Low self-esteem: definition, causes and tips for improvement

It is common to have moments when both self-esteem and confidence are diminished. However, it is important to note that low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems and affect our daily well-being (1).

What is low self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a person's opinion and assessment of him or herself. Thus, low self-esteem refers to a poor opinion that someone may have of him/herself (1).

Negative self-esteem can lead you to think badly of yourself, criticise yourself harshly, and lack confidence in your abilities (2, 3).

What are the causes?

Low or high self-esteem is the result of many factors, which may differ from person to person. Many of the things that can contribute to it are (1, 2, 4):

  • Negative experiences of abuse or mistreatment in childhood
  • Being a victim of prejudice, discrimination, or stigma
  • Losing a job or having financial problems
  • Physical health problems
  • Relationship problems, separation or divorce
  • Concerns about appearance and body image
  • Hormonal changes during menopause

How do I know if I have low self-esteem?

You may be suffering from low self-esteem if you (5, 6):

  • You experience a low mood most of the time
  • You feel sad, depressed, anxious, embarrassed, angry or worthless
  • You avoid social situations and have difficulty establishing or maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • You think that others are better than you
  • You compare yourself negatively with others
  • You find it difficult to accept compliments; indeed, you think they are untrue
  • You have neglected your emotional and physical needs such as oral health, eating well and getting enough sleep
  • You put the needs of others before your own
  • You have low expectations in life and avoid doing things for fear of failure
  • You lack confidence in your abilities and constantly criticise yourself
  • You blame yourself when things go wrong

Tips for boosting low self-esteem in menopause


Here are some simple techniques that can help you feel better about yourself and boost your self-esteem.

Build positive relationships

Focus on spending time with positive, encouraging, and supportive people. Social relationships have a big impact on our mood. Therefore, if you spend time with negative people, they will cause you to feel sad. If so, try to spend less time with them or express how you feel about their words. (1, 2).

Challenge yourself

Another way to work on your low self-esteem is to try to set a goal or challenge yourself. This way, you will feel capable and start to regain that confidence. Try to make it something realistic and achievable like joining a dance class, trying a new hobby, or exercising for a month as part of a healthy living plan (1, 2).

Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself means treating yourself with compassion and care, especially at times when you criticise yourself. To start doing this, think about what you would say to a loved one in a situation like yours. Would you be as harsh as you are with yourself or would you be kind? This will also help you to stop the negative inner dialogue and change it to a more positive one (1, 2).

Take care of yourself

Having a self-care routine is important for feeling good and increasing your self-esteem. This also means getting good rest, eating a balanced diet, being physically active, spending time outdoors, and meditating (2).

Recognise what you are good at

We all have our talents and are good at something, whether it's cooking, singing, writing, listening or putting puzzles together. So recognise those things you excel at, celebrate your successes, and accept the compliments others give you. Doing this may cause discomfort, but you should try to recognise all the good things you have. To make it easier, list all the things you like about yourself and are good at. Then put it in a visible place and read it every day, especially when you feel bad (1, 2).

Keep in mind that boosting your self-esteem is not something that can be achieved overnight. It takes some time and effort. However, over time you will learn to see and appreciate yourself better for who you are.

Bibliographical references

  1. NHS. Raising low self-esteem . London, England: National Health Service; 2023 . Available on: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/tips-and-support/raise-low-self-esteem/
  1. Mind. Self-esteem . London, England: Mind; 2022 . Available on: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-esteem/about-self-esteem/
  1. Cherry, K. 11 signs of low self-esteem . New York, United States: Verywell mind; 2023 . Available on: https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-of-low-self-esteem-5185978
  1. NHS Inform. Menopause and your mental wellbeing . Edinburgh, Scotland: National Health Information Service; 2022 . Available on: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/womens-health/later-years-around-50-years-and-over/menopause-and-post-menopause-health/menopause-and-your-mental-wellbeing
  1. Milne L. What is low self-esteem and how can I boost it? . Surrey, England: Counselling Directory; 2023 . Available on: https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/characteristics-of-low-self-esteem
  1. Health Direct. Self-esteem and mental health . Victoria, Australia: Health Direct; 2021 . https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/self-esteem#signs