The importance of self-esteem

The importance of self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem, self-worth or a sense of self are all terms used to describe a person’s overall opinion of themselves. People who have high self-esteem usually feel deserving of happiness, accept set backs and feel generally good about themselves. People with low self-esteem may feel worthless, dislike themselves, treat themselves poorly, struggle to feel worthy of success or happiness and lack confidence. Low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Equally, depression and anxiety can reduce people’s self-esteem.


Where does low self-esteem come from?


A child who does not receive adequate praise, attention and love may become an adult with low self-esteem. If primary caregivers are critical or focused only on achievements, little time may be spent on helping a child build a positive sense of self. Our previous blog on narcissism spoke of the impact narcissistic parents can have on their children, however, it is also worth noting that narcissists themselves may, underneath, suffer from low self-esteem.

Abusive relationships or bullying

An abusive relationship, either in childhood or adulthood, or extensive bullying can be related to low feelings of self-worth. In childhood, with a supportive family, bullying can often be overcome with only a temporary knock to one’s sense of self. However, if a child’s family is critical or unsupportive, bullying can have long lasting effects on how a child grows up to perceive themselves. Equally, bullying during adulthood, for example in the workplace, can significantly affect self-esteem, especially when adult bullying can fail to be taken seriously.

Societal, cultural or religious beliefs

Sometimes the beliefs of people who surround us can make us feel worthless. Social media or strict religious beliefs can reinforce thoughts of failure in the same way that a critical caregiver can in childhood. Many people feel as though they should be achieving more, whether in academic, physical appearance or relationship terms. It can also be common in early adulthood to experience a lack of direction and struggle with self-esteem. When people struggle to know their place in the world or feel as though they are failing to live up to expectations, a lack of self-worth can easily follow.


Seeking help for low self-esteem

Regardless of the initial cause of low self-esteem it is likely to be maintained by negative thoughts and behaviour patterns. Negative thought styles include self-criticism and passive acceptance, while negative behaviour patterns include continuing abusive relationships and poor self-care. While the original cause of low self-esteem may not be changeable, these patterns can be adapted during therapy. If low self-esteem is impacting upon your relationships, career or wellbeing it may be beneficial to seek help from a qualified practitioner. Therapy could help you to:

  • Build relationships with people who help you feel positive
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive statements
  • Change your lifestyle including increasing the quality of your sleep, exercise or diet
  • Develop a new career, hobby or activity that makes you feel good about yourself
  • Manage your low mood or feelings of anxiety
  • Learn and practice assertive skills
  • Consider your sources of stress and make plans to reduce them