Self-esteem is a phrase used to describe the beliefs you have about yourself

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It can mean what you think about the type of person that you are, what you can do, your strengths, your weaknesses and what to expect in your future. Self-esteem comes from within you but it is influenced by lots of things and lots of people: it is an ongoing thing that is built over time. You may receive particular messages from particular people about yourself and these contribute to your self-esteem – if they come from people we value we may place more importance on them. Our personalities may also affect how we interpret these messages, as will our life events and the society in which we live.

If you have healthy or good self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will generally be positive. You may experience difficult times in your life, but you will probably be able to cope with these without them having too much of a long-term negative impact on you, or internalising the bad things that you experience.

If you have low self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will often be negative. You will tend to focus on your weaknesses or on mistakes that you have made, and you may find it hard to recognise what you are good at or the positive parts of your personality. You may also blame yourself for any difficulties in life that arise. You may have underlying beliefs and thoughts such as ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am stupid’ or ‘I’m worthless’.

It can be really tricky to tell if someone has healthy or low self-esteem just from how they act or what they do. Some people may come across as happy and confident but inside think that they are not good enough and worry about lots of small details about their day. It is really important to have healthy self-esteem because it affects everything about our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Self-esteem has a big impact upon our mental health and our future.

Top tips for improving and building self-esteem

  • Talk to someone: It is important to speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling, as bottling up your feelings can sometimes make things worse.
  • Join an activity/society that you like: Sometimes being part of a group can build our sense of self and create a sense of belonging. Always research the activity and group first, making sure a trusted adult has confirmed its safety before attending.
  • Find meaning: People who feel they have meaning and purpose in life tend to have better self-esteem than those who don’t. You may find meaning through your activities, religion, spirituality, work – it will be different for everyone.
  • Self-appreciation break: Set a reminder every day to appreciate three things about yourself for you, this only takes two minutes but can have a powerful influence on our self-esteem.
  • Choose your heroes carefully: Don’t let the media tell you who your hero should be, think about what you stand for and who really inspires you in life and why.
  • Choose your relationships carefully: Are the people that you choose to spend time with good for your self-esteem? Are they honest, kind, compassionate and non-judgemental? If so, they are likely to have a positive influence on how you think and feel.
  • Talk to a professional: Sometimes it is easier to speak to someone who is not in your social circle as their advice can be impartial and unbiased, helping you to find a better solution.
  • Map yourself – Some people find it helpful to map out how they see themselves. Try to make sure there are more positives than negatives on your map – this might include things such as being good at Minecraft or make-up, being there for your friends or liking your own name.

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