Key Takeaways

  • Self-esteem includes the beliefs you hold about yourself and how you view yourself in comparison to others.
  • Everyone has episodes of low self-esteem sometimes. But if these episodes are impacting your mental health and your ability to live your life, talking to a therapist can help.
  • In addition to receiving professional support, there are some simple things you can do to improve your self-esteem. These include increasing awareness of your negative thoughts, journaling about your strengths, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.

Have you ever said something to yourself like “I can’t do anything right” or “Why would anyone want to hang out with me?” 

If so, you’re not alone. We all have times in our lives when our self-esteem is low. This could be the result of a perceived failure, comparing yourself to others, or other challenges that impact how you see yourself. 

However, frequently experiencing low self-esteem can take a toll on your well-being. So if you have trouble seeing yourself in a positive light, know that there are things you can do to reconnect to your strengths and increase your self-worth.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem” refers to how we view ourselves and our inherent value. 

Having a healthy level of self-esteem doesn’t mean being conceited or having a big ego. It doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge mistakes or things you might want to change about yourself.  Rather, it’s that little voice inside your mind that tells you how you view yourself and your place in the world. Sometimes, that voice can be critical. 

People who have a healthy level of self-esteem can acknowledge their strengths and their shortcomings. Your self-esteem can affect your well-being in a variety of ways  because it can determine whether or not you:

  • Believe you’re worthy of love
  • Can recognize your value as a human being
  • Feel like you deserve to set healthy boundaries in relationships
  • Prioritize taking care of yourself
  • See your contributions as “good enough”
  • Can make decisions that reflect your worth
  • Can show yourself patience and kindness in difficult times
  • Feel capable of doing new or challenging things
  • Forgive yourself when you make mistakes

Six effective methods to improve self-esteem

Low self-esteem can take a toll on your mental health. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to boost your confidence and challenge the negative beliefs you hold about yourself.

  1. Notice when you’re having negative thoughts about yourself. Do they tend to happen in certain circumstances or around specific people? The first step in challenging these thoughts is gaining awareness around when and where they typically arise.
  2. When faced with a negative belief about yourself, look for evidence to see if it’s really true. For example, if you think “I know I’m going to fail this test like all the others,” ask yourself if you’ve really failed every test you’ve ever taken. This can help you stay grounded in your actual experience.
  3. Recognize what you’re good at and write those things down. This will help you get into the habit of noticing your strengths, even the small ones. Then, when your self-esteem takes a dip, look at the list to remind yourself of all the good things about you.
  4. Surround yourself with supportive people. It’s okay to avoid people who do or say things that make you feel bad about yourself. Pay attention to how you feel in different people’s company, and prioritize the relationships that help you feel energized and uplifted.
  5. Practice setting healthy boundaries. People with low self-esteem may feel like they can’t stand up for themselves or simply say “no.” So look for ways to practice assertive communication and honor your self-worth.
  6. Be patient with yourself. Know that improving your self-esteem may take some time. Throughout the process, set small but achievable goals, notice your progress, and practice self-compassion.

What causes low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can stem from a variety of causes, depending on the person. But often, people who have low self-esteem have experienced:

  • A mental health condition (like anxiety or depression)
  • A medical condition (like a physical disability, a condition that causes chronic pain, or another serious illness)
  • Abusive relationships with a romantic partner or a parent/caregiver 
  • Traumatic events or ongoing stressors (like job loss or financial difficulties)
  • Trouble with academic performance or difficulty with job performance as an adult
  • Being brought up in a home where parents were overly critical

Social media may also play in shaping modern-day self-esteem. While the relationship between social media use and mental health is complex, some research shows that it can negatively affect your self-esteem. Although social media can provide a boost of self-confidence at times, it may also lead you to compare yourself to others in ways that leave you feeling inadequate. 

Keep in mind that what you see on social media is usually far from a person’s full reality. Most of us tend to share the “highlight reel” as opposed to the difficult or mundane moments we all experience.

What are the signs of low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is something that everyone faces from time to time. We all have moments when we experience negative self-talk or wish we could change something about our personality, abilities, or appearance. 

Having low self-esteem doesn’t automatically mean that you have a mental health condition. But if you’re experiencing any of the following signs of low self-esteem and they aren’t going away, know that it’s okay to seek professional help. 

  • You say negative things to yourself and others about yourself.
  • You see other people as inherently more talented or attractive than you.
  • You don’t think you’re worthy of healthy relationships or love.
  • You frequently use self-deprecating humor.
  • You have a difficult time accepting genuine compliments.
  • You’re afraid to do anything you aren’t already good at because you fear failure.
  • You experience constructive criticism as evidence that you can’t do anything right.
  • You often feel worthless, anxious, lonely, sad, or depressed.
  • You criticize yourself for even the smallest mistakes or shortcomings.
  • You spend more time focusing on your mistakes than your achievements.
  • You blame yourself for things that aren’t your fault.

Find care with Rula

If you’re living with low self-esteem and it’s negatively affecting your daily life, know that help is available. No matter the mental health challenge you’re facing, Rula is here to provide streamlined access to convenient, effective digital care from the comfort of home

Our therapist-matching program makes it easy to find a provider who takes your insurance in just a few clicks. And thanks to our extensive network, you can choose a therapist who offers the specialized support you deserve.

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