How to Build Self-Esteem


 Do you have low self-esteem?

Having a low opinion of yourself is not modesty – it is self destruction.

Low self-esteem is actually a thinking disorder in which an individual views (thinks of) himself as inadequate, unacceptable, unworthy, unlovable, and/or incompetent – thinking that permeates every aspect of a person’s life.

Once thinking is formed, emotions and feelings follow that also irrational and distorted, causing the person to have difficulty knowing who and when to trust, inciting fear and trepidation in new situations in which a person may not know what is expected of him/her.

Having low self-confidence means you doubt your abilities and this may vary from situation to situation. A person may have a healthy self-esteem but have low confidence in writing a maths test because of past failures in tests.

What are signs of having a low self-esteem?

  • to withdraw socially
  • to be sensitive to criticism
  • feelings of hostility
  • excessive pre-occupation with personal problems
  • physical symptoms like head aches, fatigue and insomnia (sleep disorders)

What causes a low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem ALWAYS forms in childhood when the individual is developing an initial view of how he or she, as a person, fits into the world. This process begins at birth and may continue to be cemented up to the age 8 or 10. Examples are:

  • being subject to abuse – sexual, emotional or physical, and the loss of control associated with this
  • having your physical and emotional needs neglected in childhood
  • failing to meet the expectations of your parents
  • feeling like the ‘odd one out’ at school
  • coming from a community which often experiences prejudice, such as being an asylum seeker, or being poor but living in a wealthy neighbourhood
  • peer pressure to conform to social norms which you don’t agree with
  • bullying or excessive pressures at work
  • trauma
  • physical ill-health – its impact on your quality of life and activities you can do
  • bereavement
  • facing redundancy or being unemployed
  • social isolation and loneliness.


Steps to build your self-esteem

Things a Person Can Do to Increase the Self-Esteem and Overcome Shyness

1. Positive self-talk.

The way that you think about yourself has a huge influence on your self-esteem. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good, you might just start to believe it even though it’s not true. If you notice that you practice negative self-talk often, check out some ways that you can challenge your negative thinking and build your confidence levels.

Self talk

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

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

3. Exercise

Exercise helps to improve your mood. End of story.

4. Don’t strive for perfection

It’s really great if you want to do things well, but keep in mind that perfection isn’t possible. Check out one person’s story of coming to terms with their sweet imperfection.

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

Everyone on the planet makes mistakes – it’s in our 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. Why don’t you 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 that you enjoy

If you’re doing things that you enjoy you’re more likely to be thinking positively. Schedule time for fun and relaxation into every day.

8. Celebrate the small stuff

Start small and work your way up – you can’t expect any huge progress to be made overnight.

9. Be helpful and considerate

Not only is helping people a great way to boost the moods of others, but you might find that you feel better about yourself after doing something particularly excellent.

10. Surround yourself with supportive people

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

How can I stop my negative thoughts and thinking patterns?

People with low self-esteem will often think up the worst case scenario possible. They believe everything is their fault. This can become a way of thinking that paralyzes you. These negative messages we create in our heads are also called cognitive distortions.  Cognitive distortions are inaccurate thoughts that reinforce negative thought patterns or emotions. They are faulty ways of thinking that convince us of a reality that is simply not true and that drags us down.

There are a few main cognitive distortions that you need to know about and may recognize in yourself:

Filtering: it refers to the way many of us can somehow ignore all of the positive and good things in our life and focus solely on the negative. It can be far too easy to dwell on a single negative aspect and ignore an abundance of good things.

‘’Black and White Thinking’’: is all about seeing black and white only, with no shades of grey. This is all-or-nothing thinking, with no room for complexity or nuance. If you don’t perform perfectly in one area, you may see yourself as a total failure instead of simply unskilled in one area.

Over-generalization: is taking a single incident or point in time and using it as the sole piece of evidence for a broad general conclusion. For example – you went for a job interview. It was a bad interview and you didn’t get the job. Now you assume you are bad at interviews – period.

Jumping to conclusions: refers to the tendency to be sure of something without any evidence at all. For example you belief someone dislikes you without the flimsiest of proof.

Blaming: is when we assign our responsibility for an outcome by blaming others for what goes wrong.

Crazy-making: When confronted by others the person tell them they are totally wrong and off track with their observation – thereby telling them they can’t trust their own perceptions.

Compartmentalizing: The person divides life in compartments, where one has nothing to do with the rest. It is a way of keeping thoughts feelings and behaviors separate from the others parts of your life.

Hopeless & helplessness: The person believes nothing can help to improve the situation and feels all is lost.

The beliefs people have about themselves and the world around them come in 2 categories

1.            Sensible or rational beliefs: they are true; they make sense or are helpful.

2.            Foolish or irrational beliefs: these are untrue; don’t make sense or are not helpful.

Rational thoughts are positive and constructive and helps you get ahead. Irrational thoughts are destructive keeps you back. It is important to become aware of these in your own life and to question these thoughts and beliefs. Learn to separate them. This requires thinking before speaking. Your goal is to stop negative thinking and practice positive rational thinking. To counter negative thoughts, you can turn them into a question. Here are a few examples

Irrational thought: My boss never liked my work

Question: Has my boss never liked my work?

Rational Answer: My boss is okay with most of my work, but didn’t like the work I did on that project.

Resilient people don’t see themselves as total failures just because they performed badly in one area.

Irrational thought: I am no good at anything because I can’t do my job.

Question: Am I really not good at anything?

Rational Answer: I can do many things, but I messed that project up because I didn’t get the support I needed to finish that project successfully.

Resilient people don’t let setbacks or bad events affect other unrelated areas of their lives.

Irrational thought: I am useless

Question: Am I useless?

Rational Answer: I have value to my family and friends in things I do and mean to them and therefore cannot say that I am useless.

Resilient people do not focus on the negative aspects solely – they also see the good and positive in their lives.

Exercise for you:

Start to write down your negative thoughts. Question every thought. Write down the rational thought and re read them if the thought pops up again. Practice to banish negative thoughts and to rather think positive thoughts that will help you get ahead.

Get help

Questions we can help with:
• How do I know I have low self-esteem?
• What are the symptoms of low self-esteem?
• Can I improve my self-esteem?
• Do you constantly compare yourself to others?
• Do you doubt in your own abilities?


You can do a quiz to determine whether you have issues with your self-image.

Low Self Esteem Quiz


MOBIEG Helpline

If you need more help with self-esteem issues, you can chat  to a facilitator on the MOBIEG LIVE CHAT.

The service is free and you may stay anonymous.


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