What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem refers to the way in which we view ourselves. It encompasses both how we think, and how we feel about ourselves.
When we have healthy levels of self-esteem, we tend to view ourselves positively (e.g. ‘I have many good qualities’) and feel good about ourselves.
However, when we have low levels of self-esteem, we tend to view ourselves negatively (e.g. ‘I am no good at all’, ‘I feel useless all the time’) and feel ashamed, despair and even hatred towards ourselves.
Many individuals struggle with issues of low self-esteem. It is often a heavy emotional burden, as one tends to feel depressed, ashamed, disappointed or hopeless because of the way they think about themselves. They may also experience anxiety frequently, because of constant doubts of whether they are capable of performing at work, in school, or in their relationships.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
Individuals with low self-esteem tend to:
- Make self-critical remarks (e.g. ‘I am no good at all’)
- Believe that they are unattractive, worthless, incapable, unimportant or a burden
- Be unable to accept compliments
- Assume blame easily (e.g. ‘This happened because I was just too stupid to be able to do it right’)
- Fear rejection from others, assumes that others do not like him or her
- Have difficulties in saying no to others
- Set inappropriately low goals for self
- Be unable to identify positive things about self
- Be uncomfortable in social situations
Seeking Help for Self-Esteem Issues
Since self-esteem refers to the way in which we think and feel about ourselves, it is something that can be changed. We can improve our self-confidence by paying attention to and changing the negative thoughts that we have about ourselves. Other ways are through achieving small successes, forming positive relationships, and building resilience in the face of everyday challenges.
Here are some ways in which you can seek help for self-esteem issues:
01 | Counselling
Counselling, or psychotherapy, is a process that allows individuals to gain insight into their issues through having structured conversations. Through the process of counselling, the individual is able to identify and change the negative thoughts and beliefs of self that he or she has. The individual can also work with the counsellor on other goals, such as gaining small successes, forming positive relationships, and building resilience in the face of everyday challenges to increase their confidence in themselves.
02 | Self-Help Resources
Ten Days to Self-Esteem! by Dr. David Burns is a step by step guide to identifying your negative thoughts, with clear, actionable strategies to changing them. The book is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
The Six Pillars of Self Esteem is written by Nathaniel Branden, the leading pioneer in the field of self-esteem. In this book, he shares about what self-esteem is, and the six pillars that provide for the foundation of self-esteem. The book also provides concrete guidelines to building confidence in ourselves.
What to Say When You Talk to Yourself focuses on reversing the effects of negative self-talk. The book teaches us ways of talking to ourselves that allows us to enjoy a successful, fulfilling life.
Featured images by Freepik
FAQs about Self-Esteem Counselling
What are the 3 types of self-esteem?
There are 3 major types of self-esteem: low, high and inflated self-esteem.
- Low self-esteem
People with low self-esteem tend to see themselves, and the world, more negatively and critically. They usually have low self-confidence and place little trust in their abilities. They also tend to find themselves doubting their decision-making abilities and may feel that they lack control over their lives or what happens to them.
This might lead to poor relationships with others, mental health issues like depression or anxiety, or even substance abuse.
- High self-esteem
Individuals with high self-esteem generally hold themselves in positive regard. This does not mean that they love everything about themselves or see themselves as a perfect being. Instead, they simply have more confidence in themselves and their ability to overcome challenges.
These people tend to be more open-minded and receptive to constructive criticism. They are also less likely to adopt a hostile attitude towards suggestions from others.
- Inflated self-esteem
These individuals see themselves as superior to others and usually have a hard time owning up to their mistakes. They feel the need to always be the best, and usually have no qualms about hurting others just to achieve their goals.
They may also find it difficult to form healthy and positive bonds with others.
How can self-esteem be improved?
Rather than improving your self-esteem drastically overnight, you are more likely to find yourself gaining confidence bit by bit over a period of time.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help to change the negative thoughts and perceptions you have about yourself and develop goals to increase your confidence.
Outside of counselling, you can improve your self-esteem by:
- Celebrating small achievements
- Utilising positive affirmations
- Forming relationships with positive and supportive people
- Taking on new challenges
Eventually, these conscious decisions will become habits, and when coupled with professional psychotherapy, you will find that your self-esteem has improved over time.
What is the best therapy for low self-esteem?
While there is no medical treatment for low self-esteem, there are a few psychological treatments that are effective for such individuals. These include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT).
CBT is particularly effective as it helps an individual with low self-esteem to identify their core beliefs and develop them into healthier versions of those same values. This form of therapy also uses behavioural experiments to test one’s negative predictions and get them to overcome their fears.