If you're going through rough times your self-esteem can plummet. If it's already at rock-bottom that might be causing your rough time. But what is low self-esteem and how can you get back on track?

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the judgement or opinion that we have about our own abilities, value and importance as a person. Self-esteem is built up over the years as we grow up, but we can take some positive steps to protect it from getting dented.

Self-esteem can just be down to your own temperament. However, negative experiences in childhood can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. People who have been abused or neglected in their childhoods often have low self-esteem or young people who feel they have not matched up to their parents’ expectations. Other things that can affect someone’s self-esteem include bullying, trauma, poor physical health and social exclusion.

You feel bad about yourself, so you get depressed, which makes you feel even worse about yourself, so you get more depressed and it can be difficult to break that cycle.

If you have low self-esteem, the thoughts you have about yourself tend to be negative and focus on what you think are your weaknesses.

Having a low opinion of yourself can make you more prone to mental health problems such as eating disorders, depression or anxiety and phobias, and it can affect studying, work, personal relationships and your social life.

So if you weren't already having a rough time, you get one anyway.

It is important to tackle it, boost positive thinking and mental wellbeing.

Youngminds have some tips to combat low self esteem.

How do you see yourself?

Youth2Youth explain "You look in the mirror and you are either pleased with what you see or not. You may be looking at your physical appearance - skin, hair, clothes, or the image you portray - being confident or shy. Our self image plays an important part in how we feel about ourselves and how we think others perceive us. Our self-esteem, confidence and ability to communicate with others are closely linked with how we view ourselves."

Media and peer pressure

"Television, magazines and adverts tell us we live in a world full of beautiful people. The pressure to have the correct body shape, wear only branded clothes and be full of self-confidence is a tall order. Many young people compare themselves to these images and often come to the conclusion they are not meeting the standards set by the media. Thankfully most of us realise that these expectations are unrealistic.

Others may comment negatively on your clothes, hair or belongings. You may be called names because you are overweight or spotty. You may even get bullied. It is these times that you are at your most vulnerable and when you look in the mirror you may start to agree with the comments.


Take time out and just look carefully at the people making these comments. Are they perfect? Certainly not. Now take a look at your strengths and good qualities. Try to talk to friends about how you feel and ask them what good qualities you have. Obviously it is easier said than done but by starting to become more confident and believing in yourself, your self image will begin to improve.   

Put it into perspective

Keep the media hype and unrealistic expectations of others in perspective. Life is not like this, and how we feel about ourselves is much more important for self-esteem and confidence. Jesse Rosten produced a great and very funny video of a spoof make-up advert using Photoshop as the "product". He says  "I opted to keep it simple and focused on women since they suffer the most with societal expectations of beauty. This is a complex issue and I don't pretend to have the answer, but as the incidents of eating disorders and anorexia among (American) women continue to rise, I think it's important to keep the discussion alive......Honestly, my first goal was to make people laugh. Yes, there's some strong commentary in there and I hope people are reminded to go easy on themselves. We're all human — and it's OK to look like a human. "

Here's the video with the caption "This commercial isn't real, neither are society's standards of beauty":


How do others beat low self-esteem?

Dancer and Britain's Got Talent star James Hobley talks about what it's like living with autism and how he builds his confidence                                .      

Teenagers talk to Youth Health Talk about their problems with self esteem.

In this video from NHS Choices, teenagers talk about what makes a good friend.

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

explore a guide to rough times

Contact our PALS team

need help, fast?

find out who to contact in a crisis

What's your problem?

what's making things rough?

explore the issues affecting your emotional and physical wellbeing

Get a life

enhance your life

find out how to boost your self esteem, relax and recharge

My liked pages

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust,Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital,Cambridge, CB21 5EF,T 01223 726789