What is Self Esteem?

We all know that self-esteem sometimes referred to as self-worth or self-respect, can be an important part of success. Too little self-esteem can leave people feeling defeated or depressed.  At the heart of low self-esteem lie negative beliefs about ourselves.

How does experience lead to low self-esteem?   Beliefs about ourselves (and indeed about other people and about life) are all learned.  They have their roots in experience.  Your beliefs about yourself can be seen as conclusions you have come to on the basis of what has happened to you.  This means that, however unhelpful or outdated they may now be, they are nonetheless understandable – there was a time when they made perfect sense, given what was going on for you.

Your view of your self – your self esteem is a learned opinion, not a fact.  Opinions can be mistaken, biased and inaccurate, or indeed just plain wrong.

Your ideas about yourself have developed as a consequence of your experiences in life for example if your experiences have largely been positive and affirming, then your view of yourself will probably also be positive and affirming.  If on the other hand your experiences in life have large been negative and undermining, then our view of yourself will also probably be negative and undermining.

Learning comes from many sources – direct experiences, observation, the media and social media, listening to what people around you say and watching what they do.  Experiences that lead to negative beliefs about the self often (though not necessarily) occur early in life.  What you saw and heard and experienced in childhood in your family of origin, in the society in which you lived, at school and among your peers will have influenced your thinking in ways which may have persisted to the present day.  A range of different experiences may have contributed to thinking badly of yourself.

Your idea of yourself and sense of your own worth may be a result of how you were treated early in life.  If children are treated badly they often assume that this reflects something. Bad in themselves – they must somehow have deserved it.   They will have influenced how you see yourself.

  • Negative outlook
  • Lack of confidence
  • Inability to express your needs
  • Focus on your weaknesses
  • Excessive feelings of shame, depression, or anxiety
  • Belief that others are better than you
  • Trouble accepting positive feedback
  • Intense fear of failure
  • Confidence
  • Ability to say no
  • Positive outlook
  • Ability to see overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them
  • Negative experiences don’t impact overall perspective
  • Ability to express your needs

Experiences Contributing to Low Self Esteem

Experiences that contribute to low self esteem can either be from early experiences, or ones later in life.  Here are some examples:

Early experiences:

  • Systematic punishment, criticism, neglect or abuse
  • Failing to meet parental standards or being unfavourable compared to others\Failing to meet peer group standards
  • Being on the receiving end of bullying or cyber bullying
  • Being on the receiving end of other peoples stress or distress
  • Being part of a family or social group struggling with adversity (eg financial hardship, illness, being a target for prejudice or hostility)
  • Lacking what you needed in order to develop a secure sense of self worth (eg praise, affection, warmth, interest)
  • Being the “odd one out” at home or school

Later experiences

  • Workplace intimidation or bullying, abusive relationships, persisting stress or hardship, exposure to traumatic events
  • Gradual changes in things that were important to your identity (eg losing health, good looks, or earning capacity)

As people grow up, they take with them the voices of people who were important to them.  These need not be parents’ voices, other family members such as grandparents, older siblings, teachers, child minders, friends and school mates all can have a major impact on self-confidence and self-esteem.  We may criticise ourselves in their exact sharp tones, call ourselves the same unkind names, and make the same comparisons with other people and with how we ought to be.  That is, the beliefs we hold about ourselves in the present day often directly reflect the messages we received as children.

Along with this, we may re-experience emotions and body sensations and see images in our mind’s eye that were originally present at a much earlier stage.    We may create statements about ourselves based on our belief such as I am bad, I am not good enough, I a fat and ugly, I am worthless, I am not important for example.

The distressing ideas that we have developed about ourselves flow naturally from the experiences that we have been exposed too. Opinions about ourselves make perfect sense, given what may have happened to us.

How can I help?

The first step after you contact me (either by phone or email) will be a brief telephone conversation with me. This is so you can raise any questions or concerns and share a little about your situation. Each and every telephone call is conducted in strict confidence.  If you feel uncomfortable with a telephone conversation, please express this on an email and we can organise your initial free consultation in person.

Following this, you can choose whether to book in sessions with me and we can discuss how and when these will happen.  The initial consultation is designed to give you freedom of choice and to ensure you are comfortable talking and working with me

Your first session will give you the chance to talk freely in a calm, quiet and completely confidential environment to explore your situation and how it impacts you day to day.    I look to understand what you hope to achieve from therapy and from this we can explore some techniques and ideas to help you to achieve improved health and wellbeing, so you are armed with a unique set of tools that you can use to continue to feel well.   Most importantly I work at a pace and frequency that feels right for you with regular check ins to see how you are progressing.

More information on my approach can be found here.

Any Other Questions?

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