We’ve all heard the saying before “be comfortable in your own skin” and this seems to be something we all aspire to, but what does it actually mean? Generally, this refers to having high self-esteem. Confidence can be communicated to others through our body language, what we do and how we talk to other people. If you have low self-esteem, then it can impact all of these things which in turn can have a negative impact on our lives. If someone is experiencing low self-esteem, they might feel as though they “can’t do anything right”, struggle to find the motivation to do things, feel inferior to others, are shy and reluctant to start conversations or have a hard time starting and maintaining relationships.
So, what is self-esteem and what does it mean if it is low?
Self-esteem is our overall view of ourselves, how much we feel we matter and what we value about ourselves. This is often developed through comparing ourselves to others and looking at our accomplishments and failures. It tends to be dependent on our level of success and can fluctuate through life depending on our performance at the time. Having low self-esteem is where your overall opinion of yourself is not very positive and generally, you don’t value yourself much. This leads to negative thoughts about ourselves which tend to evoke low mood and many of the other problems discussed above. Therefore, “focus on yourself and your own happiness and do not compare yourself to others.” Marc Romano, PsyD advises.
What causes low self-esteem:
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how low self-esteem develops. However, it seems as though it has a lot to do with our experiences when we are young. People who have been punished a lot, neglected or abused as children, had parents with very high expectations, were bullied as a child, didn’t get much encouragement or had difficulty fitting in have been found to be more likely to develop low self-esteem.
How can I improve my self-esteem:
Self-esteem can be improved through building our self-confidence. This is the level to which we “trust” ourselves and believe in our abilities. Self-confidence generally is increased by setting realistic goals and achieving them. There are a few ways you can work on your self-confidence such as:
- Look at your strengths and try to build upon these by setting realistic goals around them. For example, if being creative is one of your strengths, set a goal such as completing a small art or craft project. Start with something very achievable and work your way up because setting unrealistic goals that you can’t reach will only lower your confidence.
- Remind yourself of your previous triumphs. This can be especially helpful at those times when it feels like you just can’t get anything right. Looking back on these achievements helps challenge this unhelpful thought in your mind.
- Try to think about the way you speak to yourself. Often people who experience low self-esteem don’t speak to themselves very nicely because they don’t have a great view of themselves. Unfortunately though, by speaking to ourselves in a negative manner it can lower our self-esteem even further. If we can identify when we are speaking to ourselves in an unhelpful manner and replace this with more positive ways to talk to ourselves (such as self-encouragement) this can increase our confidence.
- If you still feel you are struggling or just want some extra support, seek counseling.
How will counseling help increase self-esteem:
Counseling isn’t just for when you are experiencing a diagnosable mental health concern. According to Sarah Rumpf, MA, LPCC, “Counseling is an investment that requires commitment. You will be spending time, money, and emotional energy to process and/or solve problems.” Self-esteem is something many counselors specialize in and goal-directed therapy aimed at improving self-confidence has proven to be very effective. A counselor can help you with all of the steps outlined above. Often it can be helpful to have an objective view around your self-esteem and can certainly be helpful in identifying your strengths and setting goals (as this can be very difficult if you experience very low self-esteem). “Counseling can help you dive into some of these issues and determine what is at the root of the constant conflict.” Susan Block, LMFT said.
A counselor can also often help you to identify the underlying cause of your low self-esteem and work on this. This not only works to improve your confidence but improves your own view of your worth overall which can improve a variety of areas in your life.
If you feel you may be experiencing low self-esteem and would benefit from seeing a counselor, contact your GP for information on how to do so.
For further information about self-esteem, confidence, and counseling, please see the links below.