Tackling Low Self Worth
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Teresa Mulvena, CBT Cert, MA Counselling, MBACP (senior accredited)
11th November, 2010
Often people tell me that everyone else is more confident than they are. I tell them that some people are better actors. Often people hide any insecure feelings believing it is a sign of weakness. However everybody does have good and bad feelings about themselves. For instance it is a common thing for actors to say they are painfully shy, and yet from the outside it may appear that they literally love being centre stage. Be aware that those that seem very confident may be compensating for a feeling of lack of self worth.
I think the first strategy in tackling low self worth is to acknowledge it and then you can look at it honestly, without judging yourself for having it, or telling yourself you shouldn’t feel this way, - and this is the first step to understanding yourself.
Initially it may be hard to understand how you have come to feel unsure of your self worth. There may be things you need to change in your life right now that would increase your confidence, but you may be afraid of taking the risk and the discomfort this involves. Facing this anxiety and dealing with it rather than avoiding it can be a useful first step. If you don’t know what is stopping you dealing with things, a therapist can help you unravel it.
It may also be helpful to review your past and all the factors that have contributed to the way you feel about yourself now. You may not have given much weight to events from the past that could have shaped your attitude towards yourself. And indeed it may be subtle rather than obviously traumatic incidents. For instance, people often feel that moving around a lot as a child has made them capable and resilient and able to adapt to change. However it may also leave you without the capacity to fully engage with people now, - unconsciously you never attach to people very strongly because you never know when you have to move on, or it may be that you never quite feel part of a group now, because as the new kid you were a bit on the periphery and having to work hard to establish your friendship group.
It is important to differentiate between the way you feel about yourself and what you imagine other people feel about you. It is so common that if you don’t like yourself you automatically assume that others won’t either. This can make the problem of low self confidence worse because you will end up isolating yourself. The important thing is to challenge your perception and really ask yourself whether you are making assumptions about how others feel bout you, when it might be you that is feeling uncomfortable with yourself.
It is hard to change the way you feel about yourself if it runs very deep. You cannot simply chose to feel more confident. Even if the difficulties from the past are a long time ago they can still have an effect in the present, without even being aware of it.
When you are a child you do not question the views others have of you. You internalise these opinions of you and they become part of how you see yourself. Taking an honest look at yourself and the important figures from your past can help you make some sense of why you feel the way you do about yourself. Children can’t see that their parents have their own insecurities that lead them to be critical of children, and they end up believing there is something wrong with them.
Seeing a therapist can help make sense of the way you react so you can separate out old messages from the past, and have more choice over how you respond in the present.
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