Low Self Esteem / Confidence

What is low self-esteem?

Having low self-esteem means having a low opinion of yourself. It affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Most people experience some degree of self-doubt in certain situations like at a job interview or when meeting a new group of people. However, low self-esteem may cause people to lack confidence in many situations, or to dislike themselves in a general way. Common signs of low self-esteem can be broken down into the following areas:

Relationships / Environment

  • Work stress
  • End up in unequal or unhealthy relationships
  • Difficulty making and maintaining friendships
  • Over-sensitivity to criticism
  • Avoid challenges & opportunities
  • Avoid engaging in activities around self-care and enjoyment


  • Excessive worry about things in general
  • Self-criticism, self-doubt and self-blame
  • Focus on criticisms, weakness and mistakes
  • Ignore strengths and success


  • Not looking after yourself
  • Difficulty being assertive & speaking out
  • Shyness, avoiding eye contact, hesitancy
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Perfectionism, working too hard and trying too hard to please others
  • Overly sensitive to criticism

Emotions/Physical Symptoms

  • Excessive feelings of Sadness, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Frustration and Anger
  • Excessive tension, tiredness, self-consciousness, difficulty concentrating and difficulty sleeping

What keeps Low Self-esteem going?

Low self-esteem can be seen as an understandable reaction to past experiences. We start to form ideas about ourselves during early childhood based on how other people treat us. These early beliefs continue to be shaped by experiences as we grow up and after we become adults.

Low self-esteem usually stems from adverse experiences during childhood, but can also result from bad or traumatic experiences that occur in adulthood. Some of the experiences that can lead to low self-esteem include experiences of abuse/neglect, bullying, traumatic events, excessive criticism and being different to people around us.

Bad experiences may lead us to develop negative beliefs which are at core self-esteem issues, because they are thought to influence how we think, feel and behave.

How can CBT help?

CBT for low self-esteem focusing on understanding how the individual’s difficulties have developed over time and what keeps them going in the here and now. From this CBT looks to employ a number of change strategies to overcome the person’s current difficulties and prevent relapse into difficulties. These strategies include:

  • Recognising trigger situations where the individual’s negative beliefs are activated
  • Challenging anxious predictions and associated self-defeating behaviours
  • Challenging self-criticism and focus negative aspects of self
  • Challenging and resolving negative beliefs and associated memories
  • Identifying and experimenting with new beliefs

Further information links


CBT Therapist Manchester