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Improve Your Self-Esteem

Self –esteem is how you think and feel about yourself; this may be positive, negative or move between the two points.  This usually dictates how you live your life and the decisions you make – and how you view others too.

The more positive feelings you have about yourself, the higher your self-esteem is; the more negative feelings you have the lower your self-esteem is.  Our materialist world, where people continually compare themselves with those around them, highlights our insecurities and often leads us to feel negative about ourselves and the way we live.  We lose sight of the value of our own individuality and then feel inadequate and unsatisfied.  It can become an enduring personality trait.

Working to improve your self-esteem takes time and effort.  It requires courage and honesty to confront the things in yourself you don’t like but long-term it is a worthwhile task which should help you to feel better about yourself and your life.

Symptoms of Low self-esteem include:

  • Feeling worthless

  • Feeling incompetent and unrealistic about our abilities

  • Feeling unloved

  • Being overwhelmed with fear and negative thoughts

  • Being unrealistic about goals

  • Being drawn into destructive relationships

  • Fear of change

  • Distorted views of self and others

What causes Low Self-esteem?

Our esteem develops from our experiences and relationships from birth. Negative experiences and troubled relationships lower it, and good experiences and strong bonds raise it.  No single event or person determines your level of self-esteem, it develops over time and can change with time and events.

The foundations are laid in childhood. The feeling that we are valued and understood, and that our worries can be soothed, gives us an internal picture of our own worth and the feeling that the world is a safe enough place. This in turn gives us a default position which allows us to be realistic about what we can manage, without damaging ourselves.  We can recognise stress and destructive relationships as being uncomfortable and seek to put things right. We can learn to trust our instincts and that they will help us protect ourselves. Early nurturing teaches us to nurture ourselves and develop a resilience to deal with life’s knocks and blows and protect ourselves from encountering too many.

Healthy self-esteem allows people to be realistic about goals, accept criticism, learn from mistakes and be adventurous but not reckless. Low self-esteem makes people fearful and unrealistic about goals and risks, which further dents their self-image. They also compare themselves unfavourably with others and have little natural ability to protect themselves.

Negative experiences and troubled relationships can lower self-esteem but it is constantly changing.  Some people may be less resilient to recover from set-backs and may need to find an external source of strength to help them change. Counselling or a self-help group might be useful to help them establish a secure base from which to explore.

How Could Counselling Help Me?

Self-esteem is central to who we are and central to the process of counselling. Change might mean taking a hard look at oneself and feeling strong enough to change the things that we don’t like.  A supportive Counsellor can be a great help on this journey. It may be useful to make your choice of Counsellor carefully and embrace it as part of the process. Will this person help you to explore your individuality in the way you would like? Read about their details and experience and ask to speak to them before booking an appointment. Have some questions prepared to help you.  Choosing your counsellor will be an important first step for you. Will it be possible to trust this person and feel safe with them?  This might be more important than the type of counselling they offer.

Person-centred’ Counselling may help you focus on your needs, or Transactional Ananlysis might help if you need a more concrete model to help. Cognitive Behavoural Therapists will work with you to monitor negative self-beliefs, faulty thoughts and assumptions if you prefer to consider some of the negative thought processes you feel keep you trapped. For those who wish to understand more about their low self-esteem a Psychodynamic or Attachment approach might appeal. Taking a new, objective view of your personal history can allow you to see more clearly your present situation without feeling blamed. It can also offer an opportunity to see if early patterns and habits are repeated in your current relationships, both at home and in the wider world. Find someone you feel comfortable with, someone who can help you settle into a better way of feeling about yourself. When you value your own uniqueness and start to feel good about some aspects of yourself you can allow yourself to be more realistic about your goals.

The route to higher self-esteem, and thinking more positively about yourself includes:

  • Acceptance – of your true strengths and weaknesses

  • Help – with realistic goals to allow you to develop your abilities

  • Encouragement –with realistic planning and timetabling

  • Praise – for your achievements so you can enjoy them

  • Respect – to be proud of who you are

  • Trust – feel more confident in your own thoughts and feelings

  • Time - learn to know yourself and enjoy your own thoughts.

Self-esteem is not the same as self-centredness. It does not mean you are selfish or egotistical but it does allow you to appreciate the qualities you do have and respond to others in a positive and productive way. It can help you feel better about yourself and better abut others around you.

Raising your own self-esteem means that you will learn to be your own best friend, good internal parent or guardian anger. It means feeling good and realistic about yourself and others but does not guarantee success in the world. Through thinking more positively and realistically about yourself you can develop your talents and abilities, praise yourself, trust yourself and like yourself. When you become more tolerant of the real you your relationships can improve as you become more realistic about others, too.


Do you like yourself? Are you someone who deserves happiness? If you find these questions hard perhaps you suffer from low self-esteem. Self-esteem is that value that we place on ourselves; often it is determined by our actions and how we perceive them.

Yet even as we judge ourselves, often we apply higher standards to ourselves than we do to others. We expect ourselves to have unreasonable powers. ‘I should have known he was thinking that!’ Perhaps in this fast paced society there is no room for Mr and Mrs Average, perhaps we all have to be perfect. Yet that seems an unrealistic target so how do you raise your self-esteem yet acknowledge your need to grow and improve.

Stop catastrophising:

If you make a mistake or an error of judgement it is often embarrassing or perhaps you may feel guilty but it is rarely the end of the world. Thus someone might think I am no good at Maths so I will fail the exam. If I fail the exam I won’t get into University and I won’t get a good job so I will have failed all because I am stupid at Maths. This sort of thinking could be challenged so that you take on others perspectives. I am not good at Maths, but I can do trigonometry so perhaps I could do those questions, if I study hard then I only need to pick up a few more marks for a pass. There is more realism, more living in the moment with the second scenario. Perhaps the key point is self-acceptance that you are not perfect yet can still succeed.

Project the person you want to be:

Be real, perhaps you could smile more, have a few open questions that you can ask people when you meet them. People will respond because they find you open and approachable and you in turn will begin to believe what was always true that people enjoy being with you.

Wake up and walk out of your past into your future:

The past is fixed, however hard or embarrassed or guilty you feel when looking back. You can choose now what your future will be don’t be held back by your past. Examine it honestly learn any lessons and move on. Worrying about what happened in the past won’t change it and it will get in the way of moving forward.

You are unique you are the best at being you:

It seems in our nature to compare ourselves to others. Yet everyone is different, everyone has skills and talents. Remind yourself of what you can be not what you can’t. So he’s a good artist I bet he wishes he could play the piano like me. If there is something you want to be good at perhaps you could take a class, perhaps you could just enjoy it without being the best.


Many studies over time have shown that we feel good about ourselves when we help others. That satisfaction that you have made a difference to another person becomes almost addictive. You also get skills from the practice and it has helped people get jobs or change career


Accept compliments don’t brush them away, judge yourself kindly. So often we brush away compliments, Oh it was nothing. Yet that is to ignore the other person’s opinion that it was something and they are trying to thank you. So next time bathe in the glow and say thank you.

Stop procrastinating:

The mistake most people make is to be paralysed by fear, fear of getting it wrong, fear of rejection. Yet if you don’t change something why would anything change. Take the first step in faith you don’t have to see the whole staircase.

Finally, you are going to make mistakes that’s the way we learn how to do things better. When mistakes happen, and they surely will accept the opportunity to learn and come back stronger and more determined next time.

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