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Dealing with Low Self-Esteem

What is low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is about not valuing ourselves as human beings. It may also be called low self-image. Many of us have had the experience of feeling that we haven't been 'good enough' in a specific situation, particularly if we face rejection, or criticism. However, some people find it hard to value themselves even when outwardly things are going well and this is a persistent rather than passing state.

Signs of low self-esteem

These vary. Some people do not believe they are likeable, attractive, or successful, even when presented with information which is contrary to these negative beliefs. Self-esteem issues may lead to an endless round of comparisons with others, leaving one feeling lacking across a range of attributes. Low self-esteem can also have a detrimental effect on relationships if one partner depends greatly on the other to maintain their self-image.

How does low self-esteem come about?

Early experiences can impact greatly on the beliefs we have about ourselves. For example abuse, neglect, or abandonment can foster beliefs which influence self-esteem throughout life. However, low self-esteem can occur in the absence of serious childhood trauma. It may arise from inconsistent or critical parenting, or as a result of later life experiences. Identifying a 'cause' is not necessary in order to obtain help.

What can be done to help?

The good news is that there are things that can be done to improve feelings of self-worth. There is some evidence from research that during the process of counselling, improvement in self-esteem can occur. Counselling provides the opportunity to re-evaluate negative beliefs about ourselves which are formed early in life. New coping strategies can also be learned during counselling sessions. For instance, developing assertiveness skills and a greater awareness of individual needs.

Changes that can result from improving self-esteem

The most important development from improved self-esteem is self-acceptance. This means being able to live with our strengths and weaknesses and coming to terms with previous behaviours.

Having a strong sense of self and/or cultural belonging has consequences for the individual alone and in relationships. When people value themselves they tend to improve self care and make sure physical and emotional needs are met. It is important for an individual to be able to look after themselves before they embark on a permanent relationship. It is an advantage to choose a partner from a position of strength, rather than need.

Other important decisions and challenges in life are made easier when self-esteem is good. When people value themselves it is also less likely that they will do things which might be damaging to themselves or others.

Please note: Ideas for the pamphlet were borrowed from 'Love in the Real World', by Rhonda Pritchard; 'Choose to be Happy' by Wayne Froggatt; and 'Self-Esteem' by McKay and Fanning.

Where to from here?

If you would like to make an appointment to see a counsellor to learn more about this topic please contact the counselling service on your campus.  Distance students can contact any one of the campuses.

Please tell the receptionist if you need an urgent appointment.

Albany: Health and Counselling Centre Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm. Telephone (09) 213 6700.

Manawatu: Student Counselling Service, Turitea Campus, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm (8.30 - 4.30 during semester breaks). Telephone (06) 350-5533.

Wellington: Student Counselling Service, The Student Services Trust @ Wellington, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 4.30 pm. Telephone (04) 801-2542.

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey