Understanding and tackling low self-esteem

Understanding and tackling low self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we view ourselves and the opinion that we hold about ourselves. People can have an overall low or high self-esteem or a mixture for various aspects of themselves, for example, a poor self-image relating to their bodies or a low sense of their own capacity to achieve.


Tackling self-esteem

If you feel that you struggle with low self-esteem you may have found that it impacts upon your wellbeing. Self-esteem can be linked to happiness, confidence and mental health problems. If you are struggling with self-esteem, then try the following strategies:

Reflect on the origins of your low self-esteem. Our earlier blog spoke about where low self-esteem may originate from. By engaging in a period of self-reflection and attempting to work out the causes you may be able to work out appropriate strategies to address the difficulties.

Use positive self-talk to rewrite your mental scripts. Many of us have an internal critic who judges, blames and undermines us. Our internal critic treats us in a way we would never treat others. Instead of listening to your internal critic, be kind to yourself and talk to yourself in the way you would speak to a loved one. Use cheerleading statements such as ‘You can do this!’ and ‘You’ve got this…’. Phrasing such statements in the third person can be particularly powerful.

Look after your physical and mental health. Ensure you get the sleep you need; eat healthily; avoid substances that impact upon you negatively such as caffeine, illegal drugs and alcohol; exercise; and address mental and physical health problems using appropriate support. These lifestyle factors show that you value yourself and will slowly contribute to an increased sense of wellbeing and higher self-esteem.

Assess your relationships, prune those that are unhealthy or unfulfilling and build new ones that bring you joy and meaning. If you have relationships with family or friends that lower your self-esteem, then aim to reduce the impact of these. Some unhealthy relationships are relatively easy to end, while others, for example with parents or siblings are harder. If it is impossible to cut ties entirely then seek to limit the impact: reduce contact; try to have contact with such people when you are feeling most resilient; and plan positive activities for after such engagements. It can also be helpful to counter these relationships by building new relationships which have a positive impact upon, such as by joining groups or clubs.

Do things that you want to do. Ensure that every day you do something that you enjoy, work on your goals or build your skills. This helps to build a sense of who you are and what you want, as well as your own sense of worth.


If you are struggling with low self-esteem and have tried some of the above strategies without success, then it may be helpful to seek professional support. To discuss this further then contact Dr Julie Hannan on [email protected].