Self-esteem is basically what we think of ourselves, our capabilities, skills and how we react to difficulties in life. It is an outcome of self-evaluation. Feeling valuable and important is highly linked with self-esteem. Healthy amount of self-esteem increases the potential for having a satisfying life. It is also called as self-confidence.
Low self-esteem impacts every aspect of our lives. Having low self-esteem increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety and it might cause problems with relationships and friendships. It might also make you to struggle to be successful in your career. Some people also develop unhealthy habits to deal with it such as smoking and drinking.
You might avoid taking the control of your life and making decisions. Avoidance might turn into a habit, and you might fear that you would never achieve success in life and be satisfied with your life.
Seeking validation from others can also result from having low self-esteem. You might not be able to trust your own decision making and seek constant validation. In turn, it might make you more confused because everyone would have a different opinion. You might not be able to decide which advice to take. When you take some advice, it probably won’t help your self-esteem as well because the decision didn’t come from you, and you needed others to guide you. Relying on other people might be a good choice in the short term to help with your decision making. However, it might make you to struggle with your low self-esteem even more in the long term.
Low self-esteem might lead to criticism sensitivity. You might find it more challenging to face constructive feedback at work or at school. Have you ever get triggered and start to feel like you did something wrong, or you are a failure? You might find performance appraisals dreading or school presentations intimidating. You might be wondering why others take criticism better. We all need feedback to grow. It might makr you to struggle with low self-esteem and might not be able to use it as a source for growth.
There are many reasons for having low self-esteem. It is usually adverse childhood experiences such as dysfunctional or toxic family patterns, bullying, having difficult parents’ which the impact can persist well into adulthood. We can say that low self-esteem usually starts in childhood. It might be also caused by difficult experiences in adulthood such as ongoing job-related stress or financial struggles. Unhappy relationships can also cause of low self-esteem.
High self-esteem gives you the ability to reach your potential, create a sense of “I can do it”, and working towards your goals in life. It also helps you to deal with the struggles in life and giving you the encouragement to do what is best for you.
Too much self-esteem can be also detrimental for your mental health. Having a boost of self-esteem might interfere with your assessment of the difficult situations accurately and might not allow you to take responsibility when things go wrong. As a result, you might struggle to take the right steps in your life. Being overly confident can be linked to having narcissistic traits.
The inner critic is a form of self-talk which is critical, judgmental, belittling voice that would disapprove of your choices, actions and thoughts or express frustration. It sounds like “why did you to this?”, “you aren’t good enough”, “something is wrong with you”, “you are going to let other people down”.
No one is born with low self-esteem. All the babies can express their needs quite well which is essential for their survival. They don’t second guess themselves. Then, they start making sense of the outside world and might face feedback in the form of criticism. The aim is to help children to do things right and keep up with the demands of the world. We all need a corrective voice to help us to do better. However, in some cases, the inner constructive voice turns into the inner critic voice. It happens when someone grows up in difficult circumstances and the outside world becomes negative. Children are left with but no choice of internalizing the critical attitude to fit in. Then, it turns into our inner critic and makes us struggle with low self-esteem in adulthood. Although, there are no longer critical parents, teachers, siblings, or circumstances, we become the biggest critic of ourselves.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, you might experience difficulties in giving yourself credit when things go right according to the plan in your life. You might attribute your achievements to luck or the task being easy and harshly criticize yourself when things go wrong.
People who have healthy self-esteem aren’t always successful or act confidently. Instead, they practice acceptance when they face challenges and admit when they do things wrong. It would then encourage them to learn from their struggles rather than internalizing it as a mistake. As a result, they easily take the control back in their lives and work towards their goals.
Cognitive behavioural therapy for low self-esteem would help you to understand your automatic thoughts when you face challenges in life, replace the critical automatic thoughts with healthier alternatives. It would also help you with some experiments to challenge your views about yourself and others so you can gain confidence in yourself. Then, behavioural strategies such as setting goals would be useful. CBT is a highly recommended therapy approach for low self-confidence.
The main premise of Schema Therapy is that psychological issues arise when there are unmet emotional needs in childhood which lead to the development of maladaptive schemas. The goal is enhancing the healthy adult mode which represents good judgment, psychological health, and maturity. The healthy adult mode is going to help to meet the unmet core need. As a result, schemas would get triggered less frequently and less intensely with the possibility of a quick recovery.
We believe that no one of us had the perfect childhood. Our parents might have had the best intentions but maybe life was difficult, or they were young or had other limitations. Some of them weren’t a ready to become parents. Inner critic mode develops because of adverse childhood circumstances.
Schema Therapy helps with identifying the root causes of the issues and coming up with life transforming solutions. It incorporates the impact of a difficult childhood into the treatment plan, and uses strategies to gain confidence in adulthood. It has a change-based focus and uses many techniques to treat hard to change, long term issues.
If you struggle with high low-esteem or chronic self-esteem, Schema Therapy might be the best approach because it focuses the origins of the issues with the goal of changing it in your life. If you also received therapy before and aware of the origins of the issues now but find it hard to change, Schema Therapy is highly recommended.
We all know the importance of accepting yourself and believing yourself. Getting to know yourself, preferences, values, and skills is also an essential step in improving self-esteem. It would enable making peace with one’s own mistakes and not to take it as a part of personality and self-potential. Achievements or lack of achievements do not have the capacity to describe us or show us where we are at in life. It is a common misconception to believe that having achievements will improve self-esteem.
It might be accurate that successful people would have high-self-esteem but because high self-esteem would encourage to work towards goals. Healthy self-esteem does not get lower when you experience challenges in life. Instead, it helps you to deal with them better and move forward.
Self-help strategies for low self-esteem
- Focus on your values, skill set, strengths, and achievements.
- If you avoid certain tasks in life due to your low self-esteem, come up with a plan to tackle it and try to keep your motivation high. It would help to gain success in the areas you struggle with.
- Keep a journal and write down positive things about you, your achievements, and positive things other people say about you regularly.
- Normalize having low self-esteem when you face a challenging task. It is OK to have ups and downs with self-esteem levels. What you need to do is to help yourself to work towards your ideals while focusing on improving your existing skills.
- Be aware of the inner critic and replace it with the supportive inner voice.
- Focus on self-care such as exercise, having hobbies, social support network.
I am an accredited counsellor, CBT and Schema Therapist. I mostly work with people who had a difficult childhood such as experiencing trauma, being bullied, or lacking emotional support and now experience depression, panic and anxiety, difficulties in relationships, low self-esteem, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and body image issues.
I help people with a wide range of psychological problems at my private practice in central London and offer online sessions, if you are unable to attend in person.