Self-esteem is how a person feels about themselves and what they do. Someone with positive self-esteem will generally approach things thinking they are a good person who deserves love and support and can succeed in life. Someone with low or negative self-esteem will generally think they are not good at things, don’t deserve love or support and that situations will work out badly for them.
Children and young people with high self esteem:
- Have a positive image of themselves
- Are confident
- Can make friends easily and are not anxious with new people
- Can play in groups or on their own
- Will try and solve problems on their own, but if not able to will ask for help
- Can be proud of their achievements
- Can admit mistakes and learn from them
- Will try new things and adapt to change.
Children with low self-esteem:
- Have a negative image of themselves and may feel bad, ugly, unlikeable or stupid
- Lack confidence
- Find it hard to make and keep friendships, and may feel victimised by others
- Tend to avoid new things and find change hard
- Can't deal well with failure.
- Tend to put themselves down and might say things like "I’m stupid" or "I can't do that" (before they have tried)
- Are not proud of what they achieve and always think they could have done better.
- Are constantly comparing themselves to their peers in a negative way.
Most children will have dips in self-esteem as they go through different stages or challenges in life. Starting a new school, moving house, changes in the family and many other factors can affect a child’s confidence, but with support from parents and other adults they usually get through this.
However, some children seem to have low self-esteem from an early age. This may be partly down to their personalities – some people naturally have a more negative outlook on life than others. Or they may have had an unsettled time as a baby or toddler, due to health problems, family difficulties or having a parent who was depressed or preoccupied.
Other children develop low self-esteem following a difficult time such as divorce, bereavement or being bullied or abused, and can't bounce back.
Teenagers with low self-esteem can find it very hard to cope with pressures from school, peers and society. They can find it very stressful and feel they are expected to achieve good grades, look a certain way and be successful or popular.
Children and young people with low self-esteem are more at risk of developing depression, anxiety, self-harming and other mental health problems as they grow up, and will often find the ups and downs of life in general harder to get through.