Understanding low self-esteem

Self-esteem is inextricably linked to our mental health and wellbeing. Here, we provide tips on how you can improve your self-esteem.

Call Us
Tap on a number to call

Low self-esteem can have a negative impact on lots of different areas of your life. It can affect the way you behave on a day-to-day basis, your relationships with others, your performance at work or school, and your overall wellbeing.

While low self-esteem isn’t a mental health condition in itself, self-esteem and mental health are very closely linked. Low self-esteem can cause many of the same symptoms as mental health problems, including:

  • Feeling hopeless and worthless
  • Worrying excessively about the future
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide

At the same time, having a mental health problem may also lead to you having low self-esteem as it can cause you to lose confidence in yourself and your ability to overcome your difficulties.

Psychology Today estimates that around 85% of people worldwide struggle with low self-esteem. So what can we do to increase our feelings of self-worth? Here, we explore what self-esteem is, why it’s important, and the things you can do to boost your feelings of self-worth.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem can be defined as how we view, perceive and value ourselves. It might also be referred to as self-worth or self-confidence.

Self-esteem can influence almost every aspect of our lives and everything we do. It can be linked to:

  • How much you ‘like’ yourself
  • How worthwhile you feel
  • How assertive you are and how well you make decisions
  • Your ability and motivation to try new things
  • Whether you think you deserve to be happy
  • How much you blame yourself for things that are within and outside of your control
  • How much you prioritise your wellbeing and look after yourself
  • Your ability to move past difficult experiences

Ultimately, self-esteem is based on the fundamental opinions and beliefs that we hold about ourselves. Because these tend to be so ingrained, it might feel impossible to change them. However, there are a number of things you can do that can help build self-esteem and give your confidence a boost.

Why is self-esteem important?

Chronic low self-esteem can be debilitating and can stop us from being happy and achieving our full potential. If you struggle with low self-esteem, it’s really important to practise some of the tips below, as they can make you feel a bit better about yourself.

If you’re still struggling, you can also reach out for professional support to help you to achieve a more positive outlook and sense of self-worth. Contact Priory today to find out how we can help you with your self-esteem.

Tips on how to build self-esteem

If you struggle with low self-esteem, there are a number of small steps you can take that might help you improve your overall opinion of yourself.

Challenge the negative thoughts you hold about yourself

If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, try to challenge your unhealthy beliefs. For example, if you’re telling yourself you can’t do something, challenge this by asking “how do I know if I don’t try?” Another good way to stop negative self-talk is to ask yourself “would I talk to a friend this way?” If the answer is “no”, this is a sign that you need to be kinder to yourself.

Surround yourself with positivity and things that make you feel good

Anything that makes you feel good will help to bring more positivity into your life in general. These might be people, places, pets or certain activities or hobbies – incorporate as much of what makes you happy as possible within your daily life and it’s likely this will make you feel happier and more content in yourself.

Build mastery

Building mastery essentially means throwing yourself into something new and working hard at it to build your self-worth. By doing things you enjoy, or trying something new, whether it’s cooking, reading, playing a musical instrument or DIY, you’re constantly learning and building on your skills.

When you practise these skills and give yourself credit for what you've achieved, this can help you to feel more confident and competent, and boost your self-worth. Building mastery is a tool that’s used as part of the therapeutic technique, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), to help people boost their emotional regulation and self-esteem.

Write down your strengths and remind yourself of them daily

Try writing down things you like about yourself. These could be aspects of your personality, things you do for other people, or a skill you’re good at. Then remind yourself of these positives on a daily basis.

Stop comparing yourself to other people

Comparisons with other people can make you feel worse about yourself so it’s important that you take steps to avoid this as much as possible.

In addition, the impact of social media on mental health and self-esteem can’t be underestimated. Try limiting your time on social media and remember, what other people are sharing about their lives is often exaggerated and not a true reflection of reality.

Practise affirmations

Try saying positive things to yourself like “I am kind”, “I am worthy”, and “I am loved”. This might feel strange at first but if you incorporate this into your daily routine, it can change the way you think about yourself more permanently.

Look after yourself

It can be easy to neglect yourself and your needs when you have low self-esteem. That’s why it’s important to make sure you look after yourself.

Try to eat well, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and avoid using recreational drugs. Doing a small amount of exercise each day can also be a mood booster, particularly if this is done outside in the fresh air.

There are clear links between mental health and self-care. Looking after yourself physically can help you feel better emotionally and reinforce the fact that you’re worthy of self-care.

Seek professional help if you need it

If your low self-esteem is having a noticeable impact on your mental health and is affecting you on a daily basis, you might need some extra help to improve your mind-set and your overall opinion of yourself.

Speak to your GP who may be able to refer you for talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This will teach you the skills to challenge your negative thoughts about yourself and replace them with healthier alternatives in order to boost your self-esteem.

Or you could get in touch with a private provider, like Priory, directly to receive mental health treatment tailored to your specific needs. We offer specialist outpatient therapy, delivered either face-to-face or via our online therapy service, which can help you to address your low self-esteem and teach you ways to improve it in the long term.

This page was clinically reviewed by Olivia Dornan (BA, BACP), Integrative Therapist and Therapy Services Manager at Priory Hospital Barnt Green.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

Call Us
Tap on a number to call