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Symptoms of low self-esteem

  • 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, a self-help group or religious group might be useful to help them establish a secure base from which to explore.

How could counselling help?

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.

As a counsellor I will help you focus on your needs, I might work with you to monitor negative self-beliefs, mistaken thoughts and assumptions. Working together we could consider some of the negative thought processes that keep you trapped. For those who wish to understand more about their low self-esteem, 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, at home and in the wider world.

I can support you to feel comfortable, which 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.

How to boost your self-esteem

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 angel. 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, trust and like yourself. When you become more tolerant of the real you your relationships can improve as you become more realistic about others, too.

If you would like to get support with improving your low self-esteem please get in touch