Self-esteem is how we think about ourselves.

When we have good self-esteem, we feel positive about ourselves and our lives.

  • We look after ourselves and ask others for help when we need it.
  • We feel ready and empowered to take on new challenges and try new things.

When we have low self-esteem, we are very critical about ourselves and our lives. We also feel less able to face the challenges that life throws at us.

With low self-esteem, you may:

  • Dislike yourself
  • Worry that no one likes you
  • Feel self-conscious or low in confidence
  • Feel worthless or not good enough
  • Feel like you don’t deserve to be happy
  • Find it hard to make decisions or to tell others what you think or feel
  • Be unable to see your strengths and achievements

We all experience ups and downs, and it is normal to have times where you feel less confident in yourself.

When low self-esteem affects you for a long time, it can start to negatively affect your emotional wellbeing.

What causes low self-esteem?

Your self-esteem can be affected by many things, including:

  • Your beliefs about the type of person you are, what you can do, your strengths / weaknesses and your expectations of your future.
  • Your personality – some people are more prone to negative thinking, and others may set themselves very high standards and then feel bad if they cannot meet them
  • Difficult or stressful things happening in your life, like the death of a loved one.
  • How you think you are compared to others – social media, TV, magazines and even pressure from our friends and family can make us want to look or act a certain way

How does low self-esteem affect us?

If you have low self-esteem, you may avoid things you find challenging, stop trying new things or hide from situations that make you feel scared.

While this might make you feel safe in the short term, it teaches you that avoiding things is the only way to cope.

This might mean you miss out on exciting opportunities as you move through life, such as going to college or university, travelling to a new place or developing a new skill.

Living with low self-esteem can also harm your mental health and lead to problems such as depression and anxiety.

How to have healthy self-esteem

There are lots of things that you can do to look after yourself and help you feel more confident:

It’s important to speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling – bottling up your feelings can make things worse.

You may find it easier to speak to someone you don’t know, as they can help you see things from a different perspective.

Note down any negative thoughts in a diary and ask yourself when or what made you think this way.

Then write down some evidence that challenges this negative belief, such as ‘I’m good at cooking and use it to help my family’.

You can add other positive things about yourself and good things other people say about you.

Keep adding to this list of positives and keep it somewhere you can see it to remind yourself of these good things when you need to.

We are all good at something, whether it’s singing, cooking or being a good friend or sibling.

You probably enjoy the things you are good at – so do them more often to boost your mood!

Being part of a group can build our sense of self and create a feeling of belonging.

Don’t let anyone else tell you who you should admire. Think about what is important to you.

You could change who you follow on social media so your feed is really personal and inspiring for you!

Are the people that you chose to spend time with good for your self-esteem?

If certain people tend to bring you down, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how their words or actions made you feel.

There are lots of people who appreciate you for being you – try and spend more time with people who help you feel more positive!

When we are feeling low, it is easy to be negative about yourself.

Try and be kind to yourself. How would you react if a friend said those things about their selves?

Set a reminder every day to appreciate three things about yourself.

This will only take a couple of minutes but can really help your self-esteem if you can make it a habit!

People with low self-esteem sometimes feel they have to say yes to other people even when they don’t want to. This might make you feel resentful, angry and depressed.

Feeling confident in saying no means that you can spend more time doing the things that make you happy.

Trying new things can make us feel nervous. People with healthy self-esteem feel confident in taking on new challenges because they don’t let those feelings get in their way.

Try setting yourself a goal, such as going to an exercise class or introducing yourself to someone in school or work.

Achieving your goals will help increase your mood and self-esteem!