Craving Confidence: Job Interview Skills
Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself. People with healthy self-esteem like themselves and value their achievements. While everyone lacks confidence occasionally, people with low self-esteem feel unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time. This can be remedied but it takes attention and daily practise to boost self-esteem.
See your doctor for information, advice and referral if you’re having trouble improving your self-esteem or if low self-esteem is causing problems such as depression.
Characteristics of low self-esteem
Typically, a person with low self-esteem:
- Is extremely critical of themselves
- Down plays or ignores their positive qualities
- Judges themselves to be inferior to their peers
- Uses negative words to describe themselves such as stupid, fat, ugly or unlovable
- Has discussions with themselves (this is called ‘self talk’) that are always negative, critical and self blaming
- Assumes that luck plays a large role in all their achievements and doesn’t take the credit for them
- Blames themselves when things go wrong instead of taking into account other things over which they have no control such as the actions of other people or economic forces
- Doesn’t believe a person who compliments them.
Low self-esteem and quality of life
A low self-esteem can reduce the quality of a person’s life in many different ways, including:
- Negative feelings – the constant self-criticism can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt.
- Relationship problems – for example they may tolerate all sorts of unreasonable behaviour from partners because they believe they must earn love and friendship, cannot be loved or are not loveable. Alternatively, a person with low self-esteem may feel angry and bully other people.
- Fear of trying – the person may doubt their abilities or worth and avoid challenges.
- Perfectionism – a person may push themselves and become an over-achiever to ‘atone’ for what they see as their inferiority.
- Fear of judgement – they may avoid activities that involve other people, like sports or social events, because they are afraid they will be negatively judged. The person feels self-conscious and stressed around others and constantly looks for ‘signs’ that people don’t like them.
- Low resilience – a person with low self-esteem finds it hard to cope with a challenging life event because they already believe themselves to be ‘hopeless’.
- Lack of self-care – the person may care so little that they neglect or abuse themselves: for example, drink too much alcohol.
- Self-harming behaviours – low self-esteem puts the person at increased risk of self-harm: for example, eating disorder, drug abuse or suicide.
Some of the many causes of low self-esteem may include:
- Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical
- Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence
- Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble
- Poor treatment from a partner, parent or carer: for example, being in an abusive relationship
- Ongoing medical problem such as chronic pain, serious illness or physical disability
- Mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
Seek help for underlying problems
Chronic problems can be demoralising and lead to self-esteem issues. Seek professional advice for problems such as relationship breakdown, anxiety disorder or financial worries.
Self-esteem is strongly related to how you view and react to the things that happen in your life. Suggestions include:
- Talk to yourself positively – treat yourself as you would your best friend. Be supportive, kind and understanding. Don’t be hard on yourself when you make a mistake.
- Challenge negative ‘self-talk’ – every time you criticise yourself, stop and look for objective evidence that the criticism is true. (If you feel you can’t be objective, then ask a trusted friend for their opinion.) You’ll realise that most of your negative self-talk is unfounded.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – recognise that everyone is different and that every human life has value in it’s own right. Make an effort to accept yourself, warts and all.
- Acknowledge the positive – for example, don’t brush off compliments, dismiss your achievements as ‘dumb luck’ or ignore your positive traits.
- Appreciate your special qualities – remind yourself of your good points every day. Write a list and refer to it often. (If you feel you can’t think of anything good about yourself, ask a trusted friend to help you write the list.)
- Forget the past – concentrate on living in the here-and-now rather than reliving old hurts and disappointments.
- Tell yourself a positive message everyday – buy a set of ‘inspirational cards’ and start each day reading out a new card and carrying the card’s message with you all day.
- Stop worrying – ‘worry’ is simply fretting about the future. Accept that you can’t see or change the future and try to keep your thoughts in the here-and-now.
- Have fun – schedule enjoyable events and activities into every week.
- Be assertive – communicate your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to others in a direct and honest manner.
- Practise the above suggestions every day – it takes effort and vigilance to replace unhelpful thoughts and behaviours with healthier versions. Give yourself time to establish the new habits. Keep a diary or journal to chart your progress.
Seek out support
Further ways to build self-esteem include:
- Talk to a trusted friend or loved one about your self-esteem issues.
- Browse the Better Health Channel for further information.
- See your doctor for information, advice and possible referral.
- Read books on self-development.
- Take a course in personal development.
- Discuss your issues and get advice from a trained therapist.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Your local community health centre
- Find a GP near you who specialises in mental health issues through the beyondblue website
- beyondblue Info Line Tel. 1300 22 4636
- Mental Health Advice Line Tel. 1300 280 737
- Lifeline Tel. 131 114
- Kids Helpline Tel. 1800 551 800
- Suicide Helpline Victoria Tel. 1300 651 251
- Mental Health Foundation Tel. (03) 9427 0407, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
- Relationships Australia (Victoria) Tel. 1300 364 277
Things to remember
- Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself.
- Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
- It takes attention and daily practise to boost a low self-esteem.