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How to increase your self-esteem. how to. increase your self-esteem mind uk media 715750 how to increase How to increase your self esteem Cycle of low self esteem and mental health problems Low self esteem and mental health problems can reinforce each other, creating an unhelpful cycle Low self esteem contributed to my developing depression – and the

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e your self-esteem how to increase your self-esteem2 How to increase your self-esteem This booklet is fo...


How to increase your self-esteem

how to increase your self-esteem

How to increase your self-esteem This booklet is for anyone who wants to increase their self-esteem.

It is particularly relevant for people who feel that low self-esteem may be affecting their mental health or for people who have a mental health problem that is causing low self-esteem.

It explains the causes of low selfesteem,

suggests strategies for dealing with it and where to look for further help.

It also includes information for friends and family.

Contents What is self-esteem

What causes low self-esteem

How is low self-esteem related to mental health

What can I do to build my self-esteem

What other help is available

What can friends and family do to help

Self-help resources

Useful contacts

How to increase your self-esteem

What is self-esteem

? We use the phrase self-esteem to talk about the beliefs you have about yourself – what you think about the type of person you are,

the positive and negative things about you and what you expect for your future.

If you have healthy self-esteem,

your beliefs about yourself will generally be positive.

You may experience difficult times in your life,

but you will generally be able to deal with these without them having too much of a long-term negative impact on you.

If you have low self-esteem,

your beliefs about yourself will often be negative.

You will tend to focus on your weaknesses or mistakes that you have made,

and may find it hard to recognise the positive parts of your personality.

You may also blame yourself for any difficulties or failures that you have.

People think I am confident because I can address a room full of people.

The reality is that I spend most of my time thinking that I’m not good enough.

If I give a speech,

I spend the next few days thinking about all the mistakes I made.

What causes low self-esteem

? It is not possible to identify one cause of low self-esteem for everyone.

You form your beliefs about yourself over a long period of time and this process is likely to be affected by a range of different things.

What causes low self-esteem

Some factors that can contribute to low self-esteem include: • Difficult childhood experiences – negative experiences in childhood,

difficult family relationships or having a hard time at school,

can be particularly damaging for your self-esteem.

• Difficult life events – difficult experiences as an adult,

such as the end of a relationship,

the death of someone close to you or being unemployed,

particularly if you experience several difficult events over a short period of time.

• Personality and temperament – elements of your personality,

such as a tendency towards negative thinking or finding it hard to relate to other people,

could contribute to a poor self-image.

• Feeling ‘different’ – feeling like the 'odd one out',

or under peer pressure to conform to social norms you don't agree with,

can affect the way you see yourself.

• Relationships with other people – other people may feed into your low self-esteem,

being negative about you or making you feel like you have little worth.

Or you may feel you don’t live up to other people’s expectations.

• Stress and excessive pressure – if you are under a lot of stress and finding it hard to cope,

this can lead to feelings of low self-worth.

• Negative thinking patterns – you may learn or develop thinking patterns that reinforce low self-esteem,

such as constantly comparing yourself to others or developing high standards for yourself that you can’t achieve.

• Discrimination and stigma – if you are discriminated against for whatever reason,

this can affect the way you see yourself.

How to increase your self-esteem

• Social isolation and loneliness – if you have limited social contact with other people,

or find it hard to maintain relationships with other people,

this can lead to poor self-image.

sexual or psychological abuse and bullying can all lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth.

• Mental health problems (see below).

How is low self-esteem related to mental health

? Low self-esteem is not a recognised mental health problem,

but selfesteem and mental health are closely related.

Low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems •N  egative thinking patterns associated with low self-esteem,

such as assuming you will fail at things you do,

can develop over time and lead to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.

• L ow self-esteem can make it hard to try new things or complete tasks,

such as starting a new hobby or completing a job application.

This can stop you from living your life the way you want,

and lead to frustration and depression over time.

Low self-esteem has severely limited my career development.

It has kept me in a place of low confidence,

so that I’m less willing to take on challenges at work.

• I f you find certain situations difficult because of low self-esteem,

you may start to avoid them and become increasingly socially isolated.

This can cause feelings of anxiety and depression that can develop

How is low self-esteem related to mental health

into mental health problems over time.

(See Mind’s booklet How to cope with loneliness.)

I'm my own worst enemy at times...

When I feel low,

I hide myself away so I don't do or say anything I regret… I just ride it out in the hope I'll feel better the next day.

• L ow self-esteem can cause people to develop unhelpful behaviours as a way of coping,

such as forming damaging relationships,

taking drugs or drinking too much.

This often causes problems in the long-term and makes life more difficult,

which can then lead to mental health problems.

Mental health problems can cause low self-esteem •S  ome mental health problems,

involve developing negative thinking patterns about yourself.

•A  mental health problem can make it hard to do day-to-day tasks,

such as using public transport or maintaining a paid job.

This can have a negative impact on the way you see yourself.

•A  mental health problem could cause you to withdraw from social contact,

if you are worried how other people may see you.

This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness,

which can then cause low self-esteem.

•S  tigma and discrimination about mental health problems could mean you develop a negative opinion about yourself.

How to increase your self-esteem

Cycle of low self-esteem and mental health problems Low self-esteem and mental health problems can reinforce each other,

Mental health problem

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem

Negative life experiences/ events

Low self-esteem contributed to my developing depression – and the depression made my self-esteem worse,

as I thought that if I were a more worthwhile person,

I’d be better able to cope.

What can I do to build my self-esteem

? In order to increase your self-esteem,

you need to challenge and change the negative beliefs you have about yourself.

This might feel like an impossible task,

but there are a lot of different techniques you can try to help you.

Do something you enjoy Doing something that you enjoy,

can help build your confidence and increase your self-esteem.

This could be anything from paid work,

What can I do to build my self-esteem

Work Work can provide identity,

a steady routine and a salary.

Some people thrive in a busy environment and enjoy working to ambitious targets.

Other people see their job as a means to an end or work in unpaid,

Whatever you do,

it is important that you feel confident and supported in your role,

and that the balance between your work and your home-life feels right for you.

(See Mind’s booklet How to be mentally healthy at work for information about looking after your mental health while in paid employment.) Hobbies This could be anything from learning a language,

Think about where you feel you have some natural ability,

or things that you have always wanted to try.

Try to find activities that will not challenge you too much to begin with so that you can feel you have achieved something and have a chance to build your confidence.

The internet,

your library and adult education colleges should have details of local clubs and classes that you might want to go along to.

What helps me feel more positive about myself is crafting things.

When I see what I created and I feel good about it,

I automatically feel better about myself because I feel I found something I'm good at.

Try to build positive relationships Try to associate with people who will not criticise you,

and who you feel able to talk to about your feelings.

If you spend time around positive and supportive people,

you are more likely to have a better self-image and feel more confident.

In return,

if you are caring and supportive to other people,

you are more likely to get a positive response from them.

This will help you feel better about yourself and how other people perceive you.

How to increase your self-esteem

If you have low self-esteem,

there might be people close to you who encourage the negative beliefs and opinions that you hold.

It is important to identify these people and take action to stop them from doing this,

perhaps by becoming more assertive (see ‘Learn to be assertive’ below) or by limiting how much you see them.

Learn to be assertive Being assertive means you value yourself and others,

and can communicate with mutual respect.

It will help you to set clear boundaries.

The following things will help you act in a more assertive way: • Pay attention to your body language as well as to the words you say – try to be open and confident.

• Try to express your feelings if you have been upset – wait until you feel calm and explain clearly how you feel.

• Say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests.

• Tell people if you need more time or support with tasks that you find challenging.

• Try to speak in the first person where possible – e.g.

‘When you speak to me like that,

I feel… ’.

This allows you to explain what you want to happen without appearing aggressive or scared.

Assertiveness can be a difficult skill to learn,

and you may need to practise by talking in front of a mirror or with a friend.

Many adult education institutions,

such as colleges or universities,

also offer assertiveness classes.

There are also several self-help books with practical exercises and tips available to buy or use online.

What can I do to build my self-esteem

Look after your physical health Looking after your physical health can help you feel happier and healthier,

Physical activity Physical activity helps improve people’s sense of wellbeing and image of themselves.

Exercise releases endorphins – ‘feel-good’ hormones that can help improve your mood,

particularly if you do it outside.

(See Mind tips for better mental health: physical activity for ideas on how to get active.) Sleep Lack of sleep can cause negative feelings to be exaggerated and means you can feel less confident,

so it’s important to make sure you get enough sleep.

(See Mind’s booklet How to cope with sleep problems for help establishing a good sleep routine.) Diet Eating a well-balanced diet at regular meal-times with plenty of water and vegetables will help you to feel healthier and happier.

Stopping or reducing your alcohol intake,

and avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs can also help improve your general wellbeing.

Set yourself a challenge If you set yourself goals and work towards achieving them,

you will feel satisfied and proud of yourself when you achieve your goal,

and feel more positive about yourself as a result.

Make sure the challenge you set yourself is one that you can realistically achieve.

It doesn’t have to be anything particularly large but should have meaning for you.

For example,

you might decide you are going to write a letter to your local paper or start going to a regular exercise class.

How to increase your self-esteem

Learn to identify and challenge negative beliefs If you are going to improve your self-esteem,

it may also help to understand more about your negative beliefs about yourself and where they came from.

This could be a painful process,

so it’s important to take your time,

and perhaps ask a friend or partner to support you.

If you are feeling very distressed,

it might be better to seek professional help from a therapist to help you do this.

See 'What other help is available

?' on p.15 for more information.

It might be helpful to write down notes,

and questions such as these could help to structure your thoughts:

 hat do you feel are your weaknesses or failings

? W What negative things do you think other people think about you

? If you could sum yourself up,

what word would you use – ‘I am…’

? When did you start feeling like this

? Can you identify an experience or event that might have caused this feeling

? • Do you find you have certain negative thoughts on a regular basis

? It might be also helpful to keep a thought diary or record over a period of several weeks.

Write down details of situations,

how you felt and what you think the underlying belief was.

For example:

What can I do to build my self-esteem



Underlying belief

Asked to deliver a presentation at work

Felt very anxious,

No one will want to listen to me because I am not engaging

I was invited to a party

I lied and said I had something else to do

I can’t say anything interesting and I’ll look stupid dressed up

I saw a job ad that I liked in the paper

I got angry and tore it up

I’m not clever enough for that sort of work or someone would have offered me a job like that already

As you identify what your core beliefs about yourself are,

you can begin to challenge and change them.

One way you can do this is to write down evidence to challenge each belief and begin to explore other explanations of a situation.

For example,

if you think that no one likes you,

you can start to record situations that show a different pattern: • My mum called me on my birthday.

•M  y brother didn’t answer my call,

but then later told me he had been really busy at work – it wasn’t personal.

• I have been asked to go to a friend’s wedding next summer.

• I had a really nice conversation with my colleague over our coffee break.

These might feel like small examples,

but as your list gets longer over time you can look back at it and challenge the negative opinions that you have been holding on to.

How to increase your self-esteem

A therapist once set me a task.

Every time somebody said something that hurt me,

[I had] to try and put myself in their shoes and think of reasons why they might have said that,

so I didn’t interpret it as aimed at me.

His advice really did help.

Focus on positive things If you have low self-esteem,

it can take practice to get used to thinking more positively about yourself.

One way you can do this is by making a list of several things that you like about yourself.

You might include: • things about your personality • things about the way that you look • things that you do • skills you have developed.

Take your time and aim for 50 different things,

even if this takes several weeks.

Keep this list and look at a different part of it each day.

If you are feeling down or worried about an event that is coming up,

you can use it to remind you of the good things about yourself.

If you struggle to come up with a list of good things,

you could ask your partner or a trusted friend to help you begin.

This may also help you to see how others may have a higher opinion of you than you do yourself.

Another technique is to write down at least three things that went well or that you have achieved that day before you go to sleep.

Some people also find it helpful to keep objects,

that make them feel good about themselves.

I have a feel-good box,

and in it I keep happy memories,

positive affirmations and just little things that make me feel good.

What other help is available

Try mindfulness techniques Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment,

using techniques like meditation,

It has been shown to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings,

so that instead of being overwhelmed by them,

The Be Mindful website has more information and details of local classes around the UK (see ‘Useful contacts’ on p.21).

There are also many mindfulness self-help books and CDs available.

What other help is available

? If you are unable to resolve your low self-esteem yourself,

or if you are concerned about the impact it is having on your mental health,

you might want to seek further support or treatment.

Self-help groups Self-help groups can show you how other people have coped with similar feelings,

To find out what groups are available in your area,

talk to your local Mind or contact the Mind Infoline.

(See ‘Useful contacts’ on p.21.) Online communities can also be a good source of support.

Websites of national support organisations,

such as Mind’s Elefriends community or Anxiety UK’s forum,

may be helpful (see ‘Useful contacts’ on p.21).

Sites like these can offer peer support but are monitored to make sure they are safe.

For more information about how to use online resources safely,

see Mind’s booklet How to stay safe online.

Talking treatments If you are finding it hard to cope with low self-esteem,

you might find a talking treatment helpful.

A talking treatment can help you explore and

How to increase your self-esteem

understand the reasons behind your low self-esteem and develop possible solutions to deal with it.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is often offered for low self-esteem.

It aims to identify connections between thoughts,

and helps you to develop practical skills to manage any negative patterns that are causing you difficulties.

(See Mind’s booklet Making sense of cognitive behaviour therapy.)

It was only with CBT that I realised I had this habit of negative thinking.

It got me to gradually think of an alternative mantra – ‘I’m not perfect but I'm OK’.

If your problems are based in early experiences,

you might find that other talking treatments,

such as psychotherapy or counselling,

can help you address these experiences more thoroughly.

You can find more about the different types of talking treatment,

and what might be most suitable for you,

in Mind’s booklet Making sense of talking treatments.

If you would like a talking treatment,

your GP should be able to provide information about what is available in your area.

Waiting times on the NHS can be long,

you may decide to see a therapist privately.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) both maintain lists of accredited practitioners.

(See ‘Useful contacts’ on p.21).

What can friends and family do to help

? This section is for friends and family who want to support someone who has low self-esteem.

If you have a friend or family member who has low self-esteem,

there are some things you can do to help.

What can friends and family do to help

• Show them that you care – reassure them that you do value and care about them.

You can show them how you feel by being affectionate,

or simply by spending time with them.

 emind them of the positive things – while you can’t change •R someone else’s negative image of themselves,

you can help challenge this by reminding them of their good points,

such as good qualities they have or positive things they have done.

• Avoid blame – people with low self-esteem often blame themselves for negative experiences,

including mental health problems.

Reassure them that this isn’t their fault,

and avoid telling them to ‘pull yourself together’.

• Try to be patient – low self-esteem often builds up over many years.

Changing someone’s opinion of themselves can take a long time and they may need repeated reassurance.

• Let them know that it is reasonable to feel bad from time to time – nobody feels happy and confident all of the time,

and it’s important they don’t feel under pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

• Be encouraging – if your friend or family member is working to a self-help programme or seeing a therapist,

You could also offer practical support,

such as offering childcare so they can attend appointments.

• Help them to seek appropriate treatment – if you are concerned that low self-esteem is causing a mental health problem,

encourage your friend or family member to seek appropriate treatment.

For more information for friends and family,

see Mind’s booklet How to cope as a carer.

How to increase your self-esteem

Self-help resources 10 tips to increase your self-esteem Remember these top tips to help you build your self-esteem.

• Do activities that you enjoy.

• Spend time with positive,

• Be helpful and considerate to others.

• Try not to compare yourself to other people.

• Try to do regular exercise,

eat healthily and get enough sleep.

• Be assertive – don’t let people treat you with a lack of respect.

•U  se self-help books and websites to develop helpful skills,

like assertiveness or mindfulness.

• Learn to challenge your negative beliefs.

• Acknowledge your positive qualities and things you are good at.

• Get into the habit of thinking and saying positive things about yourself.

Self-help resources

Positive things about me Use this space to write a list of positive things about you (see ‘Focus on positive things’ on p.14 for information about how to do this).

How to increase your self-esteem

Challenging negative thoughts Use this space to write down negative thoughts and give examples of how they aren’t true (see ‘Learn to identify and challenge negative beliefs’ on p.12 for more information).

Negative thought

Evidence against it

Useful contacts

Useful contacts Mind Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm) email: [email protected] web: mind.org.uk Details of local Minds and other local services,

and Mind’s Legal Advice Line.

Language Line is available for talking in a language other than English.

Anxiety UK tel: 08444 775 774 web: anxietyuk.org.uk Support,

help and information for people with anxiety disorders.

Be Mindful web: bemindful.co.uk Explains the principles behind mindfulness,

and gives details of local courses and therapists.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) tel: 01455 88 33 00 web: itsgoodtotalk.org.uk For practitioners in your area.

Depression Alliance tel: 0845 123 23 20 web: depressionalliance.org Information and support for anyone affected by depression.

Elefriends web: elefriends.org.uk A safe,

supportive online community where you can listen,

be heard and share your experiences with others.

MoodGYM web: https://moodgym.anu.edu.au Online CBT course with exercises to help improve self-esteem.

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) tel: 0161 705 4304 web: babcp.com Provides details of accredited CBT therapists.

How to increase your self-esteem

...continued from previous page NHS Choices web: nhs.uk/livewell Information on wellbeing,

Details of local support as well as online tips and tools.

Samaritans Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK Chris,

PO Box 90 90 Stirling FK8 2SA 24-hour helpline: 08457 90 90 90 email: [email protected] web: samaritans.org 24-hour support for anyone experiencing distress,

Further information

Support Mind

Mind offers a range of mental health information on: • diagnoses • treatments • practical help for wellbeing • mental health legislation • where to get help

Providing information costs money.

We really value donations,

which enable us to get our information to more people who need it.

To read or print Mind's information booklets for free,

visit mind.org.uk or contact Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or at [email protected] To buy copies of Mind's information booklets,

visit mind.org.uk/shop or phone 0844 448 4448 or email [email protected]

Just £5 could help another 15 people in need receive essential practical information booklets.

If you found the information in this booklet helpful and would like to support our work with a donation,

please contact us on: tel: 020 8215 2243 email: [email protected] web: mind.org.uk/donate

This booklet was originally written by Beth Murphy This edition was written by Sam Challis Published by Mind 2013 © Mind 2013 To be revised 2016 ISBN 978-1-906759-76-6 No reproduction without permission Mind is a registered charity No.


Mind (National Association for Mental Health) 15-19 Broadway London E15 4BQ tel: 020 8519 2122 fax: 020 8522 1725 web: mind.org.uk

Mind  e're Mind,

the mental health charity for W England and Wales.

We believe no one should have to face a mental health problem alone.

We're here for you.


We're on your doorstep,

on the end of a phone or online.

Whether you're stressed,

We'll listen,

support and fight your corner.

And we'll push for a better deal and respect for everyone experiencing a mental health problem.

Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393 [email protected] mind.org.uk