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A healthy level of self-esteem is important for our well-being. We all go through times when we lack confidence and feel less good about ourselves, but if this becomes a long-term issue, it can have a negative impact on many aspects of our lives.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the way we think and feel about ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves, our own decisions and life in general.
Most people’s self-esteem fluctuates to a certain extent. People who have persistently low self-esteem tend to see themselves in a more negative light, and feel less able to cope with challenges.
Some people see a distinction between the terms ‘self-esteem’ and ‘self-confidence’, whilst others view them as variations of the same concept.
Symptoms of low self-esteem
What causes low self-esteem?
Self-esteem is shaped by our experience from birth. It develops over time and is influenced by many factors. Positive experiences and relationships generally raise it, whilst negative relationships and traumatic or stressful experiences can lower it.
Personality can also be a factor. Some of us may set unrealistically high standards for ourselves that we find it difficult to live up to, whilst others may be naturally inclined to think negatively.
How can therapy help?
Many forms of therapy address confidence and self-esteem issues. Therapists may work with clients to develop confidence, assertiveness and a stronger sense of self. They may also focus on boosting self-compassion, which can help clients value themselves, treat themselves kindly and develop achievable goals.
Talking therapies like counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often used to treat low self-esteem. Counselling can help clients explore how confidence and self-esteem issues may have developed from earlier life experiences. It may examine how those issues are affecting clients’ lives, and how they can change things.
CBT is based on the idea that it is not our experiences that determine how we feel, but how we interpret them. It can help clients understand the relationship between their feelings, thoughts and behaviours, and work towards changing negative interpretations of themselves.
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