Self-esteem refers to the beliefs people have of themselves, how they judge themselves and the value they attach to themselves as people. These beliefs might feel true statements about who we are, but they are more likely to be opinions, not facts. We develop beliefs about ourselves based on the experiences we have had in our lives. When growing up, we get messages about the kind of person we are from important people in our lives: parents, siblings, our peers, friends and teachers. This will have an impact on our self-esteem. Maybe there was a lack of praise, lots of criticism, or neglect. However, self-confidence can be developed, even in adulthood.
Everyone has a critical inner voice at times, and there are situations in which we want to be aware of our mistakes and improve. It is not about never being disappointed with what we have done, but more about how we deal with the disappointment. Are we harsh and critical, or instead encouraging and supportive when we have made a mistake? In Compassion Focussed Therapy you can learn to develop self-compassion, which is being aware of distress with a commitment to try to do something about it. Compassion is about accepting the way we are, with our strengths and weaknesses. Just like all humans we are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes, and that is okay.
What is involved in overcoming low self-esteem?
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) we look at self-critical thoughts. Like self-criticism, ignoring or undervaluing positive aspects of ourselves is not really fair on us. A realistic appraisal of strong points is part of self-esteem. When we ignore the positives, low self-esteem will be maintained. This doesn’t mean we don’t have any qualities, we are just out of the habit of noticing them. In CBT you will learn to identify your positive qualities, and to bring them into your awareness on a daily basis, so that, with time, your beliefs about yourself are more balanced and realistic.
With Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) you will learn to accept yourself as you are. Instead of being self-critical, you will develop ways of having compassionate, supportive and encouraging thoughts, e.g. by using imagery.