low self-esteem

Self-esteem refers to the beliefs we have about ourselves and our perceptions of our self-worth.  Good (healthy) self-esteem is important for mental health and wellbeing; it is one of the mechanisms that helps us to cope with hard times and difficult experiences, and be able to bounce back from these and develop resilience.

What causes low self-esteem?

A combination of factors can result in people developing low self-esteem; for example, being criticised a lot during childhood or adolescence, struggling at school without adequate support, or experiencing difficult life experiences such as neglect, bullying or traumatic events.  When low self-esteem persists over time, it can impact greatly on mental health, and increase the risk of becoming depressed and anxious.

How would I know if I have low self-esteem?

Common traits suggestive of low self-esteem, include negative and self-critical thoughts and beliefs (e.g. about skills, capabilities and roles in relationships), self-blaming thoughts, difficulties making needs and preferences known (being assertive), comparing oneself to others and feeling that one falls short, and feeling anxious and worried about past and future events.  People with low self-esteem tend to avoid putting themselves forward, such as in relationships or at work.  They might also set high standards for themselves (higher than they might apply to others), work a lot more than colleagues in comparable positions, and seem more socially passive.

What can help?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Schema Therapy can be very beneficial for helping people to understand more about why they might have low self-esteem, and feel more confident and able to address the beliefs and behaviours that seem to maintain this (such as self-critical thoughts, a more passive social style and avoidance of situations).