Self-esteem is how we value ourselves. We may feel positive and confident in our own abilities and our lives, or negative and critical.
It can influence many aspects of our lives, including work and relationships with family and friends.
And it often comes up when people go for counselling, according to our member Natasha Page.
People often want a counsellor to help them boost their lack of self-esteem and explore with them how to build their confidence.
Or sometimes people go to see a therapist to seek support for another problem, and it emerges during therapy that the underlying issue is their low self-esteem.
What is low self-esteem?
Low self-esteem is when we place little value on ourselves. We may have developed a negative view of life, which can make it seem hopeless or pointless.
We may spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others, thinking that we are worthless and that others are much better than ourselves, which affects our confidence.
Sometimes it can leave us feeling that people are taking advantage of us.
“It can make us feel that we’re constantly under-achieving,” says Natasha, who runs This Is Me Counselling in Nottingham, “or that we need to push hard to be the best to make up for a feeling of inadequacy.”
What causes low self-esteem?
Our self-esteem can be impacted by lots of different things - life experiences, our childhood, our family, our relationships. Sometimes there are particular people who make us feel inadequate.
We take on negative beliefs and they affect how we feel about ourselves and our worth.
Our own personalities can influence these beliefs, but sometimes these negative messages can also come from what we see on the media or our interactions on social media.
How to raise your self-esteem
“The key is to understand what the negative messages are that are making you feel this way,” says Natasha.
“Once you understand that, then you can start to take steps to address them.
“These can be really small changes, such as recognising when these negative messages are untrue and exploring positive things about our lives.”
Another thing is to understand if these negative messages are coming from a particular person, for instance a friend, relative or partner.
“These messages can sometimes come from negative friendships and relationships,” Natasha adds.
“It can help to find people you trust and seek out their opinions. They can help you think more positively.”
Looking after your wellbeing in general, doing things you enjoy and taking up new hobbies can be of help.
How can counselling help with self-esteem?
Counselling can help you explore the way you feel and change your view of yourself and others.
Natasha is an integrative therapist, which means she uses a variety of different approaches to help people, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). But she always starts at the same place when she works with a client.
“The first thing is to understand the person’s story – to listen to them and to ‘walk in their shoes’ to understand how and why they are feeling this way. I’d help them to identify the negative thoughts they have that lead to this poor self-belief. We would look at how this impacts their behaviour and how they function.
“I would then look at which approaches might help them.
“I’d help them to identify what they would like to change. We find ways they can make these changes, such as building a supportive network or being kind to themselves.
“These can be small changes," she says, "they don’t have to be massive steps but they can make a big difference to your self-esteem.
“A lot of people don’t have the necessary tools, don’t spend the time or see the value of taking these small steps. Therapy can help them with that."