Self-esteem is how you view yourself and your place in the world. Having a healthy self-esteem can help us cope with whatever life throws at us. But if we don’t value ourselves highly enough, this can create issues of low self-esteem.
What is low self-esteem?
We all think about our own worth and qualities as a person – our self-esteem. Ideally, we’d all have good self-esteem, think mostly positive thoughts about ourselves, and feel able to bounce back from any knocks or setbacks.
But, in reality, many of us struggle with low self-esteem, meaning we feel negative about our personal qualities and prospects, and don’t recognise what we’re really capable of.
The good news is that there’s plenty of help out there to break that way of thinking – and you’ve already taken the first step.
What causes low self-esteem?
As we grow up, we form an image of ourselves – of who we are and what we do. There are all sorts of factors that can have an impact on this, but some often seem to trigger feelings of low self-esteem.
- Traumatic life events and difficult experiences: these might be from your past (like a bad relationship with your family) or related to what’s happening right now (breaking up with a partner or doing badly at school).
Unhealthy social relationships: peer pressure and the expectations of our friends and social media can sometimes leave us feeling like we don’t measure up.
Loneliness: if you feel like an outsider or ‘the odd one out’, it can sometimes leave you with feelings of low self-worth, or wondering why you don’t fit in.
Bullying, abuse or discrimination: whether it’s physical or psychological, abuse can make us start to feel guilty, like we deserve to be treated this way.
How do I know if I’m suffering from low self-esteem?
Some people learn to hide their low self-esteem, so they can appear outwardly very confident. But it’s important to be honest about how you really feel, so you can start making changes and feeling better about yourself inside and out.
Here are some signs that you could be suffering from low self-esteem:
- You tend to concentrate on your weaknesses, instead of your strengths
- You focus on the times you made mistakes, instead of when you did well
- You expect bad things to happen to you – and blame yourself if they do
- You measure yourself against others – and feel you’re not good enough
- You feel reluctant to leave your comfort zone, try new things or meet people
- You withdraw socially, and actively seek out damaging relationships
- You increase your usage of alcohol and drugs.
How can I help myself?
It may not feel like it right now, but you can conquer your low self-esteem and start loving yourself a little more. The key is to step back from the situations and relationships that cause negative thoughts, and embrace new ones that make you feel positive. You might want to try some of the following:
Take up a new hobby: this should be something that you’ve always wanted to try, or that you think you might be good at.
Stay fit and healthy, stick to a good diet and get the right amount of sleep.
Set yourself small daily challenges: it’s a great way to remind yourself that you’re a capable person and can achieve things.
Surround yourself with positive people: identify the friends who make you feel bad about yourself, and either stand up for yourself or walk away.
Write down the negative things you feel about yourself (e.g. “I’m stupid”) – then write down a piece of evidence to counter it (“I did well in that test”).
Get involved with a local project or volunteer: helping others will make you feel like you have a purpose and can make a difference.
Focus on the positives: write down all the positive things you can think of about yourself, as well as things you’ve achieved and successes you’ve had.
Find a job: this might not be possible if you’re at school, but working one morning at the weekend will give you a sense of belonging – and money!
How can I get support?
If you feel you need help for your low self-esteem, it’s good to talk to someone you trust – sharing how you feel with a parent, friend or teacher can make a big difference.
For professional help, there are lots of treatments and support networks available. If you make an appointment with your doctor, they’ll run through the options and help find what suits you.
If you live in Gloucestershire and are aged 9-21, you can get support from our TIC+ counsellors. TIC+ works hard at raising funds so they can arrange for a counsellor to see you for free, all you need to do is call us on 01594 372777 or text us on 07520 634063 to arrange an appointment. We know it can be hard to take that first step but, like the other young people we’ve helped, you’ll be so glad you did.
If you need to speak to someone urgently, call Childline on 0800 1111, NHS 111 (on 111) or the Samaritans on 116 123. There’s always someone there to help, and any conversations you have with them are confidential.
For more advice check out our SUPPORT RESOURCES page!
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