“Self-esteem” may be a term you’ve heard before but can’t quite define. It’s how positively you feel about yourself. That can include your feelings about how you look, what you’re capable of, your value as a person or even how you think other people see you. Having good self-esteem is an important factor in your mental health.
Why self-esteem matters
When you have positive self-perception, it can make it easier for you to:
- Feel confident in your strengths
- Accept and move past your mistakes
- Make decisions
- Accept new challenges
- Show yourself kindness and care
- Pursue success and happiness
There’s also a connection between self-esteem and relationships. That connection appears to work in both directions: A 2019 review of research studies showed that having positive social relationships and support can help people develop self-esteem over time and that healthy self-esteem can have a positive influence on relationships.
Impacts of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem isn’t considered a mental condition on its own, but it has been linked to lower quality of life and problems such as:
- Addiction: Using alcohol or drugs to dull negative feelings about yourself could lead to a substance use disorder — which, in turn, could result in even lower self-esteem. Research suggests that children and adolescents with low self-esteem may be more likely to develop substance use disorders in young adulthood.
- Depression and anxiety: Low self-esteem may show up in mental health symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-blame or self-hate, which can fuel depression. And if you already struggle with depression or anxiety, feelings of shame or failure related to your mental health condition could, in turn, lower your self-esteem.
How to build self-esteem
The good news is that self-esteem can be strengthened. While it’s not always easy, there are things you can do to gradually replace your negative self-perceptions with positive ones.
- Put a spotlight on the positive: Make a list of things you like about yourself. We’re always harder on ourselves, so ask a close friend or loved one to pitch in from their perspective.
- Celebrate your successes: When you accomplish something, mark the moment — with a photo to hang on your wall, a token of achievement or something that makes you smile.
- Cut yourself slack when you fail: We all fail at times. Tell yourself it’s an opportunity to learn, then keep going.
- Try something new: You may not master a new task or activity the first time out (see above!), but that’s okay. Instead, give yourself credit just for taking on a challenge. If possible, invite a friend to join in so you can boost each other’s confidence.
- Practice self-care: Making sure you get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and get physical activity can improve your mood. More important, it’s a reminder that you’re worth taking care of.
- Take the pressure off: When you take steps to boost your self-esteem, it’s okay if they’re tentative ones. Try them out without expectations and see what happens. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else.
Finally, talk to someone. Therapy can help with self-esteem issues. Experts often recommend an approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, your therapist helps you identify how your thoughts and feelings may be leading you to engage in unhealthy behaviors or beliefs. Your therapist can then help you develop new skills for replacing those negative patterns with more positive ones.
If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, LiveHealth Online therapists are available to help.