What is self esteem?

There are several terms that can be used when describing self-esteem, for example, self- worth, self-image and self-respect. These are ways to describe our views and opinions about ourselves and how we see ourselves. They can reflect an overall belief or judgement we may have about ourselves, for example, “I feel good about myself” or “I’m useless”.

High self-esteem can be described where a person generally has a positive view of themselves.

Low self-esteem can be described where a person has negative thoughts or feelings about themselves. A person may judge themselves in an unfavourable way and have a negative opinion of themselves and a sense of low self worth.

Low self-esteem can have an effect on a person’s mental health. Life events such as a marriage break-up, redundancy, illness or feeling unsatisfied with life can have an impact on a person’s self-esteem. It can contribute to a person feeling a lack of confidence. Depression, anxiety and panic attacks can all impact significantly on how a person sees or values themselves.

The views we have about ourselves develop through our experiences in life. The significant aspect of low self esteem lay in negative thoughts about the self. These can be value judgements or beliefs we have about ourselves. However, they are usually opinions and they can often be mistaken. The good thing about opinions is that they can be changed.


Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem

1. Challenge negative thinking. It is important to challenge the negative core beliefs you may have about yourself and identify where they may originate from. This is not easy, but being aware that you are in a cycle of negative thinking is the starting point. Some people find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings as this can help identify any particular patterns or situations when the negative thinking occurs.

2. Learn to like yourself. Think of all the things you like about yourself and focus on these things. It is easy to discount or disregard ourselves when we are in a cycle of thinking negative things about ourselves.Be kind to yourself. Self nurturing is very important and has many positive benefits. Some people find it difficult to take time out for themselves or they may think they do not deserve to do something nice. We all deserve this and taking time out for ourselves can improve our emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, going for a nice swim, followed by a sauna is a good way of self nurturing. Equally, treating yourself to something, e.g. buying a book or a nice meal can have similar benefits. It is important to think about you and what would make you feel good.

3. Set yourself a goal or aim for the day. This will help you focus on something particular  and help you avoid spending spare time ruminating or thinking about negative things. If you succeed in your goal this will begin to help you feel good about yourself.Avoid comparing yourself to others. You are unique and that is what makes you special, we all have our own individual traits, views and opinions. If we can value and respect ourselves this will help promote our self-esteem and self worth.

4. Create an environment that is uplifting. For example, brighten up a room with a colourful throw or any ornament or fabric that is vibrant. Listen to music  that is inspiring and wear clothes that are bright – this can enhance your mood and I’m sure you will get lots of comments and compliments,

5. Smile. Human beings like social contact – smiling and greeting people is a good way to get positive responses from other people, this then makes us feel good. Try it and see if it works for you.

6. Take up some exercise. Whether it’s walking, running, going to the gym or a dance class as exercise releases endorphins, which makes us feel good. The more you do the easier it usually gets, and this will increase your confidence and how you generally feel about yourself. It is never too late to start and the benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing are enormous.


If you would like to read further on low self-esteem, there is a really good book called:

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem.  A self help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques and is by Melanie Fennell.

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