Having a healthy sense of self-esteem means you have a positive opinion of yourself and essentially, like who you are. This may sound like a simple thing, but many of us struggle with self-esteem. Here we take a closer look at the impact of self-esteem, where it comes from and how coaching can offer the support you need to fulfil your true potential.
What is self-esteem?
The term self-esteem is used to describe our overall sense of self-worth and how much we value ourselves. Our self-esteem is made up of various beliefs we have about who we are and what we’re capable of. As you can imagine, this can have a huge impact on the way we experience life.
In this video, coach Emma Humphrey discusses self-esteem, including how low self-esteem can affect us and how working with a coach can help.
Self-esteem can affect our motivation and how likely we are to take risks and pursue our dreams. For example, if you have low self-esteem, you may have dreams of working in a certain industry but don’t believe you’re capable of doing it. This lack of self-belief might stop you from trying to pursue a career you really want.
If you have high self-esteem, however, you’re more likely to believe in yourself and put the work in to break into your chosen career. You might feel more able to try new things and take risks because you know your worth and understand that even if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a reflection of your character or value.
Signs of healthy self-esteem:
- you feel confident
- you feel able to say no when you need to
- negative experiences don’t impact your view of yourself
- you feel able to ask for what you need
Signs of low self-esteem:
- a lack of confidence
- a desire to please people
- having an overall negative outlook
- feelings of shame
- unable to ask for what you need
If you recognise these signs of low self-esteem and are keen to make a change, you may benefit from working with a self-esteem coach.
What causes low self-esteem?
Our self-esteem is often formed in our early years and is influenced by many factors. Genetics and personality type have a role to play, but often it is the experiences we have that contribute to our self-esteem levels.
If you grew up around people who were particularly critical of you, for example, family, friends, teachers or other authority figures, you may be more likely to experience self-esteem problems. Other experiences such as bullying and experiencing abuse can also be influential on your self-esteem.
Your particular circumstances can also come into it. For example, if you have a chronic illness or disability, if you face discrimination or if you’re struggling financially – all of these concerns can affect your relationship with yourself.
The difference between self-esteem and confidence
Self-esteem and confidence often get confused, and while they do overlap, there are differences. Confidence relates to our trust in our abilities to cope with challenges and “engage successfully with the world” (Burton, 2015).
Confidence tends to be based more so on external factors. For example, we can generally build confidence when we succeed at a task. Self-esteem is more internally-based and, when we struggle with our self-esteem, succeeding doesn’t always help us feel better about ourselves.
Confidence is a belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities externally. Self-esteem is the value you place on yourself from a stand-alone view, internally.
- A life coach explains the difference between confidence and self-esteem.
How self-esteem impacts your life
Over time, having low self-esteem can impact your mental health and well-being. It can lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm. You may also find that having a mental health condition itself contributes to low self-esteem.
Having healthy self-esteem can change the way you experience life and the direction you choose to take it. When you have a good relationship with yourself, you’ll likely be able to handle stress better and even avoid the unhealthy side effects of stress. You may find building strong relationships easier and feel able to leave unhealthy ones.
Understanding your true value helps you develop emotional resilience. This means when you’re met with obstacles, disappointment or even failures, you’ll be able to bounce back quicker.
Your confidence is also likely to improve alongside your self-belief. You’ll feel happier taking more psychological risks (like starting a new career) and going after what you really want in life. If you feel your self-esteem is currently low, the good news is that with self-work and intention, it can be built up. Many people find it helpful to get support during this process.
How to build self-esteem
Building your self-esteem takes time and intention, but the results are so worth it. Here are some steps you can take to start the process.
Improve your self-awareness
A helpful first step when working on building self-esteem is to become more aware of your thoughts and behaviours. This isn't as easy as it sounds as many of us go through the day on auto-pilot without taking much time for reflecting.
Increasing your self-awareness can help you identify your thoughts and behaviours. Some tools that can help with this include meditation, journaling, breathwork, mindfulness, mindful movement and working with a counsellor or coach.
Challenge self-critical thoughts
Once you are more aware of your thoughts, you can start to pick out any negative or critical thoughts you have about yourself. Try to pause when these come up and gently challenge them. Is this thought accurate or true? Where is the evidence? Do you have any evidence that the opposite is true?
When we start to challenge these thoughts, we can see how what we're telling ourselves isn't always true or helpful. Then we can look to replace these thoughts with something positive and encouraging.
Often when we have low self-esteem we slip into people-pleasing mode, are keen to say yes to everything and avoid confrontation. This lack of assertiveness can further erode our self-esteem.
Setting boundaries to protect your energy is a great way of recognising your worth. Yes, helping others may be important to you, but this shouldn't come at the expense of your own mental health.
Celebrate your wins
Our brains have a negativity bias, meaning we'll typically focus on the things that go wrong. When we intentionally celebrate our successes, we can slowly start to shift that bias. This can help us see just how well we're really doing and help us build self-esteem.
Self-help steps like these can be useful, but if you're finding things difficult, you may find it helpful to have support along the way.
How can coaching help you build self-esteem?
Building up your self-esteem involves unlearning habits of behaviour and thinking you’ve picked up from past experiences. It can feel difficult, especially at first, to challenge your inner critic and treat yourself with compassion. If you find you are struggling with this, you may benefit from speaking to a professional.
The role of a coach who works in this area is to help you uncover what’s blocking you from building self-esteem. Questioning techniques and possibly NLP techniques used by coaches can help you identify limiting beliefs and change them. They can support your self-acceptance journey, offering tools and techniques to help you.
A self-esteem coach can also help you understand who you really are and what you want from life, underneath your existing negative thought patterns. As your self-esteem rises they can help you take the action needed to make your goals a reality.
The role of our mind is to keep us safe. When those feelings of doubt, self-hate and worthlessness come up, understand that our mind is simply trying to keep us safe. Your freedom will come when you acknowledge what your mind is trying to do, but explain to it that you are safe, and are not under threat.
- Life coach Ben Bidwell on building self-esteem.