Body Image/ Self Esteem

Body Image/ Self Esteem

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My self esteem has almost disappeared…. I don’t know how to interact with people anymore and find it hard to enjoy the things that I like.”

What is self-esteem?

what is self esteem

Self-esteem is based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change.

Your self-esteem can affect whether you:

  • like and value yourself as a person
  • are able to make decisions and assert yourself
  • recognise your strengths and positives
  • feel able to try new or difficult things
  • show kindness towards yourself
  • move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
  • take the time you need for yourself
  • believe you matter and are good enough
  • believe you deserve happiness.

What can cause low self-esteem?

what causes low self-esteem

The things that affect our self-esteem differ for everyone. Difficult or stressful life experiences can often be a factor.

Causes include:

  • being bullied or abused
  • experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma
  • losing your job or difficulty finding employment
  • problems at work or while studying
  • ongoing stress
  • physical health problems
  • mental health problems
  • relationship problems, separation or divorce
  • worries about your appearance and body image
  • problems with money or housing.

You might have had some of these experiences, and you might also have had difficulties that aren’t listed here. Or there might not be one particular cause. It might feel as if changing your feelings about yourself will be difficult, but there are lots of things you can try to improve feelings of self-worth bit by bit (See Steps to better wellbeing)

Mental health and self-esteem

Some of the experiences of low self-esteem can be signs of a mental health problem, particularly if they last for a long time or affect your day-to-day life. For example:

  • feeling hopeless or worthless
  • blaming yourself unfairly
  • hating yourself
  • worrying about being unable to do things.

Ways to boost self esteem

Having a mental health problem can also cause you to have low self-esteem, and it might feel harder to cope or take steps to improve how you feel.

Having low self-esteem can lead to someone feeling more anxious and insecure. So doing anything to boost it and feel better and more confident can really help.

get to know yourself

Get to know yourself – for example what makes you happy and what you value in life. Some people say they find it helpful to write a diary.

consider what self-esteem means to you

Consider what self-esteem means to you. You might realise you’re basing your sense of self-worth on things that aren’t useful or helpful for you. So it could be about being kind and listening rather than being cool and popular.

don't compare yourself to others

Avoid comparing yourself to others. Try to remember that what other people choose to share about their lives isn’t the full picture and isn’t realistic.

say positive things

Say positive things to yourself. It might feel really strange at first, but you’ll feel more comfortable the more you do it.

let yourself have feelings

Let yourself have feelings. It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions from sad and tearful, emotional, grumpy – or happy and cheerful.

challenge unkind thoughts about yourself

Try to challenge unkind thoughts about yourself. You might automatically put yourself down. If you find yourself doing this, it can help to ask: “Would I talk to, or think about, a friend in this way?”

celebrate success

Celebrate your successes. No matter how small they may seem, take time to praise yourself and notice what you did well. It could also help to remember past successes.

accept compliments

Accept compliments. You could make a note of them to look over when you’re feeling low or doubting yourself.

Eating disorders

Symptoms of an eating disorder include worrying about weight, eating too little or someone making themselves sick after eating. Symptoms can creep up people, they may become secretive, hide food, pretend to have eaten for example. It is essential to get help – maybe start by confiding in family or friends or arrange to see a GP.

girl with eating disorder

Symptoms of eating disorders can include:

  • Spending a lot of time worrying about weight and body shape
  • Avoiding socialising when food will be involved
  • Eating very little food
  • Deliberately making yourself sick or taking laxatives after you eat
  • Exercising too much
  • Having very strict habits or routines around food
  • Changes in mood
  • Feeling cold, tired or dizzy
  • Problems with digestion
  • Weight being very high or very low for age and height
  • Not getting your period for women and girls.
Beat eating disorders

Organisations that offer support:

Beating Eating Disorders

Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–midnight during the week, and 4pm–midnight on weekends and bank holidays. You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline (under 18) on 0808 801 0711. They also offer one-to-one web chat.

mational centre for eating disorders

National Centre for Eating Disorders

For more information on eating disorders and treatment. They also have a support Line (UK): 0845 838 2040

Read next Steps to better wellbeing