Self-esteem concerns the way we view and evaluate ourselves. Low self-esteem is having an overall negative self-view, such as thinking you are stupid, unlovable or not good enough.

Having low self-esteem can impact you through:

Feeling sad, low or empty

Difficulty concentrating


Prevent you from taking positive risks (e.g. going for a work promotion)

Low self-esteem develops because of past negative experiences, difficulty in meeting other’s standards, difficulty fitting in or an absence of positive messages in your life. Low self-esteem is maintained by having unhelpful beliefs about yourself.

What can be done?

Low self-esteem can be improved, and there are many benefits in having a neutral-to-positive self-view. Worksheets and counselling can help. If there are people in your life who are contributing to your low self-view, some choices about the company you keep may be useful. If you have low self-esteem, this is a great chance to make a change.

Recognise what you’re good at. We’re all good at something, whether it’s cooking, singing, doing puzzles or being a friend. We also tend to enjoy doing the things we’re good at, which can help boost your mood.

Build positive relationships. If you find certain people tend to bring you down, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how you feel about their words or actions. Seek out relationships with people who are positive and who appreciate you.

Be kind to yourself. That means being gentle to yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical. Think about what you’d say to a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.

Learn to be assertive. Being assertive is about respecting other people’s opinions and needs and expecting the same from them. One trick is to look at other people who act assertively and copy what they do.

Start saying ‘no’. People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to other people, even when they don’t really want to. The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed.

Give yourself a challenge. We all feel nervous or afraid to do things at times. But people with healthy self-esteem don’t let these feelings stop them trying new things or taking on challenges. Set yourself a goal, such as joining an exercise class or going to a social occasion. Achieving your goals will help to increase your self-esteem.

What help is there?

Further ways to build self-esteem include:

Talk to a trusted friend or loved one about your self-esteem issues.

Read books on self-development.

Take a course in personal development.

See EAP Assist Wellness Facts Sheets: