Understanding Low Self-esteem
Low self-esteem refers to a negative perception about one’s worth. It is often characterized by a lack of confidence, negative thinking, and difficulty making decisions and communicating one’s needs effectively. A person’s sense of competence and self worth influences one’s ability to face new challenges. Those with low self-esteem often experience anxiety and self criticism that can lead to negative thinking, a lack of satisfying relationships, and reluctance in pursuing future goals.
Signs of Low Self-esteem
Signs and symptoms may be different for everyone and these are only guidelines. Individuals may experience:
- Anxiety, depression and shyness.
- Negative thoughts about themselves and their abilities.
- Pessimism about capacity to be successful.
- Addictive or compulsive behaviours (e.g. alcoholism, drug abuse, food, shopping and smoking).
- Negative and hopeless thoughts.
- An inability to overcome past negative emotional experiences.
- Avoiding making eye contact with others and/or walking with head down.
- Feeling uncomfortable and isolated.
- Difficulty accepting compliments and easily hurt by criticism.
- Frustration and impatience with one-self.
- Tendency to blame oneself for negative events and not take credit for positive ones.
- Avoidance of risks in personal and professional lives.
- Negative comparison of self versus others.
- A lack of confidence in decision making abilities.
Low Self-esteem in University Life
University students who have low self-esteem often experience:
- Unhealthy and dissatisfying relationships with friends and family members.
- Impaired academic and job performance.
- Anxiety, stress, loneliness, and depression.
- Vulnerability to addictions: drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, online addiction, and/or sexual promiscuity.
- Avoidance of social interaction and isolate oneself.
- Feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness which interfere with learning and working more effectively.
- Academic failure (low grades) due to lack of confidence (ex. Performing poorly on a single test makes one underestimate their abilities and prevents future attempts to improve their grades.
Causes of Low Self-Esteem
- Experience of failure in school, sports, or other activities.
- Being ridiculed or teased.
- Physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse.
- Being highly criticized by parents, peers, or teachers.
- Being expected to be “perfect” at all times.
- Unrealistic expectations from parents, peers, and or/ teachers.
- Overprotective and/or authoritarian parents.
- Acknowledge your strengths and don’t focus on the negatives.
- Speak positively about yourself.
- Avoid negative people and spend time with people who are nurturing and optimistic.
- Permit yourself to assert your wishes and needs, even if you think it will conflict with others’ expectations.
There are many factors that contribute to self-esteem. The following are some things you can do to improve your self-esteem.
- Think positively about yourself and accept compliments from others.
- Learn from your mistakes rather than seeing yourself as a failure.
- Think of your successes, positive qualities and talents.
- Spend time engaging in activities you enjoy.
- Do not focus on the achievement of others.
- Do not become overly dependent on validation from others.
- Get involved in meaningful projects.
- Exercise regularly, eat well, and get plenty of sleep.
- Counselling can help you to explore what factors contribute to your low self-esteem while focusing on ways to improve your self-esteem.
When to get help
At times, everyone doubts their own worth and abilities. However the following are indicators that you can benefit from professional counselling:
- You have difficulty making your own decisions.
- When making decisions you focus on pleasing others rather than yourself.
- You often feel depressed, lonely and/or worthless
- You have a tendency to become involved in unhealthy relationships.
- Often find yourself doing things you don’t want to do in order to maintain relationships with others.
Campus & Community Resources
Off – campus Resources
- Mobile Crisis Program
(416) 289 2434
24 Hour Mental Health Services
- Centre for Addiction & Mental Health
Self Esteem Workbooks:
- Breaking the chain of Low Self-Esteem, Marilyn J. Sorenson
- The Self-Esteem Workbook, Glenn R. Schiraldi
- Self-Esteem & Peak Performance, Jack Canfield
- Develop Your Self Confidence, Glenn Harrold
Professional consultation is provided in a confidential, non-judgmental environment and provides open communication and tools for you to take control of your life again.