Low self-esteem & confidence?

Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life's ups and downs. When our self-esteem & confidence is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges life throws at us.

What causes low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem often begins in childhood. Teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us messages about ourselves, both positive and negative. 

For some reason, the message that you aren't good enough is the one that stays with you.

Perhaps you found it difficult to live up to other people's expectations of you, or to your own expectations.

Stress and difficult life events, such as serious illness or a bereavement, can have a negative effect on self-esteem.

Personality can also play a part. Some people are just more prone to negative thinking, while others set impossibly high standards for themselves.

How does it affect us?

If you have low self-esteem or confidence, you may hide yourself away from social situations, stop trying new things, and avoid things you find challenging.

"In the short term, avoiding challenging and difficult situations makes you feel a lot safer," says Chris Williams, Professor of Psychosocial Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow.

"In the longer term, this can backfire because it reinforces your underlying doubts and fears. It teaches you the unhelpful rule that the only way to cope is by avoiding things."

Living with low self-esteem can harm your mental health, leading to problems like depression and anxiety.

You may also develop unhelpful habits, such as smoking and drinking too much, as a way of coping.

How to boost self esteem

To boost your self-esteem, you need to identify the negative beliefs you have about yourself, then challenge them.

You may tell yourself you're "too stupid" to apply for a new job, for example, or that "nobody cares" about you.

Start to note these negative thoughts and write them down on a piece of paper or in a diary. Ask yourself when you first started to think these thoughts.

Next, start to write down evidence that challenges these negative beliefs: "I'm really good at cryptic crosswords" or "My sister calls for a chat every week".

Write down other positive things about yourself, such as "I'm thoughtful" or "I'm a great cook" or "I'm someone that others trust".

Also write down good things that other people say about you.

Aim to have at least 5 things on your list and add to it regularly. Then put your list somewhere you can see it. That way, you can keep reminding yourself that you're OK.

"You might have low confidence now because of what happened when you were growing up," says Professor Williams. "But we can grow and develop new ways of seeing ourselves at any age."

Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, o...
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