It is quite normal to have down days and to feel a little unsure of yourself, but prolonged low self-esteem can have a debilitating affect on the quality of your life. Self-esteem is described as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities, and as self-respect.
Clinical psychologist Melanie Fennell, who has devoted her working life to understanding self-esteem, describes self-esteem as the collection of beliefs you have about yourself and the type of person you are. When self-esteem is high, you have belief in yourself and feel good enough to manage life’s challenges.
However, when esteem is low, you can find yourself doubting your place in society, feeling worthless and believing you are only as good as other people tell you. Without a healthy level of self-esteem, you can feel shaky in the world around you and unsure in your abilities to cope. Success can feel evasive and feelings of worthlessness can lead to depression. Humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow considered esteem to be so critical to well-being that he included it on his hierarchy of needs.
There are many reasons why low self-esteem can develop including physical, mental or sexual abuse; bullying; disapproving authority figures; trauma; belief systems; society and the media. Low self-esteem can filter through all aspects of life and can negatively impact your relationships, work life and social life.
Common symptoms of low self-esteem may include:
- Emotional turmoil
- Avoiding social situations– isolation
- Lack of confidence
- Eating disorders
- Distrusting own opinion or beliefs
- Over worrying/ruminating about people, places and things
Low self-esteem isn’t a life sentence and even small changes – such as finding self-acceptance or addressing self-criticism, can make a big difference to the quality of your life.
If you suffer from low self-esteem, you might find it difficult to turn to others for support as you may not see the value in investing in yourself. It can be difficult to see your own true self-worth objectively, but a trained, impartial therapist will be able to help you. A quick phone call or email to a counsellor may be the start of restoring your self-esteem and giving you the new lease of life that you deserve.