It’s normal to go through periods when you don’t feel great about yourself, but if you have chronically low confidence levels it can become a problem. Life can start to feel unenjoyable and in turn, your mental health can plummet.
What is self-esteem?
What do you think of yourself? If you feel like you’re fundamentally lovable and deserving of respect, you probably have a good level of self-esteem. But self-esteem is a spectrum and at the other end you may experience feelings of worthlessness, low confidence and even self-hatred.
When you have positive self-esteem not only do you feel better about yourself, but you’ll feel more optimistic about life and become more resilient to its trials and tribulations. Whereas those with poor self-esteem may struggle with constant self-criticism which can sap the joy out of life and make it harder to cope with.
What causes self-esteem issues?
Various factors contribute to where a person falls on the spectrum of self-esteem. Your experiences growing up, including what attachment style you received, can have a major influence on how you feel about yourself and low self-esteem issues often start in childhood. Negative messages that you’re not good enough unfortunately stay with you, whether you heard them from your parents, siblings, extended relatives, teachers or even strangers or the media. These formative experiences shape how we feel about ourselves on a fundamental level and, left unchallenged, we are destined to live with the ramifications indefinitely.
Going through difficult or life altering events can also have a negative impact on self-esteem. Any event has the capacity to knock a person’s self-esteem, but some common ones include relationship breakdowns, unemployment, and serious illness.
The impact of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem can manifest in a number of ways and one of the most common is avoidance. You may isolate yourself socially, avoid new experiences and refuse to engage in anything you find difficult. While this can help you to feel secure, it is not a good long-term strategy as it strengthens your belief that you’re not capable and teaches you the only way to manage is to stay small.
People with low self-esteem usually experience self-criticism and regularly have thoughts like “I can’t do anything right”, “nobody likes me” and “I don’t deserve happiness”. Understandably, that takes a toll and can result in feeling sad, ashamed and even angry. It makes life unenjoyable and can lead to other mental health problems like depression and anxiety, along with unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking or drinking too much.
What are the signs of low self-esteem?
There is no set criteria that can diagnose low self-esteem, but if you experience any of the below you may benefit from getting some extra support:
- Imposter syndrome
- People-pleasing behaviour
- Inability to set boundaries
- Negative self-talk
- Social comparisons
- Self-pity, helplessness or martyrdom
- Unable to ask for your needs to be met
- Doubt over your decisions
- Requesting validation
- Refusal to accept compliments
- Disproportionate distress over any perceived criticism
- Worried about failing or looking silly
- Pessimistic about the future
How can therapy boost self-esteem?
The positive news is your self-esteem isn’t set in stone. You can break the cycle of negative self-talk and change the way you see yourself for the better. Therapy helps as it provides a safe, non-judgemental space for you to explore how you see yourself and what might have led to that.
For example, somebody who engages in people pleasing behaviour and has trouble setting boundaries may have grown up in a household where the only time they felt loved was when they went above and beyond to meet the needs of others. You’ll then explore how this mindset informs your behaviour. In the case of the people pleaser, they may overextend themselves to accommodate others and be left with no time for basic self-care and on the verge of burnout.
Together with your therapist, you’ll find the right approach to change your thoughts and, in turn, your behaviour. Even small adjustments can have a big impact on your self-esteem.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy could help you improve your self-esteem, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.