Self-esteem is how you perceive view and value yourself as a person, it is based you’re your beliefs and opinions on yourself and affects whether or not you like yourself as a person. Low self-esteem can greatly impact how you feel about yourself and although is not in itself a mental health condition, it can be a symptom of depression and/or anxiety or similar issues.
Low self-esteem can make it a challenge to believe in yourself, therefore, someone with low-self-esteem could find it hard to make decisions and assert themselves, recognise their strengths and positives, and impact their ability to try new or difficult tasks. A person with low self-esteem can also find it hard to show kindness towards themselves and think negatively about past mistakes, blaming themselves unfairly.
There is a wealth of causes for low self-esteem, and it can fluctuate depending on different circumstances. You may find one day your self-esteem is low and causes you not to go out, whereas the next day you feel great about yourself and decide to give a new hobby a go. These sudden changes in self-esteem are very common and are not usually a problem, everyone has an off day. The problem starts when low self-esteem affects a person for a long time and finds it difficult to change how they view themselves.
Difficult and stressful life experiences are often a major factor in how someone views themselves and can be the reason for long periods of low self-esteem. These factors include being bullied or abused as well as experiencing prejudice, discrimination, or stigma. Other problems that can cause low self-esteem include employment difficulties, problems at work or while studying, physical health problems, ongoing stress, mental health problems, money or housing issues, or relationship problems such as a separation or divorce.
You may have experienced some of the listed reasons or you may have had difficulties that aren’t listed, there could also be not one particular cause for low self-esteem but a few issues that can build up over time and cause long periods of low self-esteem.
Although low self-esteem isn’t in itself a mental health problem, however, it is closely linked to depression and anxiety and can be a symptom of either. The experiences of low self-esteem can be signs of a mental health problem especially if they are affecting your day-to-day life or last for extended periods of time in which you can see no way of building your self-esteem back up. If you are blaming yourself unfairly, hating on yourself or feeling hopeless, worthless, and constantly worry about being unable to do things, then this could be a sign of something more serious going on and you should see a GP about your mental health.
Having an existing mental health problem can exacerbate low self-esteem and can make it harder to cope with or take steps to improving your self-esteem. Below are some helpful tips and suggestions for building your self-esteem back up so you can get feeling good about yourself again.
Be Kind To Yourself
Try to learn more about yourself and get to know who you really are. For example do what makes you happy whether its seeing family and friends, exercising, or finding or getting back into an old hobby. Some say it is really useful to write in a journal about what makes you happy and what you like about yourself as this can reinforce your belief system about yourself. Also, consider what self-esteem means to you, you may realise you are basing your sense of self-worth on things that are not useful or helpful to you, this is especially true when it comes to social media.
Also, remember to let yourself have feelings. It is important to remember that you’re a human being who is allowed to experience a broad range of emotions. Sometimes it’s good to sit with an emotion and realise that it does not define you, it is just an emotion that will pass.
Challenge unkind thoughts about yourself. If you’re automatically putting yourself down, you should ask yourself, “would I talk or think like this about a family member or friend in this way.” It is also important to say positive things to yourself, it might feel strange at first but you’ll feel more comfortable the more you do it. Wake up in the morning and say to yourself “I really like how I look today” or “yesterday I worked really hard and got all I needed to do done” or “I’m going to excel at this task I need to get done today”.
You really should avoid comparing yourself to others, everyone works on a different timeline. Remember that what other people choose to share about their life isn’t always the full picture and is only what they choose to share. Comparing yourself to others isn’t realistic as we are all different and struggle with different situations, emotions, and experiences.
Look After Yourself
Looking after yourself physically can make a massive change to your mental state. Try to get enough sleep as having too little or too much sleep can have a great impact on how you feel. You should also think about your diet, eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar levels stable can hugely make a difference to your mood and energy levels. Remember, your body is like a car, if you fill the tank up with bad fuel the car won’t drive so well, if you fill the car up with decent fuel the car will run a lot smoother, so try having a balanced diet.
Exercise is proven to improve your mood as when you exercise your body releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins while also reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression. Exercising gives you a focused activity that can give you a sense of accomplishment while limiting the effects of stress on your brain.
Exercising regularly also helps you get back into a decent sleep schedule giving you a good night of valuable sleep that allows the REM sleep cycle to really help adjust your brain chemistry. Spending time outside and in green spaces can help your wellbeing, so try to exercise not only at the gym but also in local parks, even if it is just going for a 45-minute walk every day.
Please avoid taking recreational drugs and alcohol, while you may need to use recreational drugs and alcohol to deal and cope with difficult and unwanted feelings about yourself, in the long run, they will make you feel worse and will prevent you from dealing with the underlying problems that are causing you to take drugs and alcohol in the first place. Also regularly taking drugs alters your brain chemistry, if you’re flooding your brain with dopamine and serotonin every weekend by taking drugs then during the week your brain does not have enough of the feel-good chemicals to keep your mental health stabilised.
Notice The Good Things
No matter how small they seem you should always take time to celebrate your successes. Take time to praise yourself and notice what you’ve done well, it is also good to remember past accomplishments and successes. Start accepting compliments, you could make a note of them to look over when you’re feeling low or are starting to doubt yourself. It is also a great idea to ask people what they like about you, it is certain that they see things differently from your point of view and will have great things to say about you, even if you can’t see that yourself.
Focus on ‘small wins’, doing the little things and use them as a springboard, you can be proud of whatever you do. Do not put give into the weight negatives can have on your self-esteem, if someone is unhelpful or unkind you may find yourself focusing on that and will ignore anything positive, just know that not everyone’s opinions matter, especially bad opinions and you should ignore negativity. Try writing a list about what you do like about yourself, include everything you can think of, from character traits, skills, experiences, beliefs, or causes that matter to you or things you enjoy. You can ask other people for suggestions too.
Learn To Be Assertive
When you are experiencing low self-esteem you may find it hard to be assertive and this can lead to people taking advantage of you. You should practice saying no, it really helps to take a breath and consider how you feel before agreeing to do something you don’t want to. Give it time as well, if you’re not used to being assertive it can feel difficult to start being so, but being assertive can also feel hugely liberating, and it definitely gets easier to be assertive the more you do it. However, do not put too much pressure on yourself and take on too much. It is ok to set boundaries around how much you do for other people and overstretching yourself can drain your energy and affect your wellbeing.
Build A Support Network
It is important to have a network of trustful family members and friends you can rely on so you can vent your feelings if you feel the need to do so. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family or friends about your issues you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, their number is 116 123 or you can email email@example.com if you don’t feel verbally ready to talk to someone. You can talk to Samaritans about anything that is upsetting you with complete confidentiality.
You should also try going to peer support groups and make connections with those who have similar or shared experiences, this can be really helpful to hear the perspective of people that are going through or have been through the same issues as yourself. Look locally for support groups or go online and try Mind’s Elefriends which can be a great source of support.