Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It's based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change.
Your self-esteem can affect whether you:
- like and value yourself as a person
- are able to make decisions and assert yourself
- recognise your strengths and positives
- feel able to try new or difficult things
- show kindness towards yourself
- move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
- take the time you need for yourself
- believe you matter and are good enough
- believe you deserve happiness.
For me, building self-esteem was [about] learning what self-esteem was in the first place. It was unlearning what I had learned about myself ... I went back to self-school and learned all about me
What can cause low self-esteem?
The things that affect our self-esteem differ for everyone. Your self-esteem might change suddenly, or you might have had low self-esteem for a while – which might make it hard to recognise how you feel and make changes.
Difficult or stressful life experiences can often be a factor, such as:
- being bullied or abused
- experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma
- losing your job or difficulty finding employment
- problems at work or while studying
- ongoing stress
- physical health problems
- mental health problems
- relationship problems, separation or divorce
- worries about your appearance and body image
- problems with money or housing.
You might have had some of these experiences, and you might also have had difficulties that aren't listed here. Or there might not be one particular cause.
My self esteem has almost disappeared.... I don't know how to interact with people anymore and find it hard to enjoy the things that I like
Whatever has affected your self-esteem, it's important to remember that you have the right to feel good about who you are. It might feel as if changing things will be difficult, but there are lots of things you can try to improve things bit by bit – see our tips to improve your self-esteem for some suggestions.
Stigma and self-esteem
Experiencing stigma can affect your self-esteem, including stigma about mental health problems. Our page on stigma and misconceptions has lots of ideas you could try.
Find out more about stigma and mental health on the Time to Change website, or read about how we are campaigning to fight stigma relating to benefits and housing for people with mental health problems.