Self-Esteem is defined as the degree to which people perceive their own qualities and characteristics as positive. It is a reflection of a person’s physical self-image and their view of his or her own accomplishments, capabilities and values. Self Esteem also encompasses people’s perceived success in living up to their expectations and includes how others view and respond to him or her. The more positive these perceptions are, the higher that person’s Self-Esteem. High Self-Esteem is considered as an indication of good mental health while Low Self-Esteem is a common symptom of Depression.
Do you find yourself saying “yes” when you really want to say “no?”
Do you find yourself bending and flexing in relationships, very rarely getting your needs met?
Do you get an acknowledgment at school/work and you downplay it to having good luck?
Do you have trouble accepting a compliment?
Do you find that you are unable to make a decision unless you ask others for their advice?
Do you find it hard to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinion?
These are some instances in which low self-esteem may come out. Low self-esteem often rears its ugly head in stressful situations. Having low self-esteem can lead people to feel depressed or angry and can impact your relationships.
Behaviours associated with Low Self-Esteem:
- Perfectionist attitude – reviewing a work report 5 times before handing it in
- Mistrusting others even when others show signs that they can be trusted
- Tendency to blame others even for his/her own mistakes or problems
- Dependent on others when making decisions
- Negative view of life
- Difficulty in taking calculated risks
Feelings associated with Low Self-Esteem:2
Thoughts associated with Low Self-Esteem:
- “Compared to others, I do not look good no matter what I wear.”
- “I am not good enough at anything no matter how hard I try.”
- “I cannot talk with others or speak in front of a crowd. I will just embarrass myself and they will all laugh at me.”
- “I am unlovable and unlikable. I have to try very hard to get others to like me.”
Low Self-Esteem and the Body:
- Heart racing
- Face turning red
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling sweaty or having chills
Self-Esteem and the Brain:
Researchers have found that Self-Esteem is not stored in a specific structure of the brain, but rather within a particular pathway in the brain (the frontostriatal pathway). This pathway connects the medial prefrontal cortex (which deals with self-knowledge and awareness of oneself) to the ventral striatum (which deals with feelings of motivation, positivity, and sense of reward). The strength of the connection between these two brain areas determines people’s Self-Esteem. This is because the person is reinforcing the connection between their sense of self (or self-knowledge) and the experience of feeling rewarding and positive feelings. Whereas the strength of the connection determines how high a person’s long-term Self-Esteem, the current level of activation in the pathway predicts how high a person’s Self-Esteem is within that specific situation.
People with Low Self-Esteem lack the practice in linking the experience of positive feelings with their sense of self. In turn, this important brain pathway is not strongly established and not often used. By practicing the association of positive feelings and the sense of self, people can achieve stronger connections/links between these two brain areas, which leads to Higher Self-Esteem.
Does Psychology work?
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on the relationship between the person’s thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviours and how each of these influences the other. Through this therapy, individuals learn that their thoughts produce emotions and body sensations, which affect how they behave. They also learn that by changing their thoughts, they can reduce their anxiety and stress and increase their Self-Esteem. Finding new coping strategies will also help the individuals improve their behaviour and Self-Esteem. There is also evidence supporting the effectiveness of CBT in improving levels of Self-Esteem. A shift in core beliefs was found to be significant.
- Mindfulness Therapy (MT): Mindfulness is usually defined as the process of paying attention on purpose, without judgment, in the present moment. Because mindfulness involves a non-judgmental, open, and receptive attitude to a person’s thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and experiences, this allows individuals to be less consumed by critical and judgmental thoughts about the self. Studies have found that enhancing mindfulness has direct and beneficial effects on Self-Esteem. MT may be a useful way to address the underlying processes that are associated with Low Self-Esteem. A review of cross-sectional studies has found that there is a significant relationship between mindfulness and Self-Esteem. There was also evidence of change in Self-Esteem following a Mindfulness-Based Intervention.
Tips to Manage Low Self-Esteem!
Here are some techniques that help people feel better about themselves and improve their Self-Esteem:
- Recognizing strengths and the things that you are good at.
- Building positive relationships and finding people who are positive and who appreciate you for who you are.
- Being kind and compassionate to yourself even when you make mistakes.
- Learning to be assertive and respecting yourself and also other people’s opinions and needs.
- Learning to say “no” when you do not really want something.
- Giving themselves a challenge or a goal. Accomplishing goals helps them increase their self-esteem.
Self-Esteem is the value a person places on his or herself. A reasonably high or positive Self-Esteem is an indication that the person has good mental health. Low Self-Esteem, on the other hand, is a common symptom of Depression. People with low Self-Esteem usually have a negative view of life. They often feel unloved and not good enough. Therapies like the ones offered at Hopewell Psychological, such CBT and MT, help individuals improve their Self-Esteem by targeting negative thoughts and teaching them how to have a more positive view of themselves.
*Psychologists are covered under Insurance Companies in Canada. You will need to check with your insurance company about the specific details regarding your coverage.
 VamdenBros, Gary R. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Washington: American Psychological Association, (2015).
 “Self-esteem.” UC Davis Health. Web. 20 Ap. 2017.
 “Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem.” The Self-Esteem Institute. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
 Chavez, Robert S., & Heatherton, Todd F. “Multimodal Frontostriatal Connectivity Underlies Individual Differences in Self-Esteem.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 10.3 (2015): 364-370. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu063.
 Buchalter, Susan. Raising Self-Esteem in Adults: An eclectic approach with Art Therapy, CBT, and DBT based techniques. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (2014).
 Pack, Stuart, & Condren, Emma. “An Evaluation of Group Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Low Self-Esteem in Primary Care.” The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. 7.7 (2014): 1-10. doi:10.1017/S1754470X14000051.
 Pepping, Christopher A., O’Donovan, Analise, & Davis, Penelope J. “The Positive Effects of Mindfulness on Self-Esteem.” The Journal of Positive Psychology. (2013). http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.807353.
 Randal, Chloe, Pratt, Daniel, Bucci, Sandra. “Mindfulness and Self-Esteem: A systematic review.” Mindfulness. 6.6 (2015): 1366-1378. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0407-6.
 “Raising Self-Esteem.” NHS Choices. Gov.uk, 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.