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A First Steps guide to

Building self-esteem and confidence

First Steps, Version 3, February 2013


Building self-esteem and confidence

“I’m not good enough” “I’m unlovable” “I’m always getting things wrong, I must be really stupid” “I’m not good enough” “I’m so ugly”

…are just a few of the comments from people who are experiencing low selfesteem.

Using self-help tools The strategies/tools suggested in this booklet are evidence based methods of managing emotions and reducing their negative effects on our everyday life. We are all individuals and respond to situations in different ways therefore not every tool will work with everyone. For example some people find meditation and reading really relaxing, whilst for someone else this could be a cause of stress and their preferred relaxation method may be to go to the gym. There are no set rules for managing emotions. A helpful way of thinking about this could be to think “is my current method working for me?” If the answer is yes, then great, but if not, these strategies may be an alternative way that is more productive for you. As with any new skill, self-help can take time and practice. In the same way that reading a cookery book will not instantly make you a great cook, simply reading this material will not make you instantly happy and healthy. But with time, practice and exploration it is possible for everybody to experience emotional well-being. Self-help alone may not be adequate for everybody. If you feel that you need more support, it is important to discuss this with your GP. In addition there are a number of helpful resources at the back of this booklet or you could call our phone line/email us for more information/advice.

First Steps


Building self-esteem and confidence

What is in this booklet?

Page Introduction Different aspects of low self-esteem How low self-esteem develops How low self-esteem is maintained Cycle of low self-esteem Building self-confidence How can you break the cycle and boost your self-esteem? Changing thinking patterns Keeping a thought record Positive notebook Changing your activity to build your self-esteem and confidence Activity diary Goal setting Handling uncomfortable situations Expressing your feelings and learning to say no Taking care of yourself (relaxation, diet and exercise, sleep) Useful contacts 4 6 7 10 11 12 13 14 15 18 20 20 23 24 26 29 32

First Steps


Building self-esteem and confidence

negative belief about themselves. Personal impacts The person might:         say a lot of negative things about themselves criticise themselves. or things they didn’t do expect that things will not turn out well for them feel depressed. lack self-confidence. then you may have low self-esteem. however if you think about yourself in this way on a regular basis. their actions and abilities put themselves down. or blame themselves when things go wrong not recognise their positive qualities find it hard to accept compliments focus on what mistakes they have made. What is self-confidence? Self-confidence refers to how able we feel to get a task done. doubt themselves.Introduction We all at some point in our lives feel uncertain about ourselves. These beliefs are often taken as truths or facts about themselves. if you find that this is how you are feeling a lot of the time and it is having an effect on your day to day life. People who have low self-esteem generally have a rigid. Low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of yourself. resulting in a negative impact on a person and their life The impact of low self-esteem Low self-esteem can impact on the way that a person feels about them selves and the way that they function in everyday life. anxious. then this booklet may be helpful to you. What is self-esteem? Self-esteem refers to the way we think and feel and value ourselves as a person. guilty. However. have doubts about our abilities or think negatively about ourselves. ashamed or frustrated First Steps -4- Building self-esteem and confidence . judging and evaluating yourself negatively. What is low self-esteem? Most people describe themselves in a negative way at some time in their lives.

family or colleagues. trying to please others. Some people may lack the motivation for personal care whilst others may try to hide their perceived inadequacies by paying significant attention to the way they look.Impacts on everyday life      Reduced performance at work Not reaching full potential because of the negative value they place on themselves Avoiding challenges for a fear of failure Believing that any achievements were down to luck. and avoid contact with others unless they look perfect Altered food and or alcohol intake. For example: becoming overly upset or distressed by any criticism or disapproval. being extremely shy or self-conscious or even avoiding social contact Change in appearance. rather than a result of their own abilities or positive qualities Altered relationships with friends. Some people may diet whilst others may comfort eat or reach for convenience foods. Some people may use alcohol or drugs to increase their confidence. which in turn has an adverse affect on their self-esteem   First Steps -5- Building self-esteem and confidence .

ignore success and strengths Moods      Anxiety Frustration and anger Sadness Guilt Shame Physical reactions      Tension Reduced sex drive Tiredness Change in appetite Sleep problems Behaviours        Difficulty saying no and communicating your needs Not meeting your own needs and trying to please others Holding back from doing things and avoiding challenges Finding it difficult to make decisions Putting pressure on yourself to do things perfectly and working too hard Shyness and avoiding meeting new people Being oversensitive First Steps -6- Building self-esteem and confidence . It is common for people to notice a vicious cycle of symptoms (see page 11).Different aspects of low self-esteem Having negative beliefs and opinions about yourself can affect your thinking patterns and your behaviour. Seem people might notice more physical symptoms. which can impact the way you feel both emotionally and physically. whilst some might notice more changes in their thinking. Everybody is different and will react differently to low self-esteem. even though it might not be your fault Be critical of yourself and say that you are “too stupid. but no two people will have the same experience. useless. boring. Low esteem may affect you as a person in certain different areas. unattractive. Thoughts and beliefs       Thinking you’re not good enough Thinking other people will see you negatively Doubt your ability to do things Blame yourself for things that happen. etc” Focus on criticism and mistakes.

neglect. these experiences can negatively influence how a person views themselves Traumatic life events. peers or work colleagues who criticise and focus on your weaknesses and mistakes rather than your positive qualities Being bullied or made fun of. Feeling as though you don’t fit in. but their parents were emotionally distant or not physically affectionate. Constantly being criticised can also have a negative effect. Feeling rejected by parents. This can result in believing thoughts such as “I’m ugly” or “I’m stupid” Rejection. For example if a child’s basic needs such as food and clothing were met. can have a significant impact on the way we feel about ourselves Difficulties in fitting in or feeling different to those around you. This is a time when physical appearance may be very important to a young person. work colleagues etc. For example. Thoughts such as “I’m unlikeable” or “I’m unattractive” can become real beliefs about ourselves that can become quite rigid as we get older A lack of positives. warmth and affection. Not meeting someone else’s expectations or standards. encouragement. health problems or bereavement have affected you. These factors can all affect self-esteem Punishment. How we are treated in life affects the way we see ourselves. neglected or abused they may come to believe very negative things about themselves. friends. This could be growing up or living in an environment with a lack of praise. Sometimes when families are experiencing stressful or distressing life events they may become angry. but we continue to be shaped by our day-to-day experiences throughout our lives. this could be parents. especially during late childhood and adolescence can influence how we learn to view ourselves. the society that we live in. depressed and respond negatively towards each other. This often (but not always) dates back to our early childhood/adolescence. the school we went to and the peers that we were/are influenced by. for example the interaction with our families.How low self-esteem develops The opinions and beliefs we have about ourselves are influenced and shaped by the experiences that we have had during our lives. Perhaps a relationship breakup. The following are some examples of past and present experiences which may lead to the development of low self-esteem  Meeting high standards or being expected to be perfect. Learning about life and ourselves is gained through different ways. The same may be true for an adult in an abusive relationship Stress or financial worries. if a child is unfairly punished. for example by leading to thoughts that you can’t cope or that you are a failure        These factors can lead people to hold certain beliefs about themselves which are called core beliefs. or abuse. Other factors can also influence our self-esteem including stereotypes and the media. We learn by observing what other people do or say and the way that we are treated by others. First Steps -7- Building self-esteem and confidence . family. These can also cause low self-esteem.

They usually influence us subconsciously and we rarely ever challenge if these beliefs are true. Common negative core beliefs are:      I am not worthy I am unlovable I am not good enough I am not important I never get things right I am not worthy Our core beliefs also relate to how we believe the world ‘should’ be and include our ethics and values.We continue to experience low self-esteem even though our circumstances have changed from the past because of the negative core beliefs we hold Core beliefs These beliefs are strongly held beliefs about ourselves that influence what we think and how we feel. First Steps -8- Building self-esteem and confidence . Quite often just awareness that these core beliefs may be shaping your thoughts and feelings can be helpful in challenging your view of the situation or yourself. Examples of these could be:     People should be courteous and polite I should always get things right Life should be fair I must not let people down We all hold these beliefs and they are central to our being. Our thoughts about an event or situation are often closely linked to our core beliefs and will affect a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence in managing the event or situation.

Emma begins to feel stressed. Situation Emma is taking the children to school Event There is a traffic jam Importance of situation/event Emma feels that she must not let the children down so must get them to school on time Core beliefs “I am not good enough” “I never get things right” “I must not let people down” How Emma: Feels emotionally Feels physically Thinks about future situations Behaves Negative thoughts “The children will be late.Case study Emma is taking the children to school. it is all my fault” (personalising) “The teachers will realise that I am a bad mum” (jumping to conclusions) “I should be able to get them to school on time” (should statements) First Steps -9- Building self-esteem and confidence . She turns the corner and there is a long traffic jam.

extreme and inflexible. For example.10 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Sometimes the rules that we place on ourselves can be unrealistic. for example. This can be by the unhelpful rules and assumptions we place on ourselves. and assumptions could be “people won’t like me if I express my true feelings” or “I must do everything 100% perfectly otherwise I will fail”.How low self-esteem is maintained So far we have looked at how negative beliefs that we hold about ourselves are influenced by our experiences of life and the way that we have interpreted events or behaviours. as seen in the cycle of low selfesteem on the next page Self-fulfilling prophecy We gather information that confirms our negative self beliefs because we pay much more attention to negative events that confirm these beliefs The impact of negative thoughts The thoughts we have tend to affect the way we behave. a belief that “I’m unlovable” means that the rule may be “I must never get close to people”. This keeps the belief going Everyday situations Our responses to certain day-to-day situations can also serve to keep our negative beliefs going. thus the person never actually gets the opportunity to test out whether people find them lovable or likeable. rules could be “I should always be the best at everything” or “I must never get close to people”. Rules and assumptions (the shoulds and musts) What happens in our adult life is that we keep these negative beliefs going. and the way we feel physically and emotionally First Steps . Unhelpful rules The rules we place on ourselves actually stop us from testing out whether our beliefs are true as they restrict our behaviour.

and a negative change in one area can have a negative effect on another. but certain situations activate these beliefs and trigger a vicious cycle of symptoms. which strengthen our negative self-beliefs.11 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Our feelings. Cycle of low self-esteem Past experiences Parents were overly harsh and critical when I didn’t get exceptionally good school grades Negative core belief “I am worthless” Difficult situation Cancelled dinner with a friend because of work commitments Thoughts “I’m a useless and pathetic friend” “I don’t deserve to have friends” “I shouldn’t let people down” “I’m always being selfish” “They are better off without a friend like me” Behaviours Apologise profusely and put yourself down to friend Overcompensate when trying to make it up to friend (reschedule dinner at a time that is not convenient for you) Withdrawing and avoiding the friend for a while Physical reactions Tense Sweating Headache Change in appetite Moods Depressed Sad Guilty Confirms negative belief “I was right – I am worthless” First Steps .Cycle of low self-esteem Events from our past may be the starting point for the development of negative self-beliefs and low self-esteem. and actions are closely related. thoughts.

and how you speak for example. and not believing in them Waiting for others to praise you on your achievements Low self-confidence can be destructive and often shows itself as negativity. acting in a passive or apologetic way. whereas selfconfident people are normally positive. and maintain feelings of sadness. the negative self-talk are confirming your belief “I’m worthless”. Below is a table which compares common confident behaviours with behaviours that are related with low selfconfidence. and believe in themselves and their abilities. the negative thoughts that you are having about yourself – eg. It also comes from our sense of self-esteem. People may lack confidence in some or all aspects of their lives. How confident you feel about yourself can be seen in many different ways: through your behaviour.g. e. By acting as though you are “worthless”. depression or guilt. the feeling of depression / low mood can increase negative thinking which may confirm your negative belief that you are “worthless”.So how does the belief “I am worthless” get confirmed and maintained in the cycle of low self-esteem? Firstly. and that we have a right to be happy. Do you recognise any of the thoughts or actions in yourself or other people around you? Self-confident Asserting yourself. all the unhelpful behaviours that are triggered by the negative thoughts mean you are acting in a way that is consistent with the belief that you are “worthless”. First Steps . Thirdly. you will carry on thinking you are worthless. even if others criticise or mock you for it Having the confidence to take risks and put in the extra effort to achieve good results Being comfortable when others pay you compliments and accepting them as truths Acknowledging and being proud of your successes and achievements Low self-confidence Changing your behaviour based on what other people think Not venturing out of your comfort zone and avoiding taking risks Dismissing compliments. Building self-confidence Self-confidence comes from our abilities to master skills and achieve goals that matter to us. that we are able to cope with what is going on in our lives. Secondly. your body language.12 - Building self-esteem and confidence . withdrawing.

The first step to breaking the cycle is to become more aware of the ways that low selfesteem/low self-confidence affects you: Think about this and make some notes on your self-esteem and self-confidence and:  the way you feel physically  the emotions you experience  the way you think  the things that you do Notes: The second step is to try to break the cycle which can be done in a number of ways: Change negative thinking patterns  Challenging unhelpful thoughts and the unhelpful beliefs you hold about yourself  Uncover your strengths and positives Take action  Ensure you have a balance of activities that need to be done and that you enjoy doing  Set yourself achievable goals  Try to tackle things that you have been avoiding  Take care of yourself First Steps .13 - Building self-esteem and confidence .How can you break the cycle and boost your self-esteem and selfconfidence? The good news is that whilst we cannot change past experiences. We can start to challenge the negative views that we have developed about ourselves. and break the cycle of low self-esteem and self-confidence. we can start to change the things we do in the present which are keeping the unhelpful beliefs going.

so my house may be repossessed and my children and I will be homeless”. if they are quite negative and critical. we usually have a number of thoughts about the situation and how it relates to us. I may be laid off. These pressures are unhelpful and can lead to feelings of failure. If you have negative beliefs about yourself. I used to be able to”. where the importance of an event is exaggerated to become a catastrophe. “I should be able to cope with this. We are not usually aware of these thoughts. then there is no point in doing it at all”. it can affect how we feel about ourselves and our ability to deal with the situation.Changing thinking patterns When things happen in the world around us. “Ok. Catastrophizing An extreme form of jumping to a negative conclusion. so what? That’s only what’s expected of me”. I won’t be able to pay my bills. “My manager has asked to see me in her office.14 - Building self-esteem and confidence . First Steps . Common thinking errors Jumping to conclusions This is where we make a negative interpretation of an event. “If I don’t get this right the first time. ‘must’ and ‘ought’ statements places unnecessary pressure and expectations on you. All or nothing Thinking in black and white terms and not allowing for any ‘grey’ areas. you can also start to ignore any positive information like strengths. Discounting positives Focusing on negatives and not giving praise for the positive things we do. My boss will be angry and as I am only bank staff. This acts to strengthen the negative beliefs that you may hold about yourself. so I got my report approved today. criticism and weaknesses. Maybe she doesn’t like me any more as I didn’t make her a coffee”. achievements and compliments and may only focus on things such as mistakes. as they often happen really quickly and unconsciously. and are often coloured by our past experiences. “I was late for work again today. I think I am going to be in trouble”. even though we do not know all the facts. However. “Should” statements Trying to motivate yourself with ‘should’. Personalising/labelling Seeing ourselves as the cause of some negative external event or taking the view that we are to blame “Katy ignored me when I said hello today.

all or nothing thinking. here are some tips to help you…   What is the evidence to support the unhelpful thought? What tells you that this thought is correct? What is the evidence that does not support the unhelpful thought? This is the hard part because it is often overlooked.Challenging our thoughts In order to start changing the way we think about ourselves and improve our self-esteem there are a couple of strategies that you can use:   Challenging unhelpful thoughts . Situation: What were you doing? When was it? Where were you? Who were you with? 2. is there an alternative.) 3.replacing the critical overly negative view you might currently hold.Identify and question the critical thoughts you have about yourself Positive notebook .Helps you to look out for and identify your positive qualities Both of these strategies aim to increase self-esteem by helping you to recognise and believe a more positive view of yourself . etc. Keeping a thought record 1. Helpful thoughts: What might be an alternative more helpful thought? When trying to come up with a helpful thought. more helpful thought that could also be true to that situation…… First Steps .15 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Unhelpful thoughts: What was going through your mind just before you started to feel this way? What images or memories do you have of the situation? In which unhelpful thought style did you engage (ie. catastrophizing. but ask yourself these questions: How would someone else view the situation? How would I have viewed the situation in the past? What might I say to a friend who was in a similar situation? What is the effect of thinking the way I do? Does it help me or make me feel worse?  Now.

What was I thinking just before I felt like this? Proof that the thought is true Other possibilities. or What I would say to a friend What if the alternative thought is true? First Steps .16 - Building self-esteem and confidence .

critical thought. Negative thoughts I’m really not fitting in with others at work because I’m unlovable and have nothing interesting to say Balancing thoughts I have two really lovely best friends who always ask me to come out with them and phone me up once a week at least so I can’t be that bad I’m unlovable I have good friends First Steps .17 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Obviously this is much easier said than done. especially when we are feeling negative. The double column technique Another technique that may help is to write down your negative automatic thoughts in one column and. opposite each one write down a more balanced positive thought. When you have a negative. and it can be difficult at first. could be balanced with: “my husband and children love me and always tell me that I’m beautiful”. but with practice it does get easier. For example: The thought: “I’m unattractive”.Balancing “Balancing” is a useful technique to try. balance it out by making a more positive statement about yourself.

but when your self-esteem is low. leaving room to add new ones in the future. First Steps . but here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify your positive qualities:       Is there anything that you like about yourself? What are the positive achievements of your life so far. it can often be easier to list all of your negative qualities. It may be useful to ask somebody who you trust to help you answer some of these questions Once you have come up with a list of positive qualities. you can start to focus on the negatives and discount or ignore some of the positives about yourself. It is easy to dismiss things as insignificant when your self-esteem is low. write them in your notebook. . however modest? What obstacles have you overcome in your life? What would someone who cares about you say your qualities and strengths are? Might there be a grain of truth in there? What strengths and qualities do you appreciate in others? Do you have any of these yourself? What negative qualities do you not have? It is important to list your answers however modest they seem to you.18 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Identify and list your positive qualities When you have low self-esteem. This keeps the cycle of low self-esteem going. as you pay more attention to the negative information which confirms your negative beliefs about yourself. A way to start to try and get a more balanced picture of yourself. and difficult to see the strengths you have. but they are all important evidence to build a picture of all your strengths and positive qualities. is to keep a positive notebook.Positive notebook (based on non-direct quotes in ‘Overcoming Low Self-esteem’ by Melanie Fennell) Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. which will help improve your self-esteem.

It can be helpful to consider how you felt after each piece of evidence to ensure that you are only using positive examples. . but also some evidence of the quality. skilled Determined Thoughtful First Steps . This is not about doing things. spend time every day trying to write down three positive qualities that you have shown on that day. Here is an example of what a daily record of positive thoughts may look like. It is important not only to record the positive quality. that other people are more important.G Always putting someone else’s needs before your own may prove that you are considerate.Daily recordings of positive qualities Once you have created a list of your strengths. but could also strengthen your core beliefs. E. If three is too difficult.19 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Day Thursday Evidence of positive quality Let another driver into the queue of traffic Colleagues asked me to join them at lunch Cooked dinner for partner despite feeling tired Friday Sorted out problem for colleague at work Spoke in meeting even though felt nervous Sent friend a ‘get well soon’ card Positive quality Considerate Likeable Caring Helpful. to make you feel good. What did you do that tells you that you have this quality? This will help you remember your strengths when you look back over your notebook. It is about reflecting on what you are already doing that proves your qualities. just writing down one is a good start.

and take credit for your achievements. being active can give you a sense that you are taking control of your life. Try to record daily activities. Common backward thinking • • I will do what I enjoy when I feel better’ ‘I will feel better when I do what I enjoy’ Activity diary Step 1 . You can use the diary sheet on the next page. along with ratings of how satisfying you found each activity (sense of pleasure or sense of achievement). make life more satisfying. A good strategy for identifying how your current activities could be impacting on your selfesteem is by keeping an activity dairy.What are you currently doing? The first step is to look at how you currently spend your time and to consider how satisfying you find your daily activities and routine. and can motivate you to try other things.Changing your activity to build your self-esteem and confidence We gain confidence and improve self-esteem by doing things. You can then see what changes you could make to improve your well-being. First Steps . Also.20 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Sometimes when we are feeling bad about ourselves we may:      Stop doing things we used to enjoy Avoid or put off completing tasks Withdraw from friends and family Find it difficult to make decisions Work too hard or try to be perfect These behaviours all keep the vicious cycle going and strengthen our negative selfbeliefs. Achieving small steps can help to rebuild confidence that you may have lost. It is important that there is a good balance between duty activities and those activities that give you a sense of pleasure and achievement.

Activity diary Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Morning Afternoon Evening What was the best part of the day? First Steps .21 - Building self-esteem and confidence .

Step 2 – What would you like to change?  Are you getting a balance between enjoyable and relaxing activities. what changes would you recommend?  What activities give you a sense of achievement? When we feel bad about ourselves it can be difficult to feel that we are actually achieving anything at all. but feel they are unmanageable? Try breaking the task down into smaller more manageable steps. and motivate you to try the next one First Steps . Each time you achieve a step it will increase your confidence. and activities that need to be done? Can you improve your balance?  Ask yourself: if you were helping somebody with their activity diary.22 - Building self-esteem and confidence . and setting yourself goals to achieve them. but this strategy can help you to see you might be achieving more than you give yourself credit for  Did negative thoughts affect your activity? Try to write them down and question them to see if you can come up with a more helpful view  Are there things that you would like to do or need to do.

23 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Remember. and so don’t be put off or be hard on yourself if you find that you don’t always stick to the plan! S M A R T Specific Measurable Achievable By being clear about your target goal you will be able to take pride in achieving it Just wanting to “build up my social life” is not measurable. Give yourself a reward for what you achieve. This is normal. taking part in a dance class twice a week is. but it is important to start off by setting the right goals. Challenging yourself is great but don’t expect the impossible! The goal has to make sense to you and be something you feel is worthwhile and that applies to your views and lifestyle Think when the best time is for you to fit in your goals and try not to tackle too many goals at once Relevant Timely Goal setting is an on-going process E R Evaluate Redo Regularly look again at what has gone well or less well and why this might be the case Set new goals or adapt the ones you have. even if you did not complete the goal. and there may be slips or lapses along the way. but gave it a good shot! First Steps . change is not always easy.Goal setting Most people find that working towards realistic goals is motivating and satisfying. Recognise your limits. if you set goals too high you are more likely to quit and feel that you failed. This really will have a positive impact on the success of building confidence and self-esteem.

to do. If you find that you have been avoiding certain activities or situations that you need. break it down into smaller more specific steps  You can then start to achieve these smaller steps one by one  Keep practicing each step until you feel comfortable enough to start the next one  By tackling things step by step.24 - Building self-esteem and confidence . then try the following strategy:  Draw up a list of things that you have been avoiding  Order them with the most manageable task first. working up to the hardest one  Picking the most manageable one. This might lead to avoiding certain situations. you can start to build confidence in your own abilities. they might think that things will turn out badly or might doubt their ability to deal with situations. I’ll get flustered and everyone will laugh and think I’m stupid I felt quite uncomfortable and nervous but everyone listened to what I said and agreed with my point and the manager thanked me for raising it What I have concluded My colleagues don’t think I’m stupid and I can make useful contributions to meetings even though I still feel nervous First Steps . and reward yourself appropriately Prediction of what might What actually happen? happened? If I speak up in a meeting at work then everyone will stare at me. it can make you feel better in the short-term as you have not had to confront your fears or anxieties. If you avoid things. but in the long-term it keeps those negative self-beliefs going. because they predict that things will not go well. or would like. Don’t forget to take credit for achieving each step.Handling uncomfortable situations Sometimes when people feel bad about themselves. as you never have the opportunity to find evidence to disprove them.

especially where there are a lot of people. which also makes her sad and frustrated. as she would really like to meet new people. (see below also) It is normal to feel anxious in many of these situations and the goal is not necessarily to feel completely comfortable. He would like Sarah to come along with him. she has always felt that she is somehow not acceptable to other people. Recently. which confirms her view that she is unacceptable. Her new boyfriend has a lot of friends. Sarah thinks that others will think she is weird and boring. As she does not interact with others. she feels rejected. Go to an event where she only knows her boyfriend and a few other people 3. She always felt shy and like the “odd one out”. You may find that you are having negative thoughts.Here is an example of somebody who is experiencing low self-esteem. Sarah starts to avoid social events. Sarah has found that she has been feeling more tense and uncomfortable in social situations. This means that she stops going out as often and does not socialise with other people. and the different parts of her life it is affecting: Sarah is 27-years-old. She could tackle this by breaking the task down into more manageable chunks. Go out to an event where the only person she knows is her boyfriend For each step Sarah should:  Before . which are stopping you from doing these steps. Since then.25 - Building self-esteem and confidence . However it is enabling her to look at ‘feeling comfortable with feeling uncomfortable’. Sarah is also very quiet and avoids speaking up. and he is often invited to go out with others. or people whom she does not know very well. but she feels very anxious. Sarah has a small circle of friends whom she has known since university and has just started a relationship with someone whom she has been friends with for some time. Because of the way she feels. starting with the easiest first: 1.predict what she thinks will happen  After . she often feels very self-conscious and thinks that nobody wants to speak to her.reflect on what actually happened Each step enables Sarah to be in what she determines as an uncomfortable situation and to test if her predictions are true. Her low self-esteem issues started when she went to secondary school. You may need to challenge these to help you move forward First Steps . When she goes out. Go out with boyfriend to an event where she knows everyone else 2. where she found it quite difficult to settle in and make new friends.

Learning to say no in an assertive and tactful way is a difficult. skill to learn. but hiding or holding back our feelings. but important. It helps us to recover from hurtful experiences. is there anything you can do differently next time? Expressing your feelings and learning to say no Expressing our feelings openly promotes a sense of well-being and freedom from tension.26 - Building self-esteem and confidence . Remind yourself now and then that:         You have the right to say no without feeling guilty Others have the right to say no to you Saying yes when you really mean no may reduce your feelings of self-worth It's better to say no at the time than to let somebody down later Saying yes to extra work or obligations might cause you stress Taking on too much might lower your standard of work or come at a cost to those people who are important to you It might not be such a big deal to the other person to get a no response Being respected and respecting yourself is more important than being liked First Steps . and also helps other people to understand what is going on inside us.     Did you learn anything new about yourself? Did you cope better than you expected? Was the outcome better than you expected? If they didn’t go so well. There are times when displays of emotion are not helpful. can cause tensions that affect our physical and mental health.Tackling things that you have been avoiding will help to test out your negative view of yourself and gain a more balanced view by building your confidence.

they usually overestimate the difficulty that the other person will have accepting the refusal. First Steps . continually expects you to work late. you are refusing the request. it liberates the other person to express their feelings too. people won’t like me Other people are more important Saying no is petty or small-minded I should be able to do that The key to refusing requests and saying no is to be able to accept the following beliefs:    Other people have the right to ask and I have the right to decline When you say no. uncaring or selfish People will be hurt if I say no or it will upset them If I say no. unkind. How do you feel when someone says ‘no’ to you? Do you find that you always feel as if they are rejecting you or that they must not like or respect you? Think about what you would say to a friend if they came to you with the same situation that you are in. parks in your space… How comfortable are you with assertively refusing or approaching them about it?  What stops you from saying how you feel? There are a number of reasons why people have difficulty saying no – they often have thoughts such as:       Saying no is rude. aggressive. we are actually saying no to something else When people have difficulty saying no.27 - Building self-esteem and confidence . not rejecting the person When we say yes to one thing.Setting limits and saying ‘no’  When someone asks for a loan. By expressing ourselves openly and honestly. comes round uninvited.

I just don’t feel I can at the moment”… “As I said. give your genuine reason for the refusal o “I can’t do that for you because I’ve already arranged to do something else”  Rain check no: Say no to the present request. I just can’t help at the moment” First Steps . thank you” o This way is quite forceful and can be effective with salespeople or people who are being quite pushy  Reflecting no: Reflecting back the content and feeling of the request.28 - Building self-esteem and confidence . I just don’t feel I can at the moment”… “I appreciate what you’re saying. but I can’t come”  Reasoned no: Very briefly. but adding your assertive refusal at the end o “I know you were looking forward to a walk this afternoon. but a request for more information or an alternative o “Do you need that to be done for you now or can it be done later?”  Broken record no: Repeat a simple statement of refusal over and over again if the requester is very persistent o “I’d like to be able to help you out. but leave room for negotiation o “I can’t do that for you now. but I will do it for you next time if you can give me a bit of notice”  Enquiring no: Not a direct no.How to say no… Practicing these techniques may be helpful:  Direct no: Say no without apologising o “No. because I wanted to do something else.

tight chest. backache. and many others Relaxation is a skill   It may not come naturally and has to be learnt through regular practice Make time for yourself and develop a routine which you can stick to. meditation. such as headache. imagery.29 - Building self-esteem and confidence . etc. You can't feel them both at the same time When you are stressed.Taking care of yourself Learning to relax How relaxation works      Feeling relaxed and feeling anxious are incompatible. Aim to set aside 15 to 20 minutes a day with no interruptions or distractions First Steps . Relaxing slows down the systems in your body that speed up when you get anxious If you learn a method of relaxation and use this regularly you will be able to control anxiety more effectively There are many forms of relaxation including yoga. the muscles in your body tense up. which causes uncomfortable feelings.

and less as we get older We pass through cycles of light and deep sleep at night. coffee or salt can cause tension and irritability. helps us relax. Research shows that those with a poor sleep pattern are more at risk of poor mental health and poor sleep can worsen existing mental health conditions. pasta and other starchy foods Meat. physically and mentally. rice. such as heart disease and osteoporosis. It is easy to overestimate how much sleep you need. It's generally only of concern if it’s been going on longer than a month. The amount of sleep that we need often reduces as we age. eggs. Too much sugar. Therefore. The occasional bad patch is harmless and usually rights itself. Choose a sport or exercise you enjoy. it relieves anxiety. Fruit & vegetables Bread.30 - Building self-esteem and confidence . fish. For more information. Sleep Try and get a good night’s sleep every night. it stimulates "feel good" chemicals in our bodies. How to get a good night’s sleep People may worry about not getting enough sleep. A balanced diet will also help your body and mind to work more efficiently. it provides an outlet for tension and frustration. potatoes.Diet and exercise The food you eat can play an important part in the way you feel. please see your GP or nutritionist. helps us sleep better and helps to prevent physical illness.   The average amount of sleep is seven to eight hours a night. which is vital for our well-being First Steps . or not to realise it is normal to wake briefly during the night. Around every 90 minutes we have a period of dream sleep (REM). beans and other non-dairy sources of protein Milk and dairy foods Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar Regular exercise is good for us in many ways: it increases our confidence and self-esteem. but worrying often only makes it worse. A balanced healthy diet can make you feel better about yourself as well as being beneficial to your body and immune system. Please note that when first undertaking an exercise program you should consult with your GP. The amount of sleep that you need is different for everyone and can range from 5 hours upwards per night. it can be useful to look at your eating and activity patterns. but we all need different amounts.

and some painkillers. but a brief course is sometimes appropriate Night-time relaxation routine Breathe deeply. magnesium-rich foods (green salads. temperature. antidepressants. get up after 15 minutes and go through your relaxation routine again Keep a sleep diary. If you can't sleep. children etc) we may incur a ‘sleep debt’. cocaine and amphetamines Overusing alcohol. Visualise a scene or landscape that has pleasant memories for you Try out complementary remedies. in turn. tobacco and caffeine Tips to help you sleep             Establish a regular routine. If we miss out on sleep on a regular basis (not caused by sleep difficulties eg. Avoid napping during the day Check your sleeping arrangements.g. broccoli. hold for another four seconds and then breathe out slowly. Fit people sleep better Don't stay in bed. Dismiss nagging thoughts by writing them down Have a warm bath. This helps you identify potential causes for your sleeplessness Try some reverse psychology: keep your eyes open and tell yourself to resist sleep Interrupt unwanted thoughts: repeat a soothing word to yourself. may be helpful for some people Talk to your GP. red meat and cheese. socialising. redundancy. such as lavender or valerian. (But don't read or watch television in bed) Don’t eat late. slimming tablets and cold remedies Withdrawing from certain drugs. beta-blockers. meditation. or bereavement Different environments e. It usually stops once the debt is paid off. or listen to a relaxation tape.31 Building self-esteem and confidence . light and noise levels Learn to de-stress before bed. First Steps . including anxiety and depression Jet lag or shift work that disrupts our internal body clock Traumatic events. However irregular sleep patterns or napping should be avoided if you are having difficulty sleeping at night  Long-term sleep problems may be both the cause or consequence of physical or mental health problems Things that may disrupt your sleep pattern             Snoring that interferes with breathing Too much stress Racing thoughts Ill-health or physical pain Emotional difficulties. Choosing wholemeal. Get enough exercise. Consciously tense and relax your muscles. going into hospital. as may drinking hot milk and honey. low-fat. spicy or sugar-rich foods. Avoid rich. Yoga. unable to concentrate or to function properly. Think about comfort. homeopathy or herbal remedies. such as a divorce. steroids. a residential home or a hotel Medicines. such as water pills. Go to bed only when you're tired and get up at the same time each day. making us tired and irritable. practise a relaxation technique. counting slowly up to four as you breathe in. nuts and seeds) may encourage sleep. Sleeping pills can present problems. such as tranquillisers or antidepressants Taking street drugs such as ecstasy. starting at your toes and working up your body.

32 - Building self-esteem and confidence .steps@nhs. Many of these libraries also have a self-checkout option.Monday to MINDinfoLINE 0845 766 0163 .mind.30pm and Thursday 11am to 5. as well as other if you search “Read Yourself Well”. Walton-on-Thames.30pm. Guildford. Staines.15am – Books The Surrey County Council Library has a very helpful list of self-help books that can be accessed from the following libraries:  Camberley. that you can work through on the internet www.15pm www. info@mind. Woking You can find the list at www. which means you can take out a book without anyone knowing the book that you choose.nhs. The helpline will be open on a Tuesday following a Bank Holiday www. First Steps . Redhill.surreycc. Dorking.Monday and Wednesday 10am to 4. Living Life to the Full A self-help website offering free modules on confidence contacts First Steps 0808 801 0325 .uk first. 9. Godalming.