Self-esteem refers to an individual’s own sense of their overall worth or value. It is an important part of how we see ourselves and can impact many different areas of our lives, including our psychological and physical well-being.
Self-esteem is subjective and can be very difficult to change, even if external factors change or your own self-image does not match what other people think about you.
We all have days when we don’t feel confident and doubt ourselves, but low self-esteem can become an ongoing, long-term problem.
People with low self-esteem may doubt their own abilities and decision-making processes, which can lead to underperforming in certain areas or avoiding things that they fear will be challenging. This can cause problems at work, school, in relationships and in many other aspects of day-to-day life.
An excess of self-esteem is perhaps a less common problem but people whose self-esteem is too high may overestimate their abilities and feel entitled to certain things.
This can also cause problems in relationships or professional settings and can also hamper self-improvement if you do not recognise flaws and limitations.
A person with healthy self-esteem will generally be happy and comfortable with themselves. They will also have confidence in their abilities while maintaining realistic expectations.
What causes low self-esteem?
Low self-esteem is often imprinted during childhood, especially if people who are important to us send us negative messages about ourselves.
Personality also plays a part though and some people seem to be more receptive to absorbing negative messages about themselves, even if there are also positive ones.
Lots of internal and external factors can influence our self-esteem, including:
- – Age
- – Genetics
- – Established thought patterns
- – Physical abilities
- – Physical or mental ill-health
- – Being bullied or abused
- – Relationship or family problems
- – Splitting up or getting divorced
- – Problems at work or unemployment
- – Problems with money or housing
- – Stress
- – Life events such as bereavement or divorce
- – Body image
Some signs that you need to improve your self-esteem levels could include:
- – Difficulty speaking up or not wanting to ‘rock the boat’
- – Apologising for everyday actions, a feeling of guilt
- – Avoiding challenging tasks
- – Avoiding trying new things
- – Feeling that you don’t deserve ‘more’ or ‘better’
- – A consistently negative internal dialogue
How to improve your self esteem
You might be able to work on some of the external factors like your relationships and work situation but, ironically, any attempts to do so may be hampered by your low self-esteem.
What’s more, these internal processes may be so ingrained that low self-esteem can continue even as positives occur in your life.
Luckily though, there are a number of ways to boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Not all of them will be effective for everyone but some of these could help…
Be kind to yourself
This may be easier said than done but trying to be kind to yourself is key in improving your self-esteem. Avoid comparing yourself unfavourably to others and try to think positively about your strengths rather than dwelling on your weaknesses.
Accept that you do have flaws and areas where you are not as strong and try not to beat yourself up about it. A good tip is to treat yourself as you would a friend – people with self-esteem issues tend to be far more critical of themselves than they are with other people.
Try to be more assertive and learn to say ‘no’ to other people’s requests if you do not want to go along with them.
Improve your health
Can exercising help improve your self-esteem? It seems that it can, as exercise has been shown to improve both physical and mental health, reduce stress and provide a sense of accomplishment – all of which can be beneficial for self-esteem.
You don’t have to become an elite athlete to achieve that sense of accomplishment either. Simply beating last week’s number of steps could be enough.
Set achievable goals and find a method of exercise that you are comfortable with – which could be anything from walking to working out at the gym or participating in competitive sports and team games.
Changing your diet and generally adopting a healthier lifestyle can also help you look and feel better, which can again help your self-esteem.
It is best to avoid drugs and alcohol as these can affect your self-esteem – using them to feel better about yourself is only temporary and will be counter-productive in the long run.
Try meditation for self-esteem
There are a number of different meditating techniques that can be useful for improving your self-esteem. It is not always easy to change the ways we think but some people use meditation to get to know themselves better, as well as reducing stress and finding moments of calm.
Centring on the breath can allow you to anchor in the here and now, without judgement, which can help you to explore your own self-esteem issues.
Try different therapies to help with self-esteem
Finally, you can always seek professional help to deal with self-esteem issues. Psychological therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be able to help even people with severe and longstanding self-esteem issues.
Counselling can help you to explore the root causes behind your self-esteem issues and identify things that you might be able to do to change the way you feel about yourself.
CBT is a technique commonly used to help us change the way we think and is often used to help treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and addiction.
Low self-esteem may be based on an irrational belief system that has been ingrained over time and CBT can help break this negative and circular thinking. Other therapies such as art and music therapy can also help in the area of self-esteem.
Ultimately, there is no one thing that works for everyone and no ‘magic cure’ when it comes to issues with self-esteem. There are many things you can try though and improving your self-esteem can help you achieve a more positive outlook as you deal with life’s ups and downs.Back to all posts