Our self esteem is influenced by lots of different factors, from our childhoods to life events. When we have low self-esteem we tend to see ourselves and the world around us in poor light. Whichever way we look things can feel negative. This can compound feelings of low self worth and we inevitably find it more difficult to cope with challenges as they present themselves.
Our self-esteem is, essentially, how we view ourselves, based on past experiences and beliefs that we have about ourselves. While these beliefs can be misplaced, they can feel very difficult to change.
Low self-esteem can affect your life in a number of ways. It can make it tough to believe in oneself, to try new things and take risks. Perhaps you take things to heart and find it hard to let go and move forward. You may feel stuck in old thought patterns that do not serve you anymore. Your self-care may suffer and you may prioritise other people’s feelings and needs over your own.
Self-esteem can however be built up and made stronger, we can change our narrative, how we see ourselves, what we say about ourselves and to ourselves.
Everyone will have different factors in their life that affect self-esteem. For some people, self-esteem can change abruptly(for example after a stressful life event) while for others, low self-esteem may be something they have lived with for a long time.
Often our opinion of ourselves is built on childhood experiences. If we have experienced authority figures who were disapproving or have been criticised a lot in childhood this can lead to forming the opinion of being ‘not good enough’.
Being bullied in childhood can also have a lasting impact on your sense of self-esteem, experiencing abuse, discrimination or stigma having relationship problems, ongoing stress, difficulties at work/school, body image worries problems with money or housing losing your job, of finding it hard to get a job.
Building self-esteem in counselling starts with developing an understanding of where your opinion of yourself stems from and how to challenge these beliefs. Developing a clearer picture and awareness of the past and how this impacts who you are today can be eye opening, helping to let go of the self-blame that often comes with negative thoughts.
Leaning on and increasing your support system:
Through counselling it is important to look at your support systems and the factors in your life which are helpful resources. By developing a relationship in counselling that is supportive and positive this can then have a further knock on effect to enable you to reach out to friends and perhaps family more. You may even want to use a support group or talk to friends online. This enables the sense that you are not alone and that you do have people in your life who care about you.
The process of re-building and improving self-esteem can feel difficult at times, but the opinions and beliefs we have about ourselves are learnt. This means, with the right support and more self compassion, we can change the messages and beliefs we have about ourselves.
Nothing is permanent, everything is changing and evolving. Being kind to oneself, practicing self-compassion and self-care, enables us to develop and grow and let go of anything that no longer serves us.