What exactly is self-esteem and how does it show up in our every day life?

Self-esteem is the degree to which we feel worthy, valuable and confident in any particular moment in time. Without the proper skill-set, these feelings or beliefs can significantly affect our well-being and social interactions.

Low self-esteem is associated with feelings of self-criticism, self-doubt, shame, social isolation, sadness, guilt, and suppressed anger. Low self-esteem is also commonly a symptom of several mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.

Developing self-esteem

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Self-esteem is developed in childhood and can have life altering consequences if it isn’t healthy.

Self-esteem is typically learned in childhood, and there are many factors that can impact healthy development. Criticism or abuse from parents and caretakers, receiving little or no positive reinforcement for accomplishments, and having a learning disability that is stigmatized are all things that can foster a low self-esteem. Unless this is addressed in childhood, these individuals will mostly likely develop into adults with low self-esteem that are typically less resilient to the stress and challenges associated with adulthood.

Even adults with healthy self-esteem can develop issues when they are faced with sudden or unexpected life changes they perceive as failures, such as legal or financial troubles, divorce, losing a job, and struggling with addiction.

How therapy & coaching can help

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Counseling and therapy can help people build a better self-image.

At any point in our lives, when events might cause us to question our worth or value, therapy and coaching can help us gain perspective. People suffering from low self-esteem can work with a therapist or coach on becoming more self-aware, confident, and assertive.

Learning skills to increase your present moment awareness so you can change how you experience and react to unhelpful thoughts is a crucial aspect of self-esteem counseling and therapy. Most people make the mistake of trying to avoid or distract themselves from the negative mind-chatter only to find that it continues to persist.

Positive affirmations are also another commonly mis-prescribed method to counteract low self-esteem. However, more recent studies have shown that positive affirmations are not only ineffective, but they can lead to an increase in unhelpful thought patterns which further destroy our sense of sense.

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Mindfulness is the key to increasing our ability to be aware when our minds aren’t being very helpful.

One of the biggest boost to self-esteem comes from a feeling of accomplishment, and a professional coach or therapist can help people identify specific activities that give them a confidence boost. In addition, therapists can work with clients to help them develop self compassion, so they can change the unhelpful narrative they tell them selves to one with more kindness and encouragement.

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A therapist or coach can help you learn how to develop a mindset that allows you to recognize your accomplishments.

A well-trained therapist or coach will use a goal directed approach with people struggling with self-esteem. Solution-focused and mindfulness cognitive therapy tend to work best. Some therapists may also try animal assisted therapy, which can be incredibly effective in younger patients or those suffering as a result of physical impairment.

The longer a person has lived with low self-esteem and been the victim of their own negative self talk and criticism, the more they can be helped by therapy and coaching. Breaking self-destructive patterns will require proven tools and protocols that a professional coach or therapist can offer.

When your self-esteem suffers, your quality of life does as well. Life is too short to spend it feeling like you aren’t good enough. If you’re struggling with self-confidence or self-esteem, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you feel like the best version of yourself.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.