There's a lot of information out there about the symptoms of low self-esteem. It can lead to people withdrawing from social situations, focusing on the negatives, and being unable to take positive feedback (i.e. compliments) from others.
Through our work with clients we often see a link between their low self-esteem and their levels of anxiety.
Where does low self-esteem come from?
Low self-esteem can stem from any number of situations or events.
Perhaps people in your family or teachers at school said certain things which made you feel inadequate. On the other hand, you may not have been told anything directly. It might have been the way other people treated you which led you to believe you're not "good enough".
Stressful life events can also have a negative impact on self-esteem. You might have lost a loved one or experienced a serious illness, and this can all take its toll on our perceptions of ourselves.
Low self-esteem and anxiety
In a previous blog post we explained a technique for how to figure out your negative core belief, which is a 'global belief' you may apply to yourself as a person. If you have low self-esteem this core belief might be something like "I'm a failure" or "I'm not good enough".
A negative core belief can impact on many aspects of your life. For example, if you have a belief of "I'm not good enough" this may cause you to avoid situations such as meeting new people or trying a new hobby due to the anxiety invoked by each situation.
Think about the prospect of meeting new people when you have a core belief of "I'm not good enough". Examples of the thoughts you might have are: "No one will want to talk to me", "I'll end up standing on my own", or "I'll make a fool of myself in front of people".
Such thoughts aren't going to fill you with much confidence. If anything, they're likely to make you feel anxious about going into that situation. We've said this before and we'll say it again: It's not the situation, but our thoughts about the situation which cause us to feel a certain way.
The impact of low self-esteem
The example above highlights how much of an impact low self-esteem can have. It can stop us from meeting new people and trying out new experiences.
We can end up isolating ourselves because we don't feel we're good enough to be with people, and we have no confidence in our ability to succeed in new situations.
The problem is, the more we avoid these new situations the more our low self-esteem is reinforced because we're not challenging the thoughts which feed into our fears.
7 ways to tackle low self-esteem
Here are seven ways you can tackle low self-esteem. You may find that some work better for you than others. That's fine; stick with the ones that work well!
1. Challenge your negative thoughts
Thoughts are not facts, but we give far too much weight to them. They're our beliefs about ourselves or a given situation which are likely to have been influenced by past experiences.
2. Make a list of all the things you're good at
We can't possibly be good at everything, but we need to focus on what we're good at rather than beating ourselves up for things we're not so good at.
Make a list of all the things you're good at, together with the qualities you like about yourself. Having these things down in black and white can help you appreciate them more.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
Unfortunately we may know people who tend to (consciously or unconsciously) reinforce our low sense of self-worth. They reiterate how difficult everything is rather than helping us look for ways to address the problem.
When we're feeling down on ourselves, we need people around us who are in "our corner", who will help us get out of the funk we're in and encourage us to dust ourselves down and move forward.
4. Don't be so hard on yourself
No one is perfect and no one gets everything right all the time, and that's okay!
We may make faux pas in social situations, we might make mistakes at work or not do something to the standard we expect of ourselves. Lower your expectations to more realistic levels.
Accept that you're human and you're fallible, just like everyone else on the planet!
5. Don't take on too much
Often, people with low self-esteem take on more and more responsibilities in an effort to prove to themselves that they have worth. In fact, when you take on more than you can handle you're not valuing yourself.
Be more assertive and learn to say "no" sometimes. Constantly saying "yes" will only give people the signal to keep coming to you, and overloading yourself will only lead to burn-out.
6. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
We talk about this in our post here. Sometimes, the best way to give our low self-esteem a kick up the backside is to face our fears head on.
Pushing through the fear can have a hugely positive impact on your sense of achievement.
7. Seek external support
Friends and family may mean well when offering support, but perhaps they miss the mark or say things which aren't always helpful. Having someone who is outside the situation, with an impartial perspective, can be beneficial when working with low self-esteem.
If you feel it might be helpful, consider seeing a Counsellor to help you explore your low self-esteem and how you can improve it.
What things do YOU do to help you feel better about yourself? Comment below 🙂