Low self-esteem stems from beliefs that we have about ourselves, a negative self-evaluation which is usually rooted in childhood experiences. The way we were spoken to, treated, and made to feel as children has a significant impact on how we see and therefore relate to ourselves later in life. Some of us may also have grown up with parents who were not very confident and had low expectations of themselves and their children. Social class, culture, race, gender, sexuality, and disability are also societal and environmental contributing factors to how we self-evaluate.
Knowing where negative self-belief and low confidence comes from is the first step in effecting change. Feeling things that we don’t understand can be confusing and cause anxiety and depression, further perpetuating negative self-belief. The next step would be to begin challenging these beliefs and check them against the reality of your life and achievements, skills, etc. Many of the beliefs we carry are just that: thoughts about ourselves that do not match reality. This can lead to perpetual feelings of failure, regret or agonising about every small decision for fear of making mistakes. Some of these feelings can be debilitating and hold us back from moving our lives forward with confidence in our decisions.
Awareness of negative self-talk is also useful in that we can choose to gradually replace this self-talk with more positive inner dialogues. Sometimes people are surprised at how much time they spend being self-critical. The way we think has a direct impact on how we feel, therefore it is important to work on these issues.
How Relationships Affects Self-Esteem
Cultivating positive and healthy relationships is essential in gaining more confidence. A sense of belonging and acceptance comes from a variety of places, but the main place that it comes from is relationships. Therefore, being in relationships that don’t make you feel good about yourself, where you are badly treated, taken advantage of, etc is only going to make you feel worst about yourself. This includes both personal and professional relationships.
The definition of a healthy relationship is one where there is mutuality and exchange of support, ideas, validation, trust and honesty. The more we base our relationships on these principles, the stronger they will grow. Sometimes low self-confidence can get in the way of building relationships or seeking career opportunities for fear that others will think that we have little to offer. Again, challenging these beliefs and checking them against reality can help us to start to behave differently, take more risks and challenge ourselves in a good way.
In Psychotherapy we work with the root causes of low self- confidence, for instance how early relationships have contributed to the beliefs that we have about ourselves today, and then gradually replacing these with more helpful and realistic beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of. This usually leads to making better choices in life in the areas of work, relationships and health.On our website you can find more information about our counselling and psychotherapy services and how to contact our team.
Sam Jahara is a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist, Clinical Superviser and Executive Coach. She works with individuals, couples and groups in Hove and Lewes.