- Signs of low self-esteem include fearing failure, devaluing yourself, and focusing on weaknesses.
- Low self-esteem can be caused by bullying, abuse, trauma, and disapproving parental figures.
- To raise your self-esteem, seek out loving relationships, be kind to yourself, and try hobbies.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Self-esteem is how you perceive yourself. Because self-esteem changes as you move through life, you are likely to experience low self-esteem at some point. This can cause you to feel unsure of your abilities or like you’re doomed to fail. While low-self esteem is difficult to overcome, it can be done.
Here’s how to boost low self-esteem:
What is self-esteem
Self-esteem is the ever-changing perception of your own emotions, actions, thoughts, relationships, and physical appearance, among other attributes. Self-esteem boils down to one question, “How much value and respect do you hold for yourself?” says Romanoff.
Signs of low self-esteem
There are many signs of low self-esteem. According to Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, emotional signs of low self-esteem include:
- Perpetual fear of failure
- Difficulty taking in compliments
- Focus on personal weaknesses
- A tendency to devalue the self
- A need to please others
- Struggling to say no
- Avoiding conflict
- Apologizing more than necessary
- Overreacting to disagreements
- Fear of loved ones abandoning them
These feelings and behaviors may result in you not doing things you enjoy because your focus is on how others will perceive you.
Low self-esteem doesn’t cause physical symptoms itself, but it is associated with conditions, like anxiety or depression, that can. These mental health conditions can result in stomach aches, migraines, and fatigue.
What the research says: In a 2019 study of students in Vietnam, researchers linked low self-esteem to increased anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Stress from school or abuse from parents or other adults in their household were major risk factors for developing low self-esteem.
Causes of low-self esteem
Low self-esteem occurs for a variety of reasons. According to Annie M. Henderson, a certified professional life coach and licensed professional counselor with her own virtual practice, causes of low self-esteem include:
- Academic struggles without parental support
- Disapproving authority figures
Parents can also cause their children to have low self-esteem in several ways. One is by valuing their child’s accomplishments over the effort they put into achieving them. When children are praised for results, such as winning a game or prize, it can lead them to feel low self-esteem until the next tangible accomplishment occurs, says Romanoff.
What the research says: In a 2017 study, researchers examined how the relationship between Swedish parents and children affects the child’s self-worth. They found the closer a parent is with their child and the more affectionate they are, the greater the child’s self-worth.
How to build self-esteem
It may take months to years to build your self-esteem, but with the proper guidance, it is entirely possible. Here are some tips and activities according to Romanoff, Daramus, and Henderson, to try and boost self-esteem:
1. Seek out caring relationships. When you feel consistently supported in your platonic and romantic relationships, it becomes easier to weed out your own self-doubts.
2. Do things you enjoy and excel in. “This provides positive reinforcement and feelings of proficiency and capability,” says Romanoff.
3. Celebrate every small success. Make sure you weigh your successes equally with your difficulties, says Daramus. It’s easy to focus on something bad happening and minimize the good. Give each result, positive or poor, the same attention.
4. Speak to yourself like a friend. Notice if your perceptions and inner thoughts reflect a cheerleader or bully. For example, don’t say I should have tried harder, instead say I put in a good effort.
5. Question your negative thoughts. Thinking something doesn’t make it accurate. Next time you have a negative opinion about yourself, challenge and replace it with a positive one.
Romanoff says to see a mental health professional for self-esteem if you notice it affecting your life, such as in relationships, at work, or your mood.
Important: You don’t have to wait until your self-esteem is “bad enough” to make an appointment with a mental health professional. “If your low self-esteem is making you miserable, it’s worth seeing somebody simply because you matter, and you shouldn’t have to go through life miserable and hating yourself,” says Daramus.
Parents can also play a significant role in raising and maintaining their child’s self-esteem. For example, parents should:
- Reinforce and praise internal factors such as effort and determination, not the scores on their report card
- Teach children to set boundaries
- Actively work on your own self-esteem
Self-esteem is something you will continue to build on throughout life, and it’s normal for it to fluctuate. “We do not hold stable values of worth for ourselves and for good reason,” says Romanoff. “We need to be impacted by our experiences and environments to grow, become curious, and evolve.”
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