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Explains low self-esteem, including possible causes and practical suggestions on what you can do to help yourself.

What is Self-Esteem?

Our self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. Most people will have low self-esteem at some point during their lives, and 75% of young people have felt it at least once. If you have low self-esteem you may feel:

  • like you dislike/hate yourself;
  • worthless or not good enough;
  • unassertive (passive, lacking confidence);
  • unloved;
  • guilty for spending time/money on yourself;
  • unable to recognise your strengths;
  • undeserving of happiness;
  • lacking confidence.

Having little self-belief can stop you from living the life you want to live. Self-esteem can be affected by numerous factors, especially difficult life events. Some examples include:

  • being bullied or abused;
  • ongoing stress;
  • physical illness;
  • metal health problems;
  • difficult relationships.

By tackling your low self-esteem early, it can help prevent mental health difficulties like depression or anxiety from developing. There are numerous methods and tips to increase your self-esteem.

How can I help myself?

Avoid negative self-talk: you may find that you automatically put yourself down. If you can identify and challenge your negative self-beliefs, this can help and lead to a positive impact on your self-esteem. For example, your belief may be ‘nobody likes me’; this can be challenged by ‘well, I do have friends and family who care about me and want to spend quality time, therefore they must like me’. It can also be helpful to ask yourself: ‘would I talk about other people or loved ones in such a negative way?’ – you may find the answer is often no. Therefore, equally, you shouldn’t talk about yourself in that same negative way.

Connect with people who love you: make a conscious effort to spend more time with the people who value and love you. This can help you to feel good about yourself, and sets up a perfect environment to challenge your negative thinking. It’s easy to feel bad about yourself if you spend time with people who treat you badly or don’t appreciate you. Talking to loved ones about how you feel can help you to reassess how you view yourself. Ask them what they like about you – it’s likely that they see you differently to how you see yourself.

Learn to be assertive: when you don’t like yourself, it’s easy to assume others won’t like you either. You may find you go out of your way to help others as you feel it’s the only way they’ll like you. A good deed is great, but over stretching yourself to please others can leave you with less energy to focus on yourself and can affect your mental health. You could try the following to increase your confidence:

  • learn to say ‘no’ – take a breath before automatically agreeing to do something you don’t want to;
  • set boundaries around how much you do for other people;
  • take control of your own decisions.

At first you might find it difficult to break these habits but making small changes to be more assertive can feel liberating and gets easier the more you do it.

Focus on your positives: you may automatically think you’re not good at something. This may stop you from doing the things you enjoy or trying new things, which can make you feel worse about yourself. There are a variety of tips to try which can help to minimise this:

  • try to celebrate your successes without belittling them. No matter how small they may seem to you, take time to praise yourself and reflect on what you did well;
  • accept compliments. Make a note of them to look over when you’re doubting yourself;
  • write a list of what you like about yourself. You could include aspects of your personality, your appearance and what you like doing. If you’re finding it difficult, ask a friend or loved one to help you.

Take care of yourself: If you have low self-esteem it can be difficult to find the motivation to take care of your physical health. You may even feel guilty about spending time on yourself, but it’s important for your mental well-being. There are several things which affect your mood and thought processes, such as sleep, the food you eat, exercise, and many others. Check our ‘Minding my Head’ section for more useful tips and methods to consider when looking after yourself.


Useful Contacts

Be Mindful

Be mindful provides information on mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). It also provides guidance on how to learn and embrace mindfulness as well as course listings.


(Freephone 0800 1111 -24 hours)
Childline is the UK’s free helpline for children and young people. It provides a confidential telephone counselling service for any child with a problem, such as low self-esteem.


(Freephone 116 123 – 24 hours, 7 days a week) volunteers listen in confidence to anyone in any type of emotional distress, without judging or telling people what to do.

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