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Self-esteem is the degree to which we feel confident, consider ourselves valuable, and respect ourselves, and this greatly affects our well-being.

Self-esteem exists on a continuum, from high to low, and low self-esteem is associated with self-doubt, self-criticism, social isolation, suppressed anger, and shame. Low self-esteem is also a symptom of several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Signs and Symptoms

One of the most common features of low self-esteem is negative self-talk. People with low self-esteem regard themselves critically and may feel a perpetual sense of failure or lack of accomplishment. Feelings of low self-esteem are perpetuated by constantly comparing themselves to others and criticizing themselves. These negative messages are rarely true, but the thought patterns may be so ingrained in a person’s behavior that he or she does not recognize the frequency with which they occur. Upon examination, people often admit that the negative messages are inaccurate and that they would never say such things to another person.

How Psychotherapy Can Help Self-Esteem

Therapy sessions frequently address issues like low self-esteem and help people to gain a stronger sense of self. People with low self-esteem may work with therapists on becoming more assertive, confident, and self-aware. Finding a sense of accomplishment is a huge boost to self-esteem, and therapy can help people identify specific activities that boost confidence and competence. In addition, many therapists focus on helping people develop self-compassion so that they can develop more realistic, achievable goals for themselves and treat themselves with the same kindness and encouragement they would offer others.

Goal-directed forms of therapy are commonly used for people struggling with self-esteem issues. There are many types of therapy that identify a specific goal or outcome for treatment, including brief, solution-focused, and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Animal-assisted therapy is also helpful for people who are struggling with self-esteem, particularly as a result of physical impairment. Animals that provide unconditional love with no regard to physical appearance or limitation can help strengthen a client’s sense of self. When a person has developed a long-standing pattern of negative self-talk and criticism, it can be difficult to build self-esteem; working with a therapist can provide the much-needed experience of unconditional positive regard and respect that will help accelerate the process.