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Let's talk about Self Esteem

Updated: Feb 6

There is no doubt that many of us struggle with our self esteem and sense of self worth.

Let's start by looking at what self esteem actually is.

Self esteem has been defined as the way we value and perceive ourselves (Mind, 2022). In other words it's how you see yourself and also includes a sense of competence, self confidence, belonging and security (Cherry, 2023).

Having healthy self esteem is important because it affects how we make decisions, how we look after ourselves and how we maintain healthy relationships. If your self esteem is healthy you are more likely to know what your skills are and you will have realistic expectations of yourself (Cherry, 2023).

Sounds pretty good, right?

Sadly, experiencing low self esteem is very common, so if you feel unlovable or unworthy, please remember you are not alone!

Low self esteem comes in many forms and guises but you might struggle to make decisions, have a tendency to people please, doubt yourself and struggle with your confidence.

You might also find it difficult to express and communicate your needs which can have a negative impact on your relationships.

Whilst experiencing low self esteem is not a mental health problem as such, it can make you feel anxious and depressed which in turn can end up becoming more serious further down the line.

You might have a sense of being unhappy or you might feel life is mainly negative (Cherry, 2023). You might also feel out of control which can increase any feelings of anxiety.

You might be wondering why you're feeling this way or why your self esteem is pretty low. Low self esteem is predominately caused by any negative experiences or by trauma (Mind, 2022).

For example if your parents were very critical of you in childhood or you experienced bullying, you are more likely to develop low self esteem (Cherry, 2023). This is because as human beings we want to be loved and accepted. Experiencing a lot of rejection or emotional neglect can cause you to feel unworthy or unlovable.

I experienced bullying at school which has left me with a fear of confrontation, self doubt and a tendency to people please. This is just one example of how negative experiences can impact on your self esteem or sense of self worth.

You might have experienced a traumatic event or something that made you question your abilities or competence, for example losing your job, experiencing discrimination or racism or a bad relationship break up (Mind, 2022).

When something painful happens to us, it can be very difficult not to take it personally or feel that we are in some way inadequate.

It might also be the case that you might have received consistent messages from the people around you that who you are is not okay. Our self esteem is inextricably entangled with other people, often our loved ones and friends, so if they tell you that some aspect of your personality is not okay, you might develop a low sense of self esteem and self worth.

When we experience low self esteem it means that we have a distorted view of ourselves. We might focus on the negative things or the things that we don't like about ourselves.

We might feel like we always have to go the extra mile or be constantly available to prove our worth. We might struggle with maintaining healthy boundaries and struggle to express our needs. All of these things can lead us to feel burnt out, depressed and anxious.

I want you to remember that you are already worthy and good enough, just the way you are, as a human being. You do not have to do anything extra or prove your worth in any way because you already are a worthwhile human being.

Luckily there are also things you can do to help you build your self esteem so that it doesn't hold you back from living the life you envision for yourself.

Here are some ideas. As always, not everyting works for everyone and it might be a case of trial and error and finding the things that work for you.

Being kind to yourself and self compassion- when you are struggling with low self esteem, chances are that you have a tendency to be self critical. Improving your self talk is one way to build your self esteem (Cherry, 2023).

Being kind to yourself means that instead of beating yourself up, you treat yourself with compassion and respect. I know this might sound impossible or difficult. Imagine it was your friend or a loved one feeling the way you do. What would you say to them? Would you be supportive, kind, encouraging?

You deserve the same kindness and compassion that you show to others.

Getting to know yourself (Mind,2022)- spend some time with yourself and figure out who you are as a person. This might mean disentangling what others might have told you about yourself. You can do this by reflecting or journalling or you might wish to use meditation or mindfulness.

Ask yourself, do I agree with this or not? Is this really who I am? Is this really what I want?

The point is to connect with yourself in a kind and compassionate way.

Boundaries- developing and maintaining healthy boundaries is very important, not just for healthy relationships but also for your emotional and overall wellbeing. This might include saying no to things. If you have a tendency to people please or to put others' needs before your own, this can feel like a big challenge but don't worry.

Start small and practice. You might wish to write down what to say or you might want to practice in front of a mirror. Saying no doesn't make you a bad person.

The other benefit of saying no is that it will give you a sense of control.

You might need to reflect on what your boundaries actually are. Ask yourself what is acceptable to you and what isn't? What are you happy with and what is not okay?

Comparing yourself to others- now this is a very common thing we all do. But it is really unhelpful because more often than not we never compare ourselves in a way that makes us feel good.

Try to avoid comparing yourselves to others, for one thing you have no idea what is going on for them. What they present to the world might not be what they are actually like or what they might be feeling. Try to limit your time on social media as this can be a prime source of comparing ourselves (Mind, 2022).

Focus on your own journey.

Doing nice things for yourself (Mind, 2022)- this could be part of your self care. Doing something that you enjoy or that makes you happy can have a really positive impact on your self esteem and emotional wellbeing.

Doing things that you find nurturing or soothing can help you to manage your anxiety.

Celebrate your wins- recognising when you are doing things well is really important. Often when we experience low self esteem, we don't see the things that we are doing well or that are positive. We only focus on the negative. This is called negative bias. For more information on celebrating your wins, you might want to read my previous blog article “It's Time to Celebrate”.

Remember it doesn't matter how small your successes or wins are, they are still wins.

Journaling- journaling can have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing. It provides you with a space to express your feelings and whatever is going on for you.

You might wish to start a gratitude journal (Mind, 2022) which can help you to shift your perspective and focus to the things that are important to you. You might wish to journal about your goals or the things you would like to try and what you might need to achieve them.

Having a good support network (Mind, 2022)- having people around you who are positive, supportive and encouraging can be very helpful.

If you are struggling with your self esteem and you feel you need extra support, you might wish to consider therapy. Therapy can provide a safe and non judgmental space in which you can explore and express your feelings. It can help you to build your self esteem and to find out what matters to you so that you can improve your confidence. Therapy can help you to process and come to terms with any negative experiences you might have had so that you can move forwards with your life. There is no shame in asking for help or in accessing therapy.

I hope you find the above information helpful and that it has given you food for thought with regards to how you might improve your self esteem.

You are important and worthwhile and your needs and feelings matter.

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Cherry, Kendra (2023). What is Self Esteem? Your Sense of your Personal Worth or Value, Very Well Mind, accessed on 23.01.2024

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