Do you have someone in your life who doesn’t seem to think very highly of themself? Do you struggle to hold yourself in high regard? Always putting yourself down, blaming yourself and focussing on your weaknesses?It may well be that low self-esteem is the issue.

Low self-esteem is when a person holds negative beliefs about themselves, dismissing or overlooking evidence to the contrary.

They may feel that their true self is weak, inadequate, inferior or lacking. They are plagued by uncertainty and self-doubt and their thoughts about self are often unkind and critical. They focus on the negatives to the neglect of the positives and have difficulty feeling any sense of self-worth.

These negative beliefs express themselves in what people think, what they say about themselves (self talk) and how they act. So self-doubt, self-blame, being critical of self, discounting positives and focussing on weaknesses will all be present. Self-consciousness – that thinking that says “what will people think?” will be present and over sensitivity to criticism and disapproval from others, will lead to people pleasing. The person with low self-esteem may find they have difficulty speaking up for themself (say sorry lots) and avoid challenges and opportunities.

So where does it come from? We are not born with low self-esteem. It develops as a result of experiences in life and most usually these occur in either childhood and/or adolescence. If these experiences have in the main been positive and affirming then our view of self will generally be positive and affirming. Likewise if our life experiences have been largely negative and undermining then then our view of self will likely be negative and undermining. In some cases it can lower in adulthood as a result of experiences such as job loss, long term illness or workplace bullying.

To better understand low self-esteem, let’s take a look at what healthy self-esteem is. Healthy self-esteem is reflected in a generally positive view of self and sense of self-worth. It is not the polar opposite of low self-esteem, in fact the polar opposite, whereby one excessively focusses only on their positive attributes and strengths to the neglect of their weaknesses can be equally as unhelpful as low self-esteem. Neither extreme is helpful.

Healthy self-esteem is balanced. It acknowledges both positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses as being part of what it means to be fully human, fully alive.

Can I change it? Make it better, healthier? Yes you can! You see, the beliefs we hold about ourselves (and the world in general) are in fact opinions. And opinions can be changed. It may take some dedication on your part and even the help of a professional to help you identify the thinking patterns that are keeping you stuck and to develop skills to grow some new ways of thinking, but with practice and consistency you can make meaningful change.

So in a nutshell, a person who has low self-esteem is someone who holds negative beliefs about themselves. These beliefs are opinions not fact and opinions can always be changed. You can “grow” your self-esteem to reflect a healthier and more balanced view of self and as a result an eminently more enjoyable life will follow.

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