At some point in our lives, we will experience some doubt about our ability, lack confidence or may think negatively about ourselves. Self-esteem refers to how you view, think and value yourself. If you have healthy self-esteem, you will generally have healthy beliefs about yourself. If you are experiencing low self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will often be negative.
Low self-esteem can impact you in several aspects of your life:
Yourself: You may experience a lot of negative talk about yourself, self-criticism, put yourself down, blame yourself when things go wrong, or find it difficult to accept compliments (e.g. “It was all luck”).
School/Work: You may avoid challenges for fear of not doing well or might work extremely hard to push yourself to make up for your lack of skill. You may struggle to believe any good result is due to your own abilities or positive qualities.
Relationships: You may be upset with any criticism from others, be extremely shy or self-consciousness with others. You may be less likely to be assertive which could make you more vulnerable to being bullied, criticised or abused by others. You may compare yourself to others in a negative manner.
Things that can help
Talk about it: Although it can be difficult to share, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what you are experiencing. Be mindful that some friends/family will try to be helpful and reassuring by saying something like “It was just a little mistake, it doesn’t matter”. If experiencing low self-esteem, you may feel worse after such a statement. Even though it isn’t their intention, it can feel invalidating and there’s something wrong with the way you’re feeling or thinking. It can be more beneficial to reach out to someone who will listen to you and acknowledge your feelings.
Reaching out to someone outside of your close circle can offer non-biased support and an outsider’s perspective. Counsellors and therapists can help explore the root of your low self-esteem and what factors trigger and maintain it. They can help you understand your thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to your low self-esteem. They can also help find ways to develop techniques that can reduce low self-esteem.
Affirmations: Affirmations can be done verbally (e.g. talking to yourself in a mirror) or written down (e.g. journaling). With affirmations, it’s important to choose statements that fit right for you and are useful for you. For example, by saying “I am super confident” when you don’t feel in any way confident, is unlikely to be helpful and effective. Instead, saying “I am a caring person” or “I am worthy” may be more useful.
Challenging negative self-evaluations: Pay attention to your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and notice how these affect you. Useful questions to ask yourself include; “Is this fact or opinion?”, “Is it useful for me to evaluate myself in this way”, “How else could I view this situation?”, “What would I say to a friend in this situation?”