Understanding low self-esteem

Self-esteem plays a crucial role in our mental and emotional well-being. It shapes our perception of ourselves and influences how we interact with the world. Unfortunately, many individuals struggle with low self-esteem, which can hinder personal growth, relationships, and overall happiness.

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Here, we will delve into the complexities of low self-esteem, explore its possible causes, and discuss strategies for building a healthier sense of self-worth.

Defining low self-esteem

Low self-esteem refers to a negative evaluation of oneself, often accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a lack of self-confidence. Those with low self-esteem tend to focus on their perceived flaws and shortcomings, leading to a distorted self-image. It can impact various aspects of life, including relationships, career, and overall emotional well-being.

Origins and contributing factors

Low self-esteem can stem from a combination of genetic, environmental, and personal experiences. Factors such as childhood experiences, critical or abusive relationships, societal pressure, and unrealistic societal standards can significantly impact one's self-esteem. Traumatic events, bullying, or constant comparison to others can also contribute to the development of low self-esteem.

Negative self-talk and cognitive distortions

Individuals with low self-esteem often engage in negative self-talk and harbour self-limiting beliefs. These cognitive distortions involve exaggerated negative perceptions of oneself, such as assuming failure before attempting something new or dismissing personal achievements. Challenging and reframing these negative thoughts is an essential step in rebuilding self-esteem.

The impact on relationships and well-being

Low self-esteem can affect relationships in various ways. It may lead to difficulties in asserting one's needs, fear of rejection, or a tendency to settle for unhealthy relationships. Additionally, individuals with low self-esteem may struggle with anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness - negatively impacting overall well-being.

Building self-esteem

Overcoming low self-esteem is a journey that requires self-reflection and self-compassion. Here are some strategies to cultivate a healthier sense of self-worth:

1. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Embrace your imperfections and practice self-forgiveness. Replace self-criticism with self-acceptance and self-love.

2. Challenge negative thoughts: Identify negative thought patterns and challenge their validity. Replace self-defeating thoughts with positive and realistic affirmations. Focus on your strengths, accomplishments, and positive qualities.

3. Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals that align with your abilities and interests. Celebrate progress along the way, regardless of the outcome. Building self-esteem requires acknowledging your efforts and recognising your worth beyond external achievements.

4. Surround yourself with supportive people: Seek out positive and supportive relationships. Surround yourself with individuals who uplift and encourage you. Their belief in you can boost your self-confidence and help challenge negative self-perceptions.

5. Engage in self-care: Prioritise self-care activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Engaging in hobbies, practising mindfulness, exercising, and nurturing healthy relationships can positively impact self-esteem.


Understanding low self-esteem is a crucial step toward building a healthier self-image and nurturing personal growth. By recognising the contributing factors, challenging negative thoughts, and practising self-compassion, individuals can gradually rebuild their self-esteem. Remember, self-esteem is a journey that requires patience and consistent effort. With time, dedication, and support, it is possible to cultivate a positive and resilient sense of self-worth, leading to a more fulfilling and empowered life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Soho, W1B 5TF
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Written by Chryssa Chalkia, Psychotherapist, CBT therapist & Counsellor UKCP & BABCP reg
Soho, W1B 5TF

Chryssa is a registered psychotherapist with UCKP. She is passionate about helping people improve their well-being and live more fulfilling lives. She believes in personal and professional development through self-knowledge. She works with people in the NHS and privately offers short/long term therapy in Greek and English.

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