem.


Notice your positives -

Carry a notepad around, and write down whenever you notice something good or helpful that you've said, or done, or what others have said about you

At the end of each day, ask yourself:  What have I done or tried today that I've never done or tried before?  What have I done to help other people today?  Who has helped me?  What have I enjoyed doing today?


How can therapy help?

If you struggle with low self-esteem, counselling will help you make the changes which you find difficult to make on your own and counselling can support you to move from low to high self-esteem. Following counselling for low self-esteem, you should -

  • Understand yourself better

  • Sense and be able to use your positive and negative emotions healthily

  • Grow your inner resources and learn to rely upon them 

  • Return to a natural, happy and fully functioning self.

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