Low Self-Esteem Therapy in Edinburgh

If we were to critique our friends in the same manner that many of us self-criticise, we’d likely find ourselves without friends. We can often become our harshest critics, acting as our own adversaries. Learning to cultivate compassion towards ourselves, embracing acceptance, and redirecting our thoughts and feelings can shift our focus towards more constructive behaviours that pave the way for a fulfilling life, rather than getting entangled in self-criticism. Therapy can play a pivotal role in this process.


What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is like our inner measure of how much we value ourselves. It’s like a yardstick that shows how we see ourselves – do we like, appreciate, and think highly of who we are? These feelings are based on what we think and believe, and sometimes, it’s tricky to change them. Imagine it as your judgement of how much you matter, similar to self-respect. It’s closely tied to how confident you feel in your abilities and qualities, almost like another way to say self-confidence. Other terms frequently used interchangeably with self-esteem are self-worth, self-regard, and self-respect.


This up-and-down pattern of self-esteem is closely connected to how we generally feel and how content we are. People with good self-esteem usually positively see themselves and can bounce back better when faced with challenges. On the flip side, if your self-esteem is low, it might lead to feeling not good enough, unsure about yourself, and struggling with the ups and downs of life.


How to book?

Email now:

contact at edinburghtherapyservice.com


Our therapists are qualified and registered with reputable professional associations for psychotherapy and counselling.

When to seek help for low self-esteem?

Like any psychological concern, low self-esteem can evolve into a challenging issue that warrants attention when it begins to affect various aspects of your life. Recognizing signs of this impact may include:


Persistent negative thoughts: If you frequently engage in negative self-talk, constantly criticising yourself and undermining your abilities.


Avoidance of activities: If you avoid activities or opportunities due to a lack of confidence or fear of failure.


Social withdrawal: If low self-esteem leads to isolation or withdrawal from social interactions.


Impact on relationships: If your self-esteem is affecting your relationships, causing difficulties in communication or connection with others.


Mood swings: If you experience frequent mood swings, anxiety, or feelings of sadness related to your self-perception.


Impact on work or school performance: If low self-esteem is affecting your ability to perform well in your job or academic pursuits.


Unhealthy coping mechanisms: If you find yourself using unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse or excessive avoidance, to deal with low self-esteem.

Therapy for low self-esteem and self-confidence

Various approaches offer effective strategies for addressing and enhancing self-esteem and self-confidence. Among the diverse therapeutic options, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) proves instrumental in reshaping negative thought patterns, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) emphasises acceptance and aligning actions with values, compassion-focused therapy (CFT) fosters self-compassion and understanding, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines mindfulness with cognitive strategies. 


Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT emphasises acceptance of thoughts and feelings, promoting psychological flexibility. In ACT for low self-esteem, the person learns to observe and accept their negative thoughts without judgement. This process encourages a more compassionate relationship with oneself. Instead of challenging thoughts directly, ACT emphasises aligning actions with deeply held values, promoting a sense of purpose and meaning. This approach encourages people to commit to actions that lead to a rich and fulfilling life, even in the presence of self-doubt. By focusing on values-driven actions and mindfulness, ACT aims to reduce the impact of negative self-perceptions and enhance overall well-being.


Compassion-focused therapy (CFT): this approach offers a compassionate and supportive approach to addressing low self-esteem. In CFT for low self-esteem, the client works with a therapist to cultivate self-compassion and understanding. The focus is on developing a kind and nurturing relationship with oneself, counteracting self-critical thoughts. Through various exercises and techniques, people learn to treat themselves with the same warmth and care they would offer to a friend. CFT explores the origins of self-critical thoughts and works towards transforming them into more compassionate and realistic perspectives. The therapy also involves fostering a sense of common humanity, recognizing that everyone experiences challenges and imperfections. By building self-compassion, individuals can gradually shift their self-perception and develop a more positive and affirming view of themselves. 


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): MBCT provides a holistic approach to addressing low self-esteem by combining mindfulness techniques with cognitive therapy. In MBCT for low self-esteem, individuals learn to observe their thoughts and emotions without attachment or judgement, fostering a non-reactive awareness of the present moment. This mindfulness practice allows people to distance themselves from negative thought patterns associated with low self-esteem. By becoming more attuned to their thoughts, the person can interrupt automatic and self-critical reactions, creating space for a more balanced and objective perspective. MBCT also incorporates elements of cognitive therapy, encouraging to identify and challenge negative thought patterns related to self-esteem. 


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT offers an effective approach for addressing low self-esteem by focusing on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. In CBT for low self-esteem, the person works with a therapist to identify and challenge distorted and self-critical thoughts. The process involves examining the evidence supporting and contradicting these negative beliefs, fostering a more balanced perspective. Therapists often guide clients in setting realistic goals and engaging in behavioural experiments to test the accuracy of their self-doubts. CBT also emphasises developing practical coping strategies, such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques, to manage negative thoughts as they arise. 

Our approach to low self-esteem counselling

For many years, therapists have strived to help clients in improving their self-esteem. However, the advent of the third wave of therapies, particularly those centred on acceptance and compassion, has illuminated an alternative approach. From our perspective, the objective isn’t merely to cultivate what is commonly deemed “good” self-esteem, recognizing that such labels are subjective. Judging oneself to possess “good” self-esteem potentially paves the way for its opposite if circumstances shift. In essence, self-esteem is an evaluative judgement, implying the potential for negative assessments. Rather than promoting the dichotomy of good or bad self-esteem, our focus is on fostering acceptance and compassion to nurture a more constructive relationship with oneself. We step away from the pitfalls of self-evaluation, acknowledging its dual nature, and instead, we guide individuals in treating themselves with the enduring qualities of compassion, empathy, and warmth.


Low self-esteem frequently coexists with various mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and eating disorders. Indications of diminished self-worth encompass:


➤   You might hold the belief that others surpass you in various aspects.

➤   Expressing your needs could prove challenging.

➤   Your focus may gravitate towards your perceived weaknesses.

➤   Frequent encounters with fear, self-doubt, and worry.

➤   Life might be viewed through a negative lens.

➤   An intense fear of failure may loom over your pursuits.

➤   Accepting positive feedback may be a difficult task.

➤   Difficulty establishing boundaries and asserting yourself by saying no.

➤   Placing the needs of others ahead of your own might be a recurring pattern.

➤   Regularly comparing oneself to others and feeling inferior or inadequate.

➤   Setting unrealistically high standards.

➤   A heightened sensitivity to rejection or criticism.

➤   A reluctance to take on new challenges due to a belief in inevitable failure.


The origins of self-esteem and various psychological issues remain unknown, lacking a definitive explanation. However, recognized risk factors provide insight into potential contributors to their development:


Negative experiences: Early negative experiences, such as childhood trauma, abuse, or bullying, can significantly impact self-perception and contribute to low self-esteem.


Unrealistic standards: Setting excessively high and unrealistic standards for oneself or internalising societal expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy when these standards are not met.


Critical parenting: Growing up in an environment where parents or caregivers were overly critical, neglectful, or provided inconsistent support.


Comparisons to others: Constantly comparing oneself to others, especially in terms of achievements, appearance, or success.


Chronic stress: Prolonged exposure to stressful situations, such as financial difficulties, relationship issues, or work-related stress, can take a toll on self-esteem.


Lack of positive reinforcement: A lack of positive reinforcement or acknowledgement for one’s accomplishments and efforts.


Perceived failure: Experiencing repeated setbacks or perceived failures without adequate support and encouragement can undermine confidence.


Social and cultural factors: Societal pressures, cultural norms, and societal expectations regarding beauty standards, success, or social status can influence self-esteem.


Personality traits: Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism or a tendency to be overly self-critical.


Mental health issues: Conditions like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders can intertwine with low self-esteem, creating a challenging cycle of negative self-perception.

Do you offer low self-esteem therapy near me?

The Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person low self-esteem counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom), and online therapy accessible worldwide. You can find our exact location here

Are you a journalist covering this subject?

Contact us with your questions; we may be able to offer comments or provide a quote from a professional therapist.

Your low self-esteem and self-confidence therapist in Edinburgh


Recognizing the profound effects of low self-esteem and self-criticism on your daily life, we acknowledge that facing this challenge alone can be daunting. You don’t have to navigate it solo. Connect with us today, and let’s embark together on the journey towards a more enriching and fulfilling life.


> Know more about us

> Contact us

Further reading

The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

Contact info

Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]