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Low self-esteem can leave you feeling pretty down. Learn more about what causes low self-esteem and what you can do to fix it.

This can help if:

  • you have low self-esteem
  • you want to know what causes low self-esteem
  • you want strategies to improve your self-esteem.
Girl smiling with brown background

What causes low self-esteem?

Basically, self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and your abilities. Your self-esteem – whether it’s high, low or somewhere in-between – can have a pretty huge effect on your life.

If you have low self-esteem, an important thing to do is try and figure out what’s causing it. It could be related to:

  • loneliness
  • bullying
  • poor academic performance
  • neglect or abuse
  • being unemployed
  • something going on at a deeper level.

Sometimes it can be hard to identify the causes of your low self-esteem. Perhaps you’ve never really thought about it, or maybe it’s difficult to determine when it first started. Whether or not you know exactly what’s causing it, there are steps you can take to build your confidence and improve the way you feel about yourself.

10 steps for improving your self-esteem

1. Positive self-talk

If you keep telling yourself you’re no good, you might just start believing it, even though it’s not true. If you notice that you often engage in negative self-talk, check out some ways you can challenge your negative thinking and build your confidence levels.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

It can be tempting to measure your own worth against other people. So what if your friend is awesome at tennis? You just need to figure out what your niche is. Everyone is great at something. What are your strengths?

3. Movement and exercise

Moving your body helps to improve your mood. End of story.

4. Don’t strive for perfection

It’s great that you want to do things well, but keep in mind that perfection isn’t realistic for anyone.

5. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake

Everyone on planet earth makes mistakes – it’s basic human nature. Why should you be any different? When you stuff up, don’t stress; just learn from it and move on.

6. Focus on the things you can change

There’s no point wasting all your energy thinking about things that you can’t change. Instead, have a think about some of the things that are in your power to control and see what you can do about those.

7. Do things you enjoy

If you do things you enjoy, you’re more likely to think positively. Schedule time every day for fun and relaxation.

8. Celebrate the small stuff

You got up on time this morning. Tick. You poached your eggs to perfection. Winning. Celebrating the small victories is a great and completely legitimate way to feel better about yourself.

9. Be helpful and considerate

Being of help to someone is a great way to boost their mood, but you might also find that you feel better about yourself after you do something particularly excellent for someone else.

10. Surround yourself with supportive people

Don’t hang around people who bring you down. Find people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid those who tend to trigger your negative thinking.

If you’re really struggling

If you’ve tried putting these tips into action for a while and you haven’t noticed any difference in the way you feel about yourself, talk about it with someone you trust, such as a close friend, family member, GP or mental health professional. Act now and get the necessary help before your low self-esteem turns into something more serious.

ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

What can I do now?

  • Try to identify the root cause of your low self-esteem.
  • Remember that building self-esteem requires time and practice. Don’t expect to feel like a rock-star immediately.
  • Every time you have a negative thought about yourself, challenge it with a positive one.