How do I know if I have Low Self-Esteem?
You may feel a sense of low confidence and a lack of belief in your own abilities and strengths. These sensations often culminate in self-critical thoughts and a reluctance to try new things or meet new people.
Why does it happen?
Low self-esteem can often originate from past experiences. This could be early experiences such as being bullied, being compared to others, abuse from childhood or not meeting your parent’s high expectations. Feeling like you were the black sheep or a lack of affirmation as a child and into adulthood can lead to low self-esteem. Beyond childhood we can all experience situations that could lead to a sense of low self-esteem, these could include stress, bullying, abuse, unfavourable treatment or trauma.
Often low self-esteem brings about thoughts of not being good enough. We might think that we are a failure, or even un-loveable. We may think to ourselves that others are better than us, or that others will judge us if we don’t attain a certain mark, or if we make mistakes.
To consider your own thoughts, ask yourself, ‘Am I compassionate towards myself, or do I put myself down? Do I have higher expectations of myself in comparison to others?’
Operating with a mindset where we expect bad things to happen or to happen to us, we will often
under or over compensate. This means we may decide that we are never going to be good enough so there is no point in trying (under compensating), alternatively we may decide that we must work so hard in order to ensure that what we do is perfect so that people can see that we are good enough (over compensating).
These behaviours can take many forms. It could be doing copious amounts of overtime at work to ensure no mistake is made, or avoiding doing a project so that our manager cannot see how bad we would have done the project.
In a more informal setting this could be the situation when we are invited to a party, and spending extended periods of time getting ready and rehearsing what we might say so that we don’t let ourselves down in front of others. Potentially even not going to the party so that you can’t do anything stupid when you get there.
Low self-esteem can lead to us missing out on lots of activities in life, such as not being part of a community, and fearing the worst in situations.
Low self-esteem can also be seen in our body. It can lead to tense muscles, being hunched over, looking down and not wanting to make eye contact. We can become tired and stressed, and lead to poor sleep.
When we start to think that we are not good at anything and expect bad stuff to happen, it can make us feel anxious, stressed and worried. Once our behaviour has led to us confirming that we really are un-loveable and we blame ourselves for it, it can lead to low mood, guilt and feelings of annoyance, blame, anger or shame.
How can counselling help?
Counselling can help you understand where these negative beliefs about yourself come from, and noticing the patterns in your thoughts and actions so that you can make small and progressive positive changes.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form or therapy which can be helpful for overcoming low self-esteem issues. It can help you to make small changes in what you are thinking or believing, as well as what you do in order to break the chain of low self-esteem.
What is one thing I can do now to help with improving my self-esteem?
My tip for helping to improve self-esteem is to keep a positivity diary. Start to notice the things in the day where you can be grateful. Notice the things that you do well, or pick out your characteristics that you can be proud of. Ask yourself what strength does this positive situation show about me?