What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves as a person. It relates to our feelings of self-worth. Everyone has some degree of self-esteem, though some people have higher levels and others have lower.

Self-esteem can fluctuate over time and can go up as well as down.

Low self-esteem comes from having a low opinion of ourselves. It affects different people in different  ways and to different extents. Most people experience some degree of self-doubt in specific situations. However, low self-esteem may cause people to dislike themselves or lack confidence in new situations such as taking your  baby to a stay and play group.

What causes low self-esteem?

No-one is born with low self esteem. The way we feel about ourselves is related to our experiences. Low self-esteem is usually a result of difficult experiences during childhood but it can also come from bad or traumatic experiences in adulthood.

Some experiences that can lead to low self-esteem include: excessive criticism, trauma (accident, illness), rejection, parents having unrealistic expectations, being bullied, abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), physical or emotional neglect, not enough praise or affection and emotional problems (depression).

As a new mum your self esteem may be affected by the changes that take place to your body, the challenges of  knowing how to care for your baby or feeling that you lack support from your family or partner.

Examples of how it might affect you

Feelings: Unhappy, Anger, Frustration, Anxiety, Shame, Guilt

Thoughts: Self-criticism, Self-blame, Self-doubt, Concentrating on criticism, Ignoring successes

Behaviours: Self-neglect, Unassertive, Avoiding challenges, Avoiding eye contact, Difficulty in making decisions

Beliefs: I am a failure, I am no good, I am unlovable, I am useless, I am worthless, I am unimportant

Bodily reactions: Tension, Sweating, Difficulty in sleeping

Relationships: Trying hard to please others, Avoiding  people, Worrying about what people think of you, Feeling self-conscious, Abusive relationships

What can help?

There are several things that you could do to build up your  self-esteem. It can be useful to notice how your thoughts and beliefs affect your opinion about yourself. These thoughts and beliefs are opinions rather than facts, and they can be inaccurate, invalid and false.

One of the things that you could do is to notice these thoughts and beliefs and question how helpful they are to how you feel.  Try to challenge and test the unhelpful beliefs by maybe asking other people if they think the same as you in those situations.

You may find that some of your thoughts may not be as accurate as you thought before. Try to think of alternative more helpful thoughts such as “I am trying my best”, “I am a person of worth”.

Other things you can do to build your self-esteem can include:

  • Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • If you are in an abusive relationship talk to your doctor or a relevant organisation about how to get help
  • Notice your own needs and wants and make a note of them.
  • Plan for and do more satisfying activities for yourself.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy.
  • Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Do things that you know will make you feel better about yourself.
  • Take care of yourself by eating healthily and doing physical exercise.
  • Praise yourself for your daily achievements. For example “I managed to settle my baby even though he was grizzly”.
  • Notice and write down your positive qualities.


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