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What is self-esteem and how do you improve it?

What’s your opinion of yourself? Are you proud of who you are and your accomplishments? Or do you regularly criticise yourself and always think you could be better?

Although we all have moments where feel down about ourselves, people with low self-esteem have these moments more often than not. So why do some people think less of themselves, and what are some tips on how to improve self-esteem?


What is self-esteem?

Your self-esteem is how you think of yourself. It’s the value you place in yourself as a person and your own self-worth. When people have good self-esteem, they have a realistic but positive view of themselves. They can value their achievements and have self-confidence.

People with a lower self-esteem may find it difficult to feel happy and are often unsatisfied with themselves. They are often self-critical and don’t take risks for fear of failing.


Why do some people have low self-esteem?

There are many reasons some people end up with low self-esteem. They include:

  • Negative early life experiences including punishment, abuse or neglect
  • Not fitting in at home or school
  • Poor academic performance
  • Struggling to meet parent’s high standards
  • Ongoing difficult and stressful life events such as financial, relationship or health stress
  • Mental illness.


How does low self-esteem impact life?

Low self-esteem can affect many areas of life. People with low self-esteem may avoid challenges because they feel they can’t achieve anything. They may often feel unhappy, worthless and angry because they’re constantly critical of themselves.

They may put up with unacceptable behaviour from a friend or partner because they believe they’re not worthy of love. They may do little to look after themselves and may eat poorly or drink too much alcohol.


How to improve self-esteem?

Improving self-esteem can be a long process. You may need to undo years of habitually criticising yourself, and it might take you some time to get used to the newer, kinder way of treating yourself. Here are some things to improve your self-esteem.


Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend

Next time you talk to yourself, note your tone and what you say. Would you say something like that to a friend? Probably not. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend.


Be kind to your body

It’s not just the way you talk to yourself, it’s the way you treat your body. Schedule in regular exercise, eat nutritious food and try to cut down on things that aren’t good for you.


Think of your positives and acknowledge them

If you’ve suffered from low self-esteem for a while, you’ve probably been more focused on your negative rather than positive qualities. Perhaps start a journal where you write positive qualities when you notice them during the day.


Be forgiving

Forgive yourself for old mistakes and remember that no one is perfect. It’s also important to make mistakes in order to grow.


Do things that make you happy

It’s easier to be happy when you do things you enjoy. Make sure you schedule in some fun activities into your week. Try volunteering.


Don’t worry

It’s easy to spend hours in a deep pit of worry, but often we worry about things we can’t change in the future or past. Try to focus on what you can change and dismiss the things you can’t.


Get yourself a cheer squad

When you’re thinking about your friends, make sure you spend more time with the people who make you feel good. Equally, when you’re with your friends, do your best to make them feel good about themselves too.


What if you still don’t feel good about yourself?

If you want some more tips on improving your self-esteem, you might find talking to a trusted professional helps.

CAREinMIND’s professional counsellors are available 24/7. The service is free to people living in north, western and central Melbourne. Call us on 1300 096 269.

Or access online counselling.

If it is an emergency, call 000

Access additional community support.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.