Counselling for low Self-Esteem and low Confidence in Edinburgh, London and Online
What are low self-esteem and low confidence?
Self-esteem is an important quality that is necessary for engaging with life with confidence and thriving as a person. I like to think of self-esteem as a spectrum or continuum, where too much self-esteem can manifest as arrogance, while too little can lead to low confidence. Both states of being are problematic but low self-esteem, in particular, can have more profound negative effects and consequences on your life. Low self-esteem can negatively affect your relationships with partners, friends and colleagues, while it can also be an obstacle to you growing and flourishing at a professional level, as you might find it difficult to engage or start worthwhile projects. Research in psychology has confirmed that disturbing feelings, such as depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, envy, and jealousy, are often rooted in low self-esteem, therefore low self-esteem can be a co-contributing factor or, in some cases, the sole cause of many mental health problems, such as anxiety and most importantly depression.
Common self-esteem and low confidence traits and behaviours
Each person’s circumstances are unique, but there are some common ways that low self-esteem and confidence can manifest in your life, for example, you may:
• Be feeling anxious every time that you have to face a (new) person or situation (e.g. making presentations);
• Find yourself avoiding situations or people because of feelings of insecurity or thoughts of being inadequate;
• Find yourself procrastinating to start a project or reach out to people or friends;
• Have constant thoughts of inferiority and be overly preoccupied with what others’ think of you;
• Constantly seek the approval of others in order to feel confident;
• Have a view of yourself as being inadequate, unworthy and unlovable, which results in low mood;
• Have difficulty forming close or long-term relationships;
• Miss opportunities and sabotage relationships and/or career progression;
• Be afraid to share your emotions, your thoughts or your ideas with partners, friends or colleagues;
• Ignore your feelings and gut intuition when it comes to judgments of situations or people;
• Find yourself being mistreated or manipulated because of an inability to stand up for yourself or a fear that you might lose a relationship or a job;
• Be overly critical and harsh with yourself or take responsibility for other’s bad decisions and rude and unkind behaviour;
• Have a very poor body image, constantly compare yourself with others’ bodies (e.g. on social media) or think and feel that your body or face is unattractive and never good enough;
• Be overly preoccupied with your physical appearance and engage with exercise and training in an unbalanced and unhealthy way, so that it becomes one of your most important concerns or an obsession;
• Frequently engage in risky, dangerous or promiscuous behaviour in order to ‘show others’ or mask low self-esteem or low confidence.
You may have decided to work on enhancing your self-esteem because you are either suffering from a general lack of confidence, or you feel that you lack self-esteem or confidence in a particular or certain area of your life (e.g. intimate relationships or work). Low self-esteem may be a chronic issue that has been with you all your life, or you may have found yourself recently affected by low self-esteem due to adverse life events such a separation, redundancy, body changes (pregnancy, illness, accidents), etc.
How we work together to increase your low self-esteem and confidence.
We will begin by identifying the root cause or causes of your low self-esteem. In this process, we will look at both your past and present and each aspect of your life/relationships (both personal and professional). The next step will be for us to discover those relationships, situations or habits that currently contribute to keeping your self-esteem and confidence low. You will be supported, if you wish too, to find ways to distance or disengage from these relationships and situations, or alternatively to learn skills so as to manage or find ways not to be affected by them. It is important to understand that there may be instances where the problem of you feeling not confident and suffering from low- self-esteem might be solely due to others (as in cases of relationships which are abusive, patronising, insensitive or with sociopathic individuals).
Without wanting to reduce everyone to the same category but having worked with many people that suffer from low self-esteem, I have found that most of them have a very strong critical, harsh and judging voice inside them, which produces self-deprecating or self-condemning thoughts. It is this kind of negative thinking and self-talking that brings about thought such as: I am a failure, I’m disgusting, I’m inferior, I’m inadequate, I’m unlovable, I’m incompetent, I’m weak, I’m useless, I’m not good enough, I’m worthless, I don’t matter, I’m no good, I’m stupid, I’m worthless, I’m bad, I’m defective, I’m pathetic, I’m a loser.
Constantly having these types of thoughts results in feelings of low mood that further fuel your already low confidence and low self-esteem. This type of negative self-talk often has its source in early life experiences (e.g. family or school), where you might have internalised the voice of a highly judgemental parent, teacher or class bully, or it may have happened due to an event that shattered your self-esteem and confidence and instilled a sense of shame or unworthiness in you. Working together, we will give voice to this sometimes unconscious and highly judgmental voice inside you, which in itself can be enough to free you from low self-esteem and boost your confidence. It might be useful here to think of this process as removing an obstacle, which also means that, at that point, you might not need any further help as you may reconnect again with the part of yourself that is confident and feels worthy.
Another kind of work that we might have to do, is to enhance your self-acceptance. Unconditional self-acceptance means to untangle your self-worth from external sources of value of you as a person. This process will gradually result in you being less likely to consider yourself defective or inadequate on the basis of failures or disapproval from others and that you will be able to adopt a more balanced view of yourself as a human being that can at times make errors, but whose worth remains more or less constant. Self-acceptance can also be enhanced by engaging in and practising self-compassion practices. These practices have a very powerful effect on a deep level of the brain, as they increase feelings of self-acceptance and love.
Apart from work within yourself, we will also work on a practical level on your relationships with others, if you would like to. That means that we will use insights from our counselling and coaching work and will attempt to implement them in your everyday life. This will be a kind of behavioural activation and implementation of new ways of being and behaving with others in a more confident way. In practice, it would be a kind of experimentation to test the effect of more content and assertive ways of interacting. If you wish to do this more practical work, be assured that I will support you and allow you to work and develop at your own pace. No matter the techniques, methods or approach that we are going to use, the most important thing for you to know is that you will be supported to grow your confidence and self-esteem within a safe, accepting, and non-judgemental relationship.
If you struggle with low self-esteem or low confidence, please get in touch so we can start working towards creating a more assertive and confident you. I offer low self-esteem and low confidence counselling and psychotherapy in Edinburgh and online.
I look forward to helping you heal and flourish.