Learning & Behaviour Charitable Trust - Self Esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is basically the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself, how much confidence you have in yourself - an appraisal of one's own self image.

How is it shaped?

Self-esteem is not something you are born with; it is something a child learns from the time of birth. Self-esteem is an image of oneself gained through life experiences. The main contributing factors are messages communicated by significant people in your life, especially parents and close family members. Teachers and peers play a large part in the development of self-esteem once you start school.

Self-esteem is an important part of development.

Low self-esteem can develop from an early age.

Infants begin to develop their feelings about themselves based on their parents' responses to crying, smiles etc. A baby who feels loved and valued by his/her parents begins to develop a feeling of self-worth. During their early years, young children's self-esteem is based largely on their perceptions of how the important adults in their lives judge them.

Low self-esteem can come from being constantly criticized, or from being ignored, ridiculed, humiliated, or neglected by your parents; or from abuse (physical or emotional) aimed at you by parents or other significant people in your life.

Many children are bed-wetters (this may go on until early teen years). The child feels bad enough about this, how their parents react to it can lead to a child feeling worse about him/herself.

Depression, anxiety, relationship problems and drug or alcohol abuse can be caused by low self-esteem.

Children with high self-esteem are more self-assured, therefore they are less likely to give in to peer pressure.

If a child has low self-esteem, it is only likely to get worse as they get older.

Raising Self-Esteem is a Major Step Forward!


Love your child unconditionally - don't compare them to their siblings, friends, or you as a child.

Cherish them for who they are - Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Adjust your expectations. DO NOT set unrealistic standards. By setting realistic standards, this leads to repeated successes. Where as unrealistic standards lead to failure and negative attitudes. How were you treated as a child? Did your parents expect too much from you? Are you doing the same to your child?

Respect their views and opinions - encourage them to express these. Take their views and opinions seriously.

Teach them to deal with disappointment or failure - give them the same level of love and support.

Support - If a task is too difficult, and a child experiences a loss of control and/or failure, they will give up easily. Support them, encourage them and they will overcome the failure. Teach them to do things for themselves.

Correct the action not the child.

Applaud effort, not just results - Winning is great! So is a personal best or gaining a personal goal. A sense of personal achievement can be as good as winning an event.

Beware - Children instinctively know when you are lavishing false praise upon them. Don't go overboard with praising minor achievements.

Encourage participation in group activities (i.e. scouts, guides, sports teams). This helps to develop better peer relationships and social interaction.

Show interest - A child's sense of self-worth is more likely to deepen when adults respond to the child's interests and efforts with genuine.

Appreciation rather than just praise.

Help to adjust - Self-esteem is also related to children's feelings of belonging to a group and being able to adequately function in their group. When toddlers become preschoolers, for example, they are expected to control their impulses and adopt the rules of the family and community in which they are growing. Successfully adjusting to these groups helps to strengthen feelings of belonging to them.

Avoid - negative comments such as "You're stupid!", "You're Lazy", etc.

Aim your comments at your child's behaviour, not at the child.

Children with high self-esteem are more likely to do better at school and be liked more by their peers.

When children develop stronger ties with their peers in school or around the neighbourhood, they may begin to evaluate themselves differently from the way they were taught at home. You can help your child by being clear about your own values and keeping the lines of communication open about experiences outside the home.

Parents can play an important role in strengthening children's self-esteem by treating them respectfully, taking their views and opinions seriously, and expressing appreciation to them. Above all, parents must keep in mind that self-esteem is an important part of every child's development.


It is important to emphasise to teens that they should not base their opinion of themselves on what others say, or measure themselves by other's accomplishments.

DO NOT expect your teenager to handle everything perfectly every time.

Making Mistakes is part of being a teenager. It is a painful, but necessary process. DO NOT EXPECT YOUR TEENAGER TO LEARN BY YOUR MISTAKES.

Teens don't have to be everything that everyone else expects them to be, but it is important that they consider their actions, and can be proud of their decisions.

Remember the old adage: It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. Many teens are too afraid of failure to try anything. Give them encouragement to try.

Most of us have negative thoughts, but those with low self-esteem dwell on them and firmly believe that they are true.

Set an example - If their parents have a low sense of self-worth, their teenage children will be handicapped from the start. Deal with your own problems before trying to help your children.

People with high self-esteem have the ability to hear criticism, but do not take it so personally. They are generally able to cope well because negative messages have less power over them.


How we see ourselves has an effect on everything we do, every relationship and every interaction we have.

Low self-esteem can lead to anxiety, stress, loneliness, problems in relationships, poor choices and increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse as well as depression. Whether we know it or not, self-esteem affects us every day. Therefore, it makes sense to pay a little extra attention to it and try to increase it whenever possible. Those who have healthy self-esteem will benefit from working to keep it.

Getting over the hurdles is a challenge. Long-standing patterns of acting and reacting a certain way have been established. Fear can keep us locked into old habits. The first step is to understand that you can change.

Take a personal inventory of what is important to you as an adult.

Are you happy in your chosen occupation, if not, is it possible (and practical) to change to a job where you would be happier (BEWARE! Don't just walk away from your job without considering the consequences - it may be better to find another job before you leave your present one).

Visualise a situation that you might find yourself in and imagine it working out successfully. Repeat the visualisation often, until it feels more real.

Focus on thinking differently about events in your life that did not work out as you had hoped. Don't dwell on past mistakes. One idea is to put these negative thoughts and events on paper and burn them, to symbolize that they can no longer harm you. You can try again. You will succeed.

Activity gives us a sense of power. Physical activity can boost morale and create more energy. Taking a walk can be invigorating and helps to refresh the body and mind. Allow time for some physical activity. If you are not able to get out to walk or participate in an activity, you can use breathing techniques. Take several deep breaths and stretch your muscles. This is a good exercise to release tension.

Assess your health. What MUST you do to improve it?

Many of us don't get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation causes many health problems. Ask yourself "what would happen if I got one hour more sleep each day?" Would the world fall apart?

Take a look at your relationship. Look at the positives, not the negatives. (But if you are in a destructive relationship GET OUT NOW!).

Don't let other put you down - those with low self-esteem do enough of that to themselves.

Increasing self-esteem takes practice. There may be days when you have no energy, and feel vulnerable to the harmful effects of having low self worth. Other days you may feel great and confident. Coping well with disappointments can help you learn to know that you can get through it and not be devastated.

Try doing something today that will make you feel better about yourself. Little by little you will start a new chain of positive events in your life.

Everyone needs support; no one can do it all alone. If you don't have support from friends or family, it is important to find support in the community or through professional counseling or support groups.