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12 Months of Mental health

February 2023 - Self-esteem: The Value of Me!

This month we’re thinking about self-esteem – ‘confidence in one’s own worth or abilities’ – and the value of having a positive view of ourselves, our abilities and our worth.

Self-esteem feels like one of those strange thing where we know we should focus on fostering and supporting it, and we understand that there is a value to it being positive, yet its often the first thing that suffers if we’re having a bad time, or are facing challenges.

Self-esteem is a subject that is often discussed or considered. A quick Google search produces 257 million responses in 0.41 seconds – alluding to the fact more has been written about the subject than anyone could possibly need, remember or forget.

This article isn’t focusing on giving you our take or ideas – adding yet another series of (fad?) examples or revolutionary insights into how shifting a plant 3mm to the left, whilst drip feeding it with a mixture of vegan friendly coconut oil and pomegranate extract will do wonders for how you see yourself and your self-esteem! We’re not in the business of selling you the latest trick or ointment that will make your life better. We’re simply collating some ideas and techniques that have been proven to work across our projects. Ideas that young people have reported has made them feel better. Techniques children have relied on to face challenging situations and which have enabled them to come out the other side, not just surviving, but with the green shoots of thriving emerging.

Self-esteem falls into three categories. Imagine Goldilocks entering the 3 bears house, she arrives at Mummy bears porridge and tries it – too cold! Daddy bears is too hot, but baby bears… that’s just right! Self esteem can be categorised in the same way – too low… too high and just right (healthy).

More often than not, we think about self-esteem being considered ‘low’ and about how to improve it to a healthy level. We sometimes forget that people can have too much self-esteem! The legendary (?) film Top Gun features the perfect example of this. The main character Maverick (Tom Cruise) is accepted onto the Top Gun course, a fighter pilot flight school for the best aviators in the US Navy. His commanding officer warns Maverick that his overconfidence in his flying skills and tendency to take unnecessary risks will likely result in either himself or someone else getting injured or killed. Suffice to say, this is a lesson that is learned the hard way!

We’re offering 5 examples of skills or techniques you can try which can help maintain healthy self-esteem, as well as improving areas where you feel low.

1) Be kind to yourself: How easy or difficult do you find it being kind to yourself? When do you challenge negative self-thought? How often do you say, or think something positive about yourself? Are you good are you at saying ‘no’ (especially if you’re already spreading yourself too thinly)? When did you last look at someone else’s post on Facebook, twitter or Instagram and not feel yourself comparing like for like? How about doing something nice for yourself – something that energises or expresses values for yourself?

Being kind to ourselves, and taking time to do something that is about us feels selfish! And yet, each of these questions require an answer. The answers help to give us an insight into how we view ourselves and more importantly how we value ourselves. We may find it hard or difficult to be kind, we may allow negative self-thought to fester or say yes when we have limited or zero capacity. We may endlessly wonder about those on social media ‘living their best lives’ and wish we could do the same. We may make sacrifices which mean we’re holding the costs of others successes and benefits.

And yet, these answers are massively helpful for helping us connect with our own worth and abilities… our own self-esteem. All of us need (and let’s repeat that in capitals NEED!) to take time for ourselves and our own esteem. No-one can draw water from an empty well, and if we’re empty, we can’t continue to be who or what we’re needed to be. Taking time for self, isn’t selfish, it’s sensible and helpful.

2) Recognise the Positives: Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we react badly when someone offers us a compliment or encouragement – ‘what this old thing?’; ’My haircut? I asked them to cut the grey out!’; ‘Oh, I was only doing my job…’ It’s like we’re pre-set to feel awkward and bad about anyone saying positive and nice things about us! And yet positive people statistically live 10 years longer than negative people, positive workplaces always outperform negative ones and positive thoughts help counter the negative effects of stress! When we take the time to pause, reflect and consider positivity, it has a (perhaps unsurprisingly) positive impact on us, and therefore those around us! It also means people tend to be happier to be around us, helping to boost our worth and value through our interactions with others. At east to west, we try to encapsulate fun into our daily work. Given some of the difficult conversations we have with children, young people and families around anxiety, self-harm, family breakdown and relationship issues, it would be easy to be overwhelmed and negative… and yet a commitment to having fun, experiencing joy and bringing hope make a real difference. It is a gift to stand with someone in their sadness… but the joy comes with sharing laughter with them too. To do this, we have to have a positive approach…

3) Building a support network: Who do you talk to? Not random strangers on the bus or in the shopping line. Not Siri or Alexa who pipes up unexpectedly (having listen to and recorded all your conversations covertly!) Maybe not even a spouse or partner who are sometimes the wrong people to talk to (I appreciate that is the second controversial statement in this particular point!). A support network is one which allows you to have open and honest, as well as frank (and occasionally blunt) conversations. They are often considered to be ‘permission’ relationships, where those involved give each other ‘permission’ to speak into each others lives. This may be anything from work to relationships,

children to choices about the future. There is a permission to hold to account and challenge as well as accept and commiserate. They aren’t always gentle, but they are based on respect, trust and a sense of ‘being for each other’. They also require grace and humility and an acknowledgement that we are all human and we sometimes get it wrong! Most importantly, building a support network isn’t about surrounding yourself with people who will always tell you yes and how brilliant you are… it’s about surrounding yourself with people who value you, love you and who are also willing to tell you – to your face – that occasionally you’re being an idiot!

4) Look after yourself: This is similar to being kind to yourself, however there is a greater focus on health and wellbeing. What’s your sleep health like? How many of the 5-a-day are you managing (Carrot cake doesn’t count!)? When did you last go out for a walk, cycle or get breathless? How often, do you sit, quietly, pause and reflect (without a glass or two of wine)?

We can’t rely on others to manage our self-esteem, other wise it’d be called ‘their-esteem’ and we’re then reliant on others for our happiness (which isn’t healthy). We need to be guardians of ourselves and there are certain, easy, simple steps we can undertake that will give us the best chance to thrive.

So when was the last time you did any of that?

5) Set yourself a challenge: Ever climbed Ben Nevis, hiked the Machu Pichu trail or swum with sharks in the Caribbean (minus a shark cage)? Considered jumping out of an aeroplane, walked on burning coals or cycled the streets of London at night? Gotten out of bed, got the children ready for school, tidied the house, gone to work, cooked dinner, put the kids to sleep and still found time for the gym in the evening? Challenges come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Some of them are seemingly impossible or require lots of effort. Others are more attainable. Challenges come in lots of different shapes and sizes. For someone with Chronic Fatigue, getting the children to school on time is a successfully completed challenge. For someone afraid of heights, a parachute jump may feel impossible. Anyone who’s ever endured the joys of a bicycle saddle will wince at the thought of 100kms on a bike, but will do it with the right motivation. By the way, you can cycle the streets of London with east to west in June if you fancy it!

Challenges, especially those we attempt (and complete?), help us boost our view of ourselves… our self-esteem. They give us a real sense of worth and achievement, which is based on what we’ve done, not what others have done – they play into the positivity aspect of who we are and what matters to each of us. For those we work with, their biggest challenge might be staying in a lesson with a teacher they find difficult to connect with. We may not feel this is challenging, but for them, success makes a huge difference. It’s a positive step forward and one which can be a stepping stone or building block to better engagement with learning and greater levels of value and respect for both themselves and others.

Challenges can be hard, but success, however hard earned, makes a real, positive difference!

Hopefully some of these tips and techniques will connect with you, inspire you to try something new and exciting or make some changes which will positively benefit your life?

Next month: Grief and Bereavement

If you want to hear more or have topics/themes you’d like us to discuss, please don’t hesitate to get in contact at


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