Before diving straight into what self-esteem is and how CBT can help tackle low self-esteem, do any of these statements sound familiar?
‘I’m not good enough.’
‘I’m a failure.’
If you have found yourself thinking any of the above statements, this blog might be helpful to you. My hope for this blog is to understand how our self-esteem affects our mental health and for you the reader to learn ways to create a strong, empowered sense of self which will enable you to live authentically and face life’s challenges with self-compassion. Ultimately, my hope for this blog is for any reader to be reminded to be kind to yourself.
So what is self-esteem?
Self-esteem can be defined as the view you have of yourself, your perceptions of how others see you, and the thoughts and beliefs you hold about yourself, your world and your future. Unfortunately, low self-esteem is not an uncommon issue people struggle with in today’s world. As counsellors and psychotherapists, we often encounter how low self-esteem can be the root of many psychological difficulties with clients.
How do we develop a low self-esteem?
In order for low self-esteem to exist there has to be a set of negative beliefs that sustain and hold it in place. We develop our sense of self in the early stages of life through experiential learning. If you have experienced many positive experiences, then your view of yourself will most likely be positive. Similarly, if your collection of experiences have been negative– you might find yourself being left with strongly engrained negative conclusions about yourself, others and the world around you, also known as ‘core beliefs’. The ideas formed about yourself are based on your own unique experiences.
When we examine core beliefs formed from negative life experiences, people who struggle with self-esteem issues most often report derivations of some key statements, such as these examples: ‘I’m not good enough.’ Or ‘I’m unlovable.’ Our core beliefs lead us to create negative predictions of how other people might treat us or how things might unravel for us. Our core beliefs also create worries about feared outcomes and produce unhelpful behaviours as a means of attempting to cope or avoid our fears, therefore, reinforcing negative beliefs.
Our levels of self-esteem can impact the decisions we make and how we live our lives. If you have high self-esteem, you are likely to be more in tune with your sense of purpose and live as your authentic self. You are also more likely to be confident in the decisions you make, as well as being more inclined to accept failure as a stepping-stone to success.
Let’s also consider the impact of low self-esteem to balance out this evaluation. Low self-esteem doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have high ambitions or that you are a bad person. It means that those who have low self-esteem are more likely to be overly self-critical, yet sensitive to external criticism. This may lead to trust issues, difficulty making decisions, depression and anxiety to name a few.
Having a negative sense of self makes it difficult to believe positive things about ourselves. For example: If you have received compliments about your work, you might have taken them as negative or brushed them off thinking ‘they’re just being nice.’ Or perhaps you shoot down compliments from a friend or partner because past experiences have formed a belief that you are unlovable.
Likewise, your perceptions of yourself impact your behaviour. For example: When struggling with self-esteem issues, you might have difficulty forming healthy relationships in which you are respected because you don’t believe you deserve that respect.
So, how can we tackle low self-esteem and empower our own sense of self?
1) Becoming Aware – Become aware of your core beliefs, and observe what’s going on when these thoughts are triggered.
2) Challenge Negative Thoughts – While it may be difficult not to accept these thoughts as an accurate reflection of who you are, try challenging these thoughts by asking yourself, ‘is there another way to look at this situation?’, ‘is there another possible explanation or alternative?’
3) Practice Healthier Mindset Changes Using CBT Methods Of Intervention – When coming to understand and challenge your beliefs, we can practice new ways of thinking and new behaviours which are more in line with your positive qualities. A trainer CBT therapist can help you with this. Click here to book a session with one of our trained professionals at Evolve.
4) Be Compassionate With Yourself – Most of us have a good friend in our lives who is unconditionally supportive. Being compassionate with yourself is learning to be that same warm, supportive friend to yourself. Part of being human is to make mistakes, but these mistakes don’t define who we are as a person.
One of the most difficult challenges about struggling with low self-esteem is that it can block you from seeing how strong and resilient you actually are. In understanding our negative thought processes, we can learn to break down the blocks and search for a more nuanced, balanced picture of who you really are. If you have taken the time to read this blog and thought about implementing steps to improve your self-esteem – you are doing a great job in making yourself and your self-esteem a priority. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
Here at Evolve Mental Health, we offer CBT informed counselling and psychotherapy. If you have found yourself relating to this blog and would like support in tackling low self-esteem, or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch by email on firstname.lastname@example.org