What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we think and feel about ourselves. It isn’t just about how we look, but also how confident we feel in who we are.

If our self-esteem is high, we’re not too worried about what other people think, or how much we get wrong, because we accept ourselves just the way we are, without judgment: we are more positive about life in general. When we have low self-esteem, it means we are probably low on confidence and more likely to see things in a negative light; we might find it hard to believe in ourselves and feel good enough. That’s okay! Most people struggle with self-esteem at some point in their life.


What can cause low self-esteem?

Things that have happened to us in the past, our mental health, or difficult situations at home can influence our self-esteem. It can also be affected by:

  • Problems at college
  • Bullying
  • A traumatic experience or experiences
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Friendships or relationships – the way people in our lives treat us
  • College or exam stress
  • Mental health problems
  • Physical health problems
  • Feeling under pressure to look or act a certain way
  • Experiencing discrimination
  • Social media and spending lots of time online


What can help?

If low self-esteem feels too intense or last for too long, it could be a sign that you might need additional support. Talking about it can be really helpful and is often the first step to feeling better. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, or contact our Therapy Service on to talk to one of our therapeutic counsellors. They can offer one-off drop-in appointments or weekly counselling sessions.

Below are some things that you can do to start to feel more confident in yourself, and improve how you are feeling, if you are struggling with your self-esteem.

  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts:
    • Reframing the way we think about ourselves can help improve our self-esteem:

  • Focus on the positives:
    • It’s often easy to focus on the bad things we’ve done more than the good. Try to think of one or two things each day that you’re proud of or thankful for. You could write about them in the mood journal or collect them on bits of paper in a jar. Try to look back at what you’ve written after a few days
  • Do something you enjoy:
    • Whether exercise, sports, art, music, reading, writing, film, TV, theatre, dance – anything! These things can help you to feel better about yourself, even just doing a little bit. Remember, you don’t have to be the best or be perfect at it – do your activity just for the fun of it!
  • Set yourself some small goals:
    • This might be trying a new hobby, wearing a new outfit, or just getting dressed for the day. Whatever it is, it’s important to celebrate your achievements and give yourself the credit you deserve
  • Find the right people for you:
    • Sometimes, low self-esteem can come from others who might make comments about you. You might not always realise how the people around you are making you feel. By reflecting on how people are treating you, you can start to see who makes you feel good and spend more time with them
  • Self-appreciation breaks:
    • Set a reminder every day to appreciate three things about yourself. This only takes two minutes but can have a powerful influence on self-esteem
  • Choose your heroes carefully:
    • Don’t let the media tell you who your hero should be. Think about what you stand for and who really inspires you in life and why
  • Be kind to yourself:
    • Always remember to look after yourself and have some self-compassion. This means staying healthy, surrounding yourself with positive relationships and going easy on yourself when things in life aren’t going as well as expected


Supporting your child with low self-esteem

If your child is struggling with low self-esteem, click on the links to find out how you can support them and places you can get help.



You can also download this guide from YoungMinds