Why Do I Have Low Self Esteem? Proven Methods For Confidence Building

Low self-esteem is something that affects most of us from time to time. It can relate to anything in our lives, whether we’re not feeling confident about how we look, our work performance or our relationships. It’s very common to have lapses in confidence now and then, but when those feelings of low self-esteem become long-term, they are much more challenging.

Long-term low self-esteem can impact your mental health and give way to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. To avoid this, try and rebuild your confidence when you feel like it’s low. This blog post aims to discuss some of the proven ways you can build self-esteem, and explore some of the causes of low self-confidence in more detail.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to how we see ourselves. It encompasses our opinion of ourselves and it affects how we approach life. When we have healthy self-esteem, we feel fairly confident and competent. We largely hold a positive image of ourselves, feel happy with the way life is going and we feel equipped to tackle the challenges that are thrown our way without questioning our self-worth when things don’t go well.

In contrast, when we have low self-esteem, we hold a negative opinion of ourselves. We may be unkind to ourselves and criticise ourselves, feel a low sense of self-worth, and feel down in mood because we’re not satisfied with aspects of ourselves or our lives. This makes us feel less able to overcome problems, and when things go wrong in our lives, we are more likely to take all the blame and feel unable to cope, exacerbating further the low self-esteem.

What are the Signs of Low Self-Esteem?

There are several behaviours you may exhibit if you have low self-esteem, with the primary sign being avoidance. It could be that you avoid social situations because you don’t feel confident, or it might be that you avoid trying new things because you worry you won’t be as good as others. You might feel that avoiding these things can relieve you from feelings of distress and discomfort, therefore avoidance starts to feel safe. However, long-term avoidance can lead to more extended periods of isolation and rumination over negative thoughts about the self.

Another sign of low self-esteem is being self-deprecating. You might regularly make fun of yourself and cover it up as a joke, and this could be a sign that deep down, you hold negative beliefs about yourself, and perceive the things you’re saying about yourself to be true. You might be saying these things out loud as a protective mechanism, as you may believe that if someone else points them out first, it’ll be too painful to cope with. Being overwhelmed with negative beliefs and thoughts about yourself can make it difficult to identify any positive qualities.

Other common signs of low self-esteem may include: 

  • Struggling to accept compliments
  • Always focusing on what you could improve, rather than what you’ve achieved 
  • Comparing yourself to others in a way that makes you feel inferior

You may find that negative thinking consumes you, and you may be exceptionally hard on yourself if you make mistakes.

What Can Cause Low Self-Esteem?

If you are going through what we’ve described, it’s common to wonder: ‘why do I have low self-esteem?’. There are a range of factors that can contribute to low self-esteem, and below we explore some of the common examples. 


  • Many people find that their opinion of themselves is shaped by negative or traumatic childhood memories of not feeling valued by others. For example, if you were bullied as a child, you might experience issues with your self-esteem in adulthood.
  • Children who have highly critical parents, teachers, friends or relatives often grow up thinking they’re not good enough. This can lead an individual to developing unhelpful rules for themselves such as ‘If I don’t make mistakes then others won’t reject me’.
  • Low self-esteem can also stem from a difficult relationship break-up or from abusive relationships where there is a lot of criticism and manipulation. Other life circumstances can also cause low self-esteem, including bereavement, losing your job or bad medical experiences.
  • People who are struggling financially might have low self-confidence because they feel like they’ve failed to attain the materialistic items and stability that their peers have or others expect. There’s every chance that your peer group won’t berate you for financial struggles, but your own thoughts and self-criticism may make it so that you think they will.
  • People with ongoing medical issues, a serious illness or disabilities may also struggle with their self-esteem due to them feeling vastly different to others and therefore struggling to obtain a sense of belonging. Those with mental health conditions such as an anxiety disorder and depression may also feel this way.
  • The media plays a significant role in how we see ourselves, as we are exposed to high levels of edited images online, on paper and on television, showing ideas of what an ideal face, body and life is. This can significantly affect the way we see ourselves and can lead to issues with low self-esteem.

There are many different factors that can affect how you view yourself and how confident you feel, and understanding the root causes of your self-esteem issues will help to determine how you overcome them. That being said, there are a few proven ways for raising low self-esteem, as detailed below.

Proven Ways to Boost Self-Esteem

When it comes to building confidence, what works for one person might not work for someone else. It’s also a gradual process and not something that can be done overnight, but there are a handful of methods that have been found to boost self-esteem in many people over time. If you’re dealing with confidence issues, consider trying some of the following methods.

Use positive affirmations

In psychology, there is a term called ‘survival of the busiest’. This relates to the concept that the thoughts we think the most, will eventually become embedded in our brains. If we constantly tell ourselves we’re not good enough, we’ll start to truly believe it, but if we practice positive affirmations, we can encourage those thoughts to take root instead.

Some people find positive self-talk uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to overcome negative feelings. Examples of positive affirmations you could tell yourself include:

  • I am good enough
  • I am loved
  • I am good at *list your skills*
  • I have dealt with something similar before and I can do it again

Positive affirmations allow you to think about encouraging things rather than bad, and once those thoughts take hold and start to override your negative beliefs, you could start to see your confidence improve.

Reduce time spent on social media

As mentioned, one of the common characteristics of people with low self-esteem is a tendency to compare themselves to others. Social media makes it easier than ever to compare yourself to other people, even though most of us know that social media isn’t a direct reflection of reality. In fact, more than 60% of people say that social media has a directly negative effect on their confidence and self-esteem.

If you find that you’re regularly comparing yourself to others, consider taking time away from social media and limiting your usage, focusing instead on self-acceptance.

Try to learn a new skill

Many people with low self-esteem feel that they’re not good at things or like they lack skills that other people have. When you commit yourself to learning a new skill or improving on an existing one, you’re showing yourself that you are capable and that you can do it, and this can have a direct impact on your self-esteem.

New skills can take many forms, but some common ones may include:

  • Arts and crafts activities such as painting, knitting, embroidery or pottery
  • Learning a new language
  • Trying a new sport
  • Learning a digital skill, such as gaming or coding

Try and find something that you enjoy and work at it. If you find that you’re not proficient to begin with, remember that it’s normal and that you will get better if you keep at it.

Try and make healthy lifestyle changes

We all know that eating well and exercising is important, but did you know that it can make you feel more confident? When you give your brain all the nutrients it needs, you’ll find that your cognitive abilities improve and your mood is lifted.

Similarly, we feel accomplished and revitalised after we exercise. Exercise also releases endorphins (chemicals produced by the brain that promote pleasure) which make us feel good, and this can result in our confidence being boosted.

Try therapy or counselling

Sometimes, counselling or therapy might be needed for you to feel more confident. If you find that your self-esteem is having a critical impact on your daily life, or that you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, reach out to a mental health professional. They can offer professional support and guidance, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which can help you to see yourself more positively.

Getting Help for Low Self-Esteem

If you think you might need professional help with learning to cope with and manage the symptoms of low self-esteem, Psymplicity Healthcare can help. We offer comprehensive treatment and counselling to people who are experiencing confidence issues, and we help them to improve their wellbeing with a renewed sense of purpose and contentment. If you’re struggling, reach out to us to see how we might be able to help.

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Mavish S

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity. Since beginning undergraduate studies 13 years ago, Mavish has worked in various mental health settings within the charity, NHS and private sector. Mavish’s passion for learning and professional growth has led to a vastness of experience and accelerated growth in her career while delivering one-to-one therapy, group workshops, training and supervision for professionals and senior team management. Mavish is a keen writer and writes many of the articles on our website, as well of our self-help resources.

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