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Self-esteem and low confidence


Having low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can have significant consequences. It can negatively impact on relationships, on success at work, on social lives, and many areas besides. People’s view of themselves can be highly distorted and unbalanced, where they see only their deficits, and none of their positive qualities.

With low self-esteem, people might be highly self-critical, using lots of negative self-talk against themselves, constantly believing they are inferior to others. They may blame themselves whenever things go wrong. Low confidence may lead to passive or submissive behaviour – sometimes with accompanying hidden build-up of frustration – or people may find themselves unable to take up anything that might feel challenging. Some people might feel confident in some areas, such as at work, but completely at sea in others, such as social situations or in their family relationships.

The causes of low self-esteem or a lack of confidence can vary hugely. There may have been difficult childhood experiences, such as highly critical parents, excessive pressures to succeed at school, or some rejection or bullying by peers. There may also be high levels of constitutional anxiety, i.e. it’s something that runs in the family. Or there may have been trauma, abuse or losses. Low self-esteem links to other problems, such as depression and anxiety, and even increased rates of addiction or self-harm.

Psychodynamic therapy can be invaluable in getting to the bottom of self-esteem issues, as a first step to thinking differently about ourselves. CBT might look at automatic negative thoughts and negative core beliefs, and the roles they may play. Both approaches seek to point to more realistic and helpful ways of thinking about ourselves. CBT might include specific exercises, or ‘homework’ to try out new behaviours. For self-esteem and low confidence issues, the therapeutic relationship might be particularly important, as building a positive relationship is one route to solving the problem.

These TEDx talks might be of interest:

The skill of self confidence

Six behaviours to increase your confidence

Further info on tackling self-esteem and low confidence issues can be found here:

Mayo Clinic



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