Self-esteem refers to the set of beliefs you have about yourself -- your abilities and the type of person you are. People with a healthy self-esteem hold mostly positive beliefs about themselves. Those with low self-esteem will generally have negative opinions, focusing on their weaknesses or the mistakes that they have made. They may find it hard to recognize the positive aspects of their personality or blame themselves for any failures they have had. Low self-esteem is not a recognized mental health problem, but self-esteem and mental health are closely related.

Signs & Symptoms

You may be experiencing low self-esteem if you:

  • Have negative thinking patterns, such as assuming you will fail at things you do
  • Find it hard to try new things or complete tasks
  • Feel increasingly socially isolated
  • Feel you are not living your life the way you want
  • Have developed unhealthy coping strategies, such as forming toxic relationships or engaging in substance abuse

Low self-esteem can cause feelings of anxiety and depression that can develop into mental health problems over time.

Some mental health problems, such as depression and social phobia, can also cause low self-esteem. They can make it difficult to maintain a job or perform simple tasks, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. There is also a social stigma associated with mental health problems, which could also result in a negative opinion about yourself.

Tips & Recommendations

To build your self-esteem, you need to change the negative beliefs you have about yourself. There are many ways to do this.

  • Do something you enjoy – We are generally good at doing things we enjoy, and routinely engaging in them can help build your confidence.
  • Build positive relationships – Spend time with positive and supportive people who will not criticize you, and who encourage you to talk to about your feelings. Positivity can help you have a better self-image and feel more confident. At the same time, being caring and supportive of other people will help you feel better about yourself and how other people perceive you.
  • Be more assertive - Being assertive means you value yourself and can express how you are feeling.
  • Take care of yourself – Exercise releases ‘feel-good’ hormones that can help improve your mood. Eating a well-balanced diet will help you to feel healthier and happier. And be sure to get enough sleep---insomnia can cause negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Set goals – Giving yourself an achievable goal can improve your self-esteem when you meet the challenge.

If you still have feelings of low self-esteem, Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you manage your feelings and learn techniques to help you live a more satisfying and productive life.

Additional Resources Consequences of Low Self-Esteem

SAMHSA: Building Self Esteem, A Self-Help Guide


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Featured Therapist

Angie Burch, M.A.
Pamela J. Blawusch, M.A.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Carlsbad, CA

I provide a therapeutic environment that allows individuals and couples to explore ideas, beliefs, life experiences, thoughts and feelings that may stand in the way of being who you truly want to be. I can help point out repeating dysfunctional patterns that may exsist in relationships at home, at work and with friends and family.I teach people how to respond in their lives versus getting caught in reacting to personalities and events.

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