What is self esteem and what causes low self esteem?
Self esteem is the overall opinion that we have of ourselves. It is how we judge ourselves and our worth as people. We each have beliefs about who we are and what kind of person we are. These beliefs are not facts. They are opinions that we have developed because of our upbringing and our experiences. Therefore, if we have had a lot of negative experiences or feedback from others we can develop negative opinions about ourselves. This can lead to low self esteem.
What are the consequences of low self esteem?
Constantly viewing ourselves in a negative way can have a devastating effect on our mood, relationships and prospects. It can prevent us from setting out to achieve what we want, stop us making and maintaining good relationships and prevent us from taking proper care of ourselves. We can get stuck in a vicious cycle where we behave in ways that support the unhelpful beliefs that we have about ourselves. This can leave us feeling down, guilty, anxious and frustrated. In the long term it can damage our sense of self.
Challenging Low Self Esteem
This involves identifying our unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and understanding how they affect what we do and how we feel. It is then possible to challenge these beliefs, i.e. to question ourselves about them. We can also question the way they make us behave.
Often people with low self esteem get into the habit of criticising themselves. These put downs are usually linked to criticisms that we have heard from other people while growing up. In order to feel better it is important to question this ‘internal critic’ and be kinder to ourselves. As with any habit it takes time to stop self criticism but over time it is possible to develop a kinder view of ourselves.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions provide a free self-help module Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.
Further resources are available on the right.