Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us able to deal with life’s ups and downs better .
When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges life throws at us .
Low self-esteem often begins in childhood. Teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us messages about ourselves, both positive and negative. For some reason, negative messages are the ones more likely to stay with us. Stress and difficult life events, such as serious illness or a bereavement, can also have a negative impact on self-esteem .
Common signs of low self-esteem ;
- Self- criticism- “I’m not good enough“
- Self-blame- “It’s my fault that they cheated on me“
- Self-doubt- “If my friends really knew who I was, they wouldn’t like me“
- Ignoring, or discounting praise, successes, and strengths- “I only won because the others weren’t very good today“
- Focusing on criticisms, mistakes, or weaknesses- “That guy said I should smile more when accepting a prize“
Feelings/symptoms; sadness, anxiety, guilt, shame, frustration, anger, fatigue, tension, nausea, or insomnia
Behaviours; self-consciousness, shyness, difficulty making decisions, perfectionism, difficulty being assertive, not looking after yourself, worrying about what other people think of you, trying too hard to please others, or social withdrawal
Some people find that their self-esteem varies during their menstrual cycle . If you tend to feel particularly tearful, irritable, or low (depressed) on a cyclical basis, it can be an indication that you have low self-esteem…
The great news is that low self-esteem is highly responsive to esteem-building activities- either as an individual, or with the help of a friend, or therapist . This is because all of these negative thoughts/ behaviours are based on ‘opinions’, and not ‘facts’ about ourselves . This means that it is possible to change these opinions- and happily, it is surprisingly easy to do so! Please see the tips & tricks section for more details…
Managing hormone-related low self-esteem:
Try a hormone-balancing diet– As outlined in this blog, a vegetable-based ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet can significantly improve all hormone-related symptoms. We highlight a few of the key steps that are especially relevant for those suffering from low mood/ self-esteem, below;
Try nutritional supplements– A 2016 clinical research review , shows that various minerals are associated with low mood/ self-esteem, especially; Co- enzyme Q10 ; omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish and some seed oils) ; Magnesium  ; and B-vitamins .
Research also shows that Vitex Agnus Castus (200-500 mg of extract daily)  can be beneficial for hormone-related low mood/ self-esteem. Note: Vitex Agnus Castus is not suitable for those who are under 18; using hormonal medication (or devices); are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breast-feeding; or have a pituitary problem.
– Avoid alcohol– As a depressant, alcohol can only make a low mood worse- and excessive use can cause depression, and make suicidal thoughts more likely .
– Eat oily foods (unsaturated fats)– A type of oil found in fish (try linseed/flax-seed oil if you are vegetarian) contains omega 3 oils, which have been found to reduce the risk of low mood/ self-esteem in some clinical research studies, (although research on this relationship is limited and mixed)  . We think it’s worth trying to see if this improves your mood – after all, eating some fish or flax-seed oil is not likely to harm your health and wellbeing. Please let us know how it goes…
Exercise regularly– Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, may help you combat stress and release tension. It also encourages your brain to release serotonin, which can improve your mood .
Research has shown that regular exercise, (more specifically cardio-respiratory fitness), and a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index), significantly reduces the risk of menstrual cycle-related health issues, including low mood/ self-esteem .
Boosting self-esteem- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for building self-esteem, and is often available on the NHS.
CBT helps you to understand how your problems, thoughts, feelings and behaviour affect each other. It can also help you to question your negative and anxious thoughts, to improve the way you see yourself, and reduce damaging internal thought processes. CBT usually involves meeting with a specially trained and accredited therapist for a one-hour session every week for 10-12 weeks .
In the UK, help is available if you feel you need support to start seeing yourself in a more positive light :
- Talking therapies, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can help. Your GP can explain the different types and tell you what’s available in your area. Read more about the different types of therapy.
- You can refer yourself for talking therapies in some areas. Check whether you can refer yourself to your local psychological therapies (IAPT) service.
- You can also pay privately for talking therapies – find the right therapist for you.
- Hear Dr Williams’ podcast about tackling unhelpful thinking.
- Visit healthtalk.org to hear young people talking about their experiences of low self-esteem.
Reduce stress hormones- Research shows that Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT) is highly effective in reducing menstrual cycle-related low mood, self-esteem, anxiety, and other symptoms  .
Mindfulness works by focusing your awareness on the present moment and by acknowledging and accepting certain feelings. Being mindful can teach you how to overcome negative thoughts – for example, being able to challenge hopeless feelings.
You may find relaxation and breathing exercises helpful, or you may prefer activities such as yoga or pilates to help you unwind- recent research found that, in adults with mild-to-moderate major depression, an 8-week hatha yoga intervention resulted in statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression severity .
- NHS information on raising self-esteem; http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Dealingwithlowself-esteem.aspx
- Building self-esteem booklet £2.75- Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre- https://www.octc.co.uk/product/booklets/building-self-esteem
Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018
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