December 15, 2021
Asifa Rapaiee

About the author: Jieun has a research in Personality and Social Contexts. Her work mainly focus on mental health challenges in social anxiety and depressive disorders.

This article covers:

  • What is Self-esteem?
  • Self-esteem and mental health
  • With whom or where to get help?

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem refers to your feelings and attitudes towards yourself, in terms of whether you value yourself and feel confident in your abilities. Self-esteem is a broad term that can also involve the sense of competence, self-worth, self-respect, and personal value.

Throughout your life it is normal to experience times where you have high self-esteem and other times of low self-esteem. This can change depending on your most recent achievements or failures, and interactions with other people.

High self-esteem-
Someone with a high self-esteem generally holds positive attitudes towards themselves and are confident in their ability to cope and achieve in different situations, including those that might be challenging. High self-esteem can be influenced by:

  • Growing up with healthy early attachments
  • Being valued and supported by others
  • Being able to cope in difficult situations
  • Being able to think and act independently
  • Taking care of your physical health (e.g., exercising, maintaining a balanced diet)
  • Taking care of your mental health (e.g., taking time off, rewarding yourself, getting help when needed)
Always be kind to yourself, recognise that you are you and that is more than enough. You are loved and you are also capable! Be your own authentic self, ‘perfect’ is a construct that doesn’t exist – there is no-one else like you, so get to know yourself and own it.
Sophie – Mindsum Peer Support worker

Low self-esteem-
Someone with low self-esteem will generally have negative attitudes towards themselves and will tend to have little confidence in their ability to cope and achieve in different situations, especially in those situations that are challenging. Low self-esteem can be influenced by:

  • Harsh criticisms from caregivers
  • Bullying
  • Prejudice, discrimination, or stigma
  • Unsupportive friends and family members
  • Stressful life events
  • Problems at school or work
  • Concerns around your physical appearance
  • Problems with physical or mental health
  • Exposure to unrealistic ideals from social media

Signs that you might have low self-esteem can include:

  • Being harsh or critical about yourself
  • Feeling afraid to be yourself in front of others
  • Putting on a façade around others
  • Believing you are less than others
  • Believing your opinion matters less than others
  • Believing you are somehow flawed
  • Believing you are not good at anything

A person’s self-esteem can also be greater in certain areas (e.g., in sports and arts), compared to other areas (e.g., public speaking).

Self-esteem and mental health

Low self-esteem itself is not a mental illness. Although, persistent problems with self-esteem can lead you to experience problems with your mental health. You might experience mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

Research has shown that self-esteem is strongly related to depression and anxiety. Having low self-esteem can make a person more vulnerable to develop these mental health issues.

Vice versa, problems with mental health might also influence a person to have low self-esteem. For example, having problems with anxiety can make a person feel so self-conscious, that they might think there is something wrong with them. This can affect self-esteem.

If you are struggling with how you feel about yourself in any way, it is a good idea to take steps to improve this . You don’t have to struggle with your self-esteem for the rest of your life. With time you can build up your self-esteem and feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

Where or with whom to get help?

If you are struggling to the point that you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, please call 999 as soon as possible. Here are some organisations who can also help you 24/7 if you need urgent help.

There are some practical things you can begin to do to improve your self-esteem. This includes:

  • Practicing self-compassion– learn to treat yourself with more kindness by treating and talking to yourself in the same way you would to a good friend.    
Speak to yourself with loving and compassionate language rather than language that is self-sabotaging. Learning how to talk to yourself more compassionately is very important. Also, retraining your thinking by recognising and identifying with your strengths. Remind yourself of your strengths on a daily basis, write them down and start putting them into practice to help build self-esteem.
Sophie – Mindsum Peer Support worker

  • Challenge negative beliefs/thoughts– take the time to recognise whether those negative thoughts accurately reflect reality or not. Write down the evidence to disprove those negative thoughts and refer back to them.
  • Be more intentional about noticing the positives– write down positive things about yourself, including those that others have said about you. Identify the things that you are good at and the instances in your day to day where you did well. You can refer back to this list whenever you are not feeling good about yourself.
  • Keep healthy relationships– this is very important because who you interact with can have a big impact on how you feel about yourself. Some relationships including friendships, romantic partners and even family members can affect you in a negative way, especially if these people are bullying or abusing you in any way. It is important to prioritise the relationships that help you to feel better about yourself, and not the opposite.
  • Improve your assertiveness– when you struggle with low self-esteem it can be very hard to say no to others. But not being able to say no can make you feel overwhelmed and worse about yourself. Start to stand up for yourself by learning to say no in a respectful way to other people’s demands. This will help you learn to stand your ground, feel more confident and improve your self-esteem.

If you have been struggling with your self-esteem for a long time and/or it is affecting your mental health, it might be helpful for you to speak to a counsellor or therapist. These professionals can help you to work on your self-esteem and tackle the underlying cause of these feelings. You will be able to work towards developing a stronger sense of self-worth that can allow you to move forward with more confidence.

You can book a free initial consultation with a qualified mental health professional through our online service.

If you don’t feel ready to speak to a therapist, you can book a free call with one of our trained Peer support workers, who have personal experience of coping with difficult feelings and are willing to guide and support you.

You can also contact a helpline such as Childline (for under 19s) or The Mix (for under 25s) for support by people who are willing to listen and help you.

Useful resources


You can access information and useful resources about self-esteem on the Mind website. Click here to access the link.

Young Minds

You can access information and useful resources about self-esteem on the Young Minds website. Click here to access the link.


You can read useful practical information on improving your self-esteem on the NHS website. Click here to access the link.

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