Self-esteem reflects the intrinsic belief in the self, ie the overall opinion and value of a person. Possessing a healthy capacity for good self-esteem involves self-respect, self-acceptance and an appreciation of self-worth that embraces both strengths and limitations. A person with ‘good enough’ self-esteem is able to feel good, even in the face of adversity. For example, when life events seem difficult, they still value themselves as good enough. In contrast, someone with chronic low self-esteem in a similar situation may feel overwhelmed with negativity.

Common elements of low self-esteem include:

  • Negative thoughts and beliefs about self
  • De-valuing of self-worth
  • Poor opinion of self
  • Self doubt and condemnation
  • Neediness and seeking out reassurance from others
  • Self criticism
  • Propensity for depressive thinking and hopelessness
  • Inclination to perfectionism
  • Distorted world view

Low self-esteem usually develops from early life ‘messages’ about being unacceptable in some way that hold and strengthen over time thus developing the sense of low self-worth.

Moving out of low self-esteem

Possessing a healthy self-esteem does not necessarily mean feeling happy and positive but rather that, even in times when we feel sad or low, our intrinsic belief in our worthwhile self remains in tact. Moving out of chronic low self-esteem may be helped by

  • Reflecting on the reasons for the low self-esteem – maybe thinking through early life-experiences
  • Reviewing the negative beliefs and thoughts that hold low self-esteem locked in, and then disputing them (eg ‘I am inferior’ could change to ‘I am OK as I am’)
  • Monitoring self-critical, anxious thinking (perhaps keep a written log) and counter such negativity with self-acceptance and positivity to ‘practice’ healthy self-esteem beliefs
  • Considering lifestyle changes to include healthy options for body, mind and spirit
  • Planning to do something enjoyable that is empowering and self-nourishing and makes you feel good about yourself
  • Moving away from comparing yourself to others and towards self-compassion