Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can affect how people feel about themselves and their abilities. It can also affect how individuals make decisions and live their lives. Changing how people talk to themselves may help improve self-esteem and confidence.
If people have low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, they may have an unbalanced view of themselves and feel doubtful of their abilities or what they have to offer.
Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can negatively affect people’s relationships, work, or studies. Without interventions, it may also have a negative impact on their mental and physical health.
This article looks at levels of self-esteem and confidence, signs of low levels in these traits and their effects on health, and steps people can take to improve their self-esteem and confidence.
Confidence is the belief a person has in themselves and their abilities and ideas. If a person has confidence, they generally understand and accept themselves as they are.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), self-esteem is how someone perceives themselves and how they feel about who they are and what they do.
A person with high levels of self-esteem will feel positively about themselves and recognize their good qualities.
In contrast, someone with low self-esteem may feel negatively about themselves and may not see themselves worthy of love, feeling good, or having a successful, happy life.
An individual may be confident about a certain ability or skill they have but have low self-esteem if they view themselves negatively.
People may find the following tips help to improve self-esteem and confidence:
Be kind to themselves
- challenge unkind thoughts and replace them with positive self-talk, as though speaking with a loved one
- avoid comparison to others and consider avoiding media or social media accounts that may lead to negative thoughts
- use positive affirmations
- remind themselves that it is okay to make mistakes
Looking after a person’s physical health can help their mental health.
- try to sleep well
- eat a balanced diet
- take part in physical activity
Learn more about how to begin practicing self-care:
Try to focus on the positives
People can celebrate their successes and keep a note of:
- their achievements
- things that have gone well
- compliments they have received
People can also:
- spend time with people that feel positive to be around
- practice being assertive, which may mean saying “yes” or “no” to others to set boundaries
- take part in activities that feel fun and enjoyable
- learn to project the appearance of confidence with body language and speaking patterns, which may influence how people feel internally
- learn a new skill, meet different people, or try a new experience
The following are signs of low self-esteem and low confidence.
People may have low self-esteem if they:
- are highly critical of themselves
- ignore or downplay their positive qualities
- think they are inferior to their peers
- use negative words when describing themselves
- has negative self-talk
- avoid taking credit for their achievements, instead putting it down to luck
- blame themselves for things that go wrong rather than considering other factors that are out of their control
- does not believe compliments about them
Signs of low confidence may include:
- feelings of self-doubt
- passive or submissive behavior
- difficulty trusting others
- feeling inferior to others
- overly sensitive to criticism
- feeling unloved
People may feel confident in certain areas, such as work or studies, but less confident in other areas, such as personal relationships.
Causes of low self-esteem may stem from childhood. If a person does not receive love, affection, and positive interactions in childhood, they may lack a sense of worth or inner value.
If people grow up experiencing a high level of pain or hurt, this may have a negative effect on their self-esteem. Constant criticism may harm self-esteem and a person’s negative self-talk.
Several factors may affect confidence, such as:
- results at work or school
- the media and social media
- body image and feelings about appearance
- the level of support people have around them
- achievements or skill levels
- physical and mental health issues
- feeling the need to conform or fit in with peers
- comparison to others
- a pressure to achieve or excel in certain areas
- bullying or abuse
- stigma or discrimination
- moving away from a safe or familiar area or loved ones
- family or relationship problems
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), low self-esteem can have a negative impact on mental health:
- low self-esteem throughout childhood and early adulthood may increase the likelihood of addiction in later life
- low self-esteem has common links to depression and anxiety, and in turn, the stigma around mental illness may result in low self-esteem or confidence
- if a person feels negatively about themselves, it may have a negative impact on relationships
A 2019 study found that low self-esteem in students had a significant impact on their quality of life. Researchers found that low self-esteem had an association with anxiety, depression, academic stress, and suicidal thoughts.
Low confidence may lead people to make negative decisions about how they treat themselves or let others treat them. People may also make unhealthy choices or avoid situations and withdraw.
These behaviors may start a negative cycle, creating a further loss of confidence.
Confidence and self-esteem may fluctuate over time, but if individuals have long periods of low confidence or self-esteem, they can speak with a healthcare professional.
A doctor can check for any mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, and suggest steps people can take to feel better.
A person can find support at the following organizations and charities:
- Understood: A nonprofit with a wide range of resources and articles on emotional and mental well-being.
- NAMI: Can offer support groups for mental health and a helpline.
- GoodTherapy: Has a range of articles on self-esteem and confidence, as well as a search tool to find a therapist.
- Mental Health America: Has a range of resources for mental health, including a Peer Partners Program that provides a support network for people.
Low self-esteem and lack of confidence can affects how people view themselves, including their self-belief and abilities. It may have a negative impact on their work, studies, relationships, or health.
Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence may have associations with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Taking steps to replace negative thoughts with positive ones and become less critical of themselves may help individuals improve their self-esteem and confidence.
If people have difficulties with low self-esteem and lack of confidence, they can contact a mental health organization or speak with a healthcare professional.