Self Help and SelfEsteem
Recovery from low self-esteem
Write down some of your positive qualities.
If it helps, ask yourself the following questions:
How easy did you find it to remember and write down positive things about yourself?
People with low self-esteem often struggle to bring positive things to mind. This is because they tend to pay attention to negative things that confirm their negative self-view - this is called a 'confirmation bias'.
Because fewer positive things are noticed, fewer are remembered.
Some people might be able to recall positive things about themselves, but might feel uncomfortable thinking or talking about the positive qualities they have. They might think of it as arrogant to think about such things.
Talking therapies (counselling or psychotherapy) can be very helpful for low self-esteem and are usually accessed through your GP. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation can help too.
Low self-esteem often responds especially well to cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT is an active therapy that involves changing feelings and emotions through learning to see challenges in a different way and by trying out new behaviours in different situations (behavioural experiments). Medication can be taken alongside therapy, though it's not recommended for everyone.
The first appointment with your GP can feel difficult, especially if you view low self-esteem as a 'weakness' (it isn't!) so it can be helpful to write down what you want to talk about before you go. Make a note of any questions or worries you might have. Some people find it helpful to take a friend or family member along.
Low self -esteem can make us feel alone and helpless, and it can be hard to summon the energy to get help. A quick 'phone call to your GP can get things moving and start you on the road to recovery.
Things that can help you recover
Things to do every day
Low self-esteem can make us want to avoid people or situations. It can be very hard, but facing our fears and staying with people and situations can be very helpful. Remaining in work or returning to work might be very hard too, but can help us keep a sense of control. Keeping a normal daily routine is usually much better than withdrawing. We might feel like shutting ourselves away, but doing so can make things worse.
When we avoid a situation, it's harder to gain control over our fear. Ask yourself, 'if I were to act opposite to how I feel, what would I do'? Make a note of your answer below.
Putting off problems can make them mount up. Are there things in your life you're putting off dealing with? Might an advocate or some extra support help? The Citizens Advice Bureau can help with a range of issues from housing to money worries. Doing things to address our problems helps relieve the burden and allows us to feel 'in control' again. Learning to be assertive at home and in work can help; standing up for ourselves builds positive self-esteem.
Ask yourself, 'what small thing could I do today that would help me begin to feel better about myself?' Make a note of your answer below.
Gratitude is about expressing appreciation for what one has - as opposed to focussing on what one wants. Studies show that when we deliberately attend to the things we are grateful for, we can increase our well-being and happiness. Gratitude is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy for others. Many people find keeping a 'gratitude journal' helpful.
At its simplest, this just means carrying around a notebook and writing down the things in life (often the simple things) that we can be grateful for. It can be hard to remember at first, but it's a good habit to get into. If you have a smartphone, free applications are available to help.
Alcohol is a depressant - it lowers the mood. Other non-prescribed drugs can have similar effects and are best avoided. If you think alcohol or drug use might be a problem, you can contact DAN 24/7, the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline: DAN 24/7 website or call them on 0808 808 2234.
Things to do every week
Record your activities during the week. You can use the recording form over the page.
For each activity, record the sense of achievement and pleasure you gain, from 1 ('none') to 10 ('a great deal').
After you have recorded your activities for a week, sit down and have a think about your profile - is there anything you'd like to change? When we're active and recognise our successes, we build positive self-esteem.
Doing something to improve our physical fitness helps, as does making sure we eat and sleep enough. Each week do something physical, ideally a little outside of your comfort zone, that you can remember and feel proud of.
Longer term things to consider
Repairing relationships or moving on
If you're struggling with a difficult relationship, or low self-esteem is causing problems in your relationship you can contact Relate on 0845 456 1310, or speak to your GP about other types of relationship counselling. If there's someone whose behaviour frightens you, read our 'anger' information sheet.
There are many different types of talking therapy; the most effective for low self-esteem is probably cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). In CBT, we learn to face our fears and the ways in which our thoughts can make us more anxious and less able to cope. Your CBT therapist will help you learn new skills to deal with low self-esteem and help support you face up to things you may have avoided.
Other treatments are available for low self-esteem, such as mindfulness, analytic therapies or counselling, which some people find helpful. Ask your health professional for advice, or choose a therapy that feels right and that works for you.
There are many good books and websites that can help. Again, your GP, practice nurse or primary care mental health practitioner will be able to recommend from a range of excellent and helpful material. Voluntary services such as Mind have a number of valuable resources, look up your local Mind service on the Internet and give them a ring.
The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you'll feel better. If you've been affected by anything you've read here, contact your GP now. Don't delay in seeking help.
Speak with your GP or a health professional for extra information or to get on the road to recovery today.
Diagnosing low self-esteem
The following questions won't give you a diagnosis - that's something only a qualified health professional can do - but they can give you a better idea about your symptoms. Don't worry about the privacy of your results; we don't store them anywhere so they are confidential to you.
Rosenberg self-esteem scale
Please read each statement and record a number 0, 1, 2 or 3 which indicates how much the statement applied to you over the past two weeks. There are no right or wrong answers. Do not spend too much time on any one statement. This assessment is not intended to be a diagnosis. If you are concerned about your results in any way, please speak with a qualified health professional.
For items marked with an (R), reverse the scoring (for example, 0 = 3, 1 = 2, 2 = 1, 3 = 0). For those items without an (R) next to them, simply add the score. Typical scores on the Rosenberg scale are around 22, with most people scoring between 15 and 25. A score of less than 15 suggests low self-esteem may be an issue. Remember that this assessment is just for information, it is not a diagnosis.
You can download a PDF copy of the Rosenberg self-esteem scale chart here: Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.pdf
You can find a list of national agencies that can help with self esteem here: National Self Esteem Agencies
Disclaimer: This material is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. We have used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. We recommend you consult a doctor or other health care professional for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, or if you are at all concerned about your health.