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William Macaulay

Counsellor & Psychotherapist
Perth WA

Phone 0401 316 977

for enquiries or appointments

Counselling for Low Self-Esteem

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Do you generally have an overall negative opinion of yourself? Are you frequently self-critical? Do you constantly compare yourself unfavourably with others? Living with low self-esteem can be distressing and extremely tough. When we don't value ourselves, we tend not to value others, and therefore it can impact our relationships too. Counselling for low self-esteem identifies root causes and supports the development of a positive, confident self-image.


What is self-esteem?


Self-esteem refers to how you view and think about yourself and the value you place on yourself as a person.​ Put simply, it can be described as a favourable or unfavourable attitude towards yourself. Think of it as a sort of measurement of how much you value, approve of, appreciate or like yourself.


Why is self-esteem important?


Everyone experiences the odd occasion when they feel negative about themself or finds it hard to believe in themself. However, if this is how you feel most of the time, this may indicate that you are experiencing low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can lead to relationship problems and adverse mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, social phobia, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.


Self-esteem vs Self-confidence


Self-esteem refers to your internal opinion of yourself, and self-confidence relates to your external abilities in particular areas of life. Therefore, you can have high self-confidence, particularly in a specific area or field, but still lack a healthy sense of overall self-esteem. For example, you could be very self-confident and good at playing hockey but view yourself as worthless, unlikable or unattractive, indicating low self-esteem.


What does healthy self-esteem look like?


Typical signs and characteristics of healthy self-esteem:


Internal Factors:

  • Viewing yourself and your worth in a balanced way by recognising and accepting that we all have strengths and weaknesses

  • Recognising and celebrating your strengths and successes

  • Accepting any weaknesses that are beyond your control and cannot be changed and deciding whether or not you want to improve any weaknesses that can be changed

  • Accepting that occasionally you will view yourself negatively

  • Believing you are equal to everyone else, no better and no worse


External Factors:

  • Possessing the ability to express your needs assertively

  • Having the ability to say no to others

  • Having a positive outlook on life

  • Being comfortable with giving and receiving compliments

  • Being open to criticism

  • Rejecting the attempts of others to manipulate you

What does low self-esteem look like?


Typical signs and characteristics of low self-esteem:


Internal Factors:

  • Having a generally negative overall opinion of yourself

  • Frequent self-criticism

  • Downplaying or ignoring your positive qualities

  • Struggling to accept compliments or positive feedback

  • Frequently experiencing negative emotions such as feeling sad, depressed, anxious, guilty, ashamed, frustrated and angry

  • Blaming yourself when things go wrong

  • Thinking that other people are better than you

  • Regularly feeling worthless

  • Always focusing on your weaknesses

  • Having an intense fear of failure

  • Struggling with self-confidence

  • Believing that your opinion isn't important

  • Doubting your every decision


External Factors:

  • Avoiding challenges and opportunities for fear of not doing well

  • Becoming easily upset or distressed by criticism or disapproval from others

  • Putting other people's needs before your own

  • Being extremely shy or self-conscious in social situations

  • Unlikely to stand up for or protect yourself from being bullied, criticised or abused by others

  • Engaging in low personal self-care by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or misusing drugs

  • Being disinterested in your appearance

  • Having a negative outlook on life

  • The world doesn't feel safe 


What causes low self-esteem?


Often, our beliefs about ourselves are conclusions we arrive at based on what has happened earlier in our lives. These beliefs are often linked to childhood experiences with our family, peers, culture, society, schooling etc. For example:

  • Experiencing excessive punishment, neglect or abuse

  • Overly critical or negative assessments from family and friends

  • Difficulty in meeting parental expectations

  • Not fitting in at home or school

  • Difficulty in meeting peer group standards

  • Being on the receiving end of other people's stress or distress

  • Your family's socioeconomic status

  • An absence of compliments and affirmations

  • Belonging to a minority group and experiencing discrimination, oppression, racism or exclusion

It is important to note that all of the above experiences are created by the behaviour and opinions of others rather than facts about you.


Negative experiences as an adult, such as abuse, prolonged stress, loneliness, social isolation, trauma and poor health, can also influence our beliefs about ourselves.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for Self-esteem


CBT is a highly effective psychological treatment that focuses on helping you recognise how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. It involves working with a trained therapist to help you identify unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours and learn healthier and more effective tools to increase your self-esteem.


Counselling & Support for low Self-esteem


If you are concerned about any aspect of your self-esteem or would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact me to arrange an appointment. Talking to a therapist can help you understand the root causes of your low self-esteem and explore which of your current thoughts, beliefs and behaviours maintain it. I offer CBT counselling and a range of practical tools and techniques that will help boost your self-esteem. Remember, healthy self-esteem is not just something other people have. It is attainable for us all. Start your journey towards positive self-worth by seeking help today.

William Macaulay Counselling Perth logo
What Is Self-esteem
Causes of low self-esteem
CBT for low self-esteem
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