Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself based on what you believe about who you are

Happy girl

Forward Thinking Birmingham logoMental health advice from Pause, part of Forward Thinking Birmingham

Self-esteem comes from within you but is influenced by lots of things and lots of people: it is an ongoing thing that is built over time. 

It's really important to have healthy self-esteem because it affects everything about our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Self-esteem has a big impact on our mental health and our future.

What influences self-esteem?

Your self-esteem can be influenced by your beliefs on the type of person you are, what you can do, your strengths, your weaknesses and your expectations of your future.

There may be particular people in your life whose messages about you can also contribute to your self-esteem. If these messages come from people you value then you may place more importance on them. Your personality might affect how you interpret these messages, as will your life experience and the society you live in.

How self-esteem affects you

If you have good self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will generally be positive. You may experience difficult times in your life but you'll probably be able to cope. These difficult experiences won't have too much of a long-term negative impact on you and you won't internalise the bad things that you experience.

If you have low self-esteem, your beliefs about yourself will often be negative. You'll tend to focus on your weaknesses or on mistakes that you have made. It may be difficult for you 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 might have underlying beliefs and thoughts like ‘I'm not good enough’, ‘I'm 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 they're not good enough and worry about lots of small details about their day.

Top tips for improving your self-esteem

  • Talk to someone: It's important to speak to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Bottling up your feelings can sometimes make things worse.
  • Join an activity or society that you like: Sometimes being part of a group can build our sense of self and create a feeling of belonging. Always research the activity and group first, making sure a trusted adult has confirmed that it's safe before you attend.
  • 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 breaks: Set a reminder every day to appreciate three things about yourself. This only takes two minutes but can have a powerful influence on 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 they are, they are likely to have a positive influence on how you think and feel.
  • Talk to a professional: Sometimes it's 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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