Self-esteem is the ability to value oneself, both our value to the world and how valuable we think we are to others. It includes valuing our time, our opinions, our beliefs, our bodies, our emotions, our rights, our boundaries, our needs, our wants and our physical appearance, amongst others.
Someone who suffers from low self-esteem might experience low mood, difficulty relating to others and lack a fulfilling professional or personal life. Low self-esteem is almost always existent alongside other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and others.
Low self-esteem often occurs due to adverse childhood circumstances such as abusive or neglectful parents, caregivers or siblings. Bullying or difficulties at school due to an undiagnosed behavioural or learning difficulty can affect self-esteem. An individual who feels cut off from social groups, community or culture may also lose self-esteem. Self-esteem is closely linked to one’s sense of identity. For example an immigrant living in the UK without close ties to home, struggling to integrate cultural differences. Another example is a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person who is separated from the LGBT community. Low self-esteem can develop in adults due to domestic violence, substance abuse, alcohol and other problems. Often low self-esteem leads to behaviour that aggravates low self-worth and a vicious circle develops. For example, low self-esteem leading to self-harm which in turn lowers self-esteem. Low self-esteem often co-exists with emotions such as shame, embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, anger, low mood and depression, amongst others.
Treatment approaches for low self-esteem
The therapeutic approaches to working with low self-esteem are either psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural approaches such as CBT, DBT and ACT.
Improving self-esteem, especially when feelings and thoughts of low self-worth have existed for a while, does not necessarily happen overnight. Treatment starts by gaining awareness of negative thought patterns and starting to question these. A self-esteem psychotherapist can provide a valuable reality check to gently challenge negative and inaccurate beliefs. This is the first step towards changing them.
The cognitive approaches are helpful when the individual has identified specific situations or relationships that are affected by low self-esteem. A cognitive behavioural therapist will assist the individual to replace negative thoughts with more helpful ones and encourage them to make behavioural changes that positively impact self-esteem. A psychotherapist will explore with the client the underlying factors that contribute to low self-esteem. Gaining awareness supports the client to reject negative beliefs. The therapeutic alliance allows them to discover their self-worth and to develop the relational and communication skills that reflect this.
We invite you to ring in and discuss your concern with one of our very friendly care coordinators. They will recognize that the very fact of requesting help can be a challenging first step and will listen with care before explaining all the different approaches we offer and suggesting what might suit you best. Self-esteem issues are unfortunately very common so you are certainly not alone in your experience. Your self-esteem specialist therapist will help you to feel at ease and provide a safe and caring environment where you can start to feel more empowered and valued.