Is low Self-Esteem dominating your life

Of course there are times when all of us experience a lack of confidence in ourselves but low self-esteem is so much more debilitating than this and left unchallenged it can become a long-term problem leading to a person feeling incapable, unworthy and not good enough.

Self-esteem is the opinion we hold about ourselves and is moulded over the years by our experiences and interactions with others such as parents, teachers, friends, work colleagues and the media. I won’t be the only therapist that encounters people suffering from low self-esteem as a direct result of the comparisons they make of themselves with others on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

When we experience good self-esteem, we tend to have a healthy opinion of ourselves and respect our own needs as much as other people’s we will feel just as important as them and value our needs just as much as theirs. We’re likely to have a positive outlook and will therefore be able to easily cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

The experience of low self-esteem is much less comfortable; it becomes much easier for us to listen to those critical, self-loathing, negative voices in our heads that make us feel less important than others and tell us we are not good enough. It might feel impossible to ask for or to accept help or know how to get our needs met, after all our low self-esteem is making us feel unworthy! Because it feels like others are better than us and more deserving we might have difficulty saying “No” and put our needs to the bottom of the pile. It’s not surprising that approaching the world with this mindset can feel lonely, intolerable and exhausting. Life’s little ups and downs are likely to feel overwhelming.

If we are more prone to negative self-talk it makes sense that we are likely to hold on to the negative messages. If we found it difficult to live up to other people’s expectations of us we may never have felt good enough and if we grew up experiencing abuse or neglect within the home, it is very likely that we won’t have internalised a nurturing compassionate voice.  Don’t be too disheartened if low self-esteem is dominating your life, our self-esteem isn’t cast in stone and we can make steps to improve it.

How can you improve your self-esteem?

  • First of all can you identify the negative thoughts you hold about yourself? Take some time to     collect this information and write down what your internal critic is telling you.

  • When did you start to hold these beliefs? Where do they stem from?

  • Are you able to challenge those thoughts by finding evidence to the contrary? 

  • Write down the good things that other people say about you and start recognising your strengths. Don’t discount the compliments, learn to accept them. 

  • Notice the people around you that bring you down. Start spending less time with them and seek out people that make you feel positive and who appreciate you.

  • Show yourself compassion, treat yourself with the same kindness you give to others. Start questioning who you really are. Find yourself and your core values and stick with them, you are a unique and wonderful human being with your own value and contributions to make to the world.

  • Learn to say “No” and believe that “No.” is a complete sentence. People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to others, even when they don’t want to, perhaps fearing rejection or because they feel less important. This can lead to you exhaustion, anger, resentfulness and depression.

  • Be assertive. Respect other people’s opinions and ideas and expect that same respect back.

  • Set yourself a challenge, make it Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely.  Don’t let your low self-esteem stop you trying out new things or giving things a go.

Above all else, remember you are not alone. Many people around you will be suffering from low self-esteem either too ashamed to admit it or without recognising the symptoms. If this article has resonated with you but you still feel powerless to make changes, perhaps counselling could help to get you started. You are worthy of that investment in time!

Michelle Brown MBACP is a counsellor with private practices in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and is an associate counsellor for Mind.

Want to read more articles by Michelle Brown therapy? How about: Swap to positivity, Tackling Anxiety or Grieving on Mothers day.

Visit Michelle’s website here