Explains what self-esteem is, with tips for improving your self-esteem and ways to get further support.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It's based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can feel difficult to change. We might also think of this as self-confidence.
Your self-esteem can affect whether you:
- Like and value yourself as a person
- Can make decisions and assert yourself
- Recognise your strengths
- 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
Under 18? We have resources for you on wellbeing, self-esteem and looking after yourself
For me, low self-esteem is the little voice inside my head that says ‘you're rubbish, you're fat, what's the point, you're not cut out for this’ and so on…
What's it like to have low self-esteem?
Watch Nathan, Hannah, Helen, Rishi and Georgina talk about their experiences of low self-esteem, including how it feels, what's helped them and how their friends and family can help.
What can cause low self-esteem?
The things that affect our self-esteem are different for everyone. Your self-esteem might change suddenly. Or you might have had low self-esteem for a while.
There are lots of things in life that may contribute to low self-esteem. For example:
- Being bullied or abused
- Experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma, including racism
- Losing your job or difficulty finding employment
- Problems at work or while studying
- Physical health problems
- Mental health problems
- Relationship problems, separation or divorce
- Problems with money or housing
- Worries about your appearance and body image
- Feeling pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, for example through social media
You might have had some of these experiences. And you might have had difficulties that aren't listed here. Or there might not be one particular cause.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, it might feel as if making changes will be difficult. But there are things you can try. See our tips to improve your self-esteem for some suggestions.
I thought self-hatred was normal. Everyone wakes up every day and looks in the mirror and thinks ‘yeah, I hate that bit about me’, right?
Is low self-esteem a mental health problem?
Low self-esteem isn't a mental health problem in itself. But mental health and self-esteem can be closely linked.
Some of the signs of low self-esteem can be signs of a mental health problem. This is especially if they last for a long time or affect your daily life. For example:
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Blaming yourself unfairly
- Hating yourself
- Worrying about being unable to do things
Having a mental health problem could also cause you to have low self-esteem. And it might feel harder to cope or take steps to improve your self-esteem if you struggle with your mental health.
If you are worried about your mental health, our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem have information on how to get support.
Every time I tried to praise myself it felt tainted with all the self-doubt and self-hatred that's been there all my life. It was then I realised maybe I needed help.
This information was published in August 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
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