University Counselling Services

Problems with confidence or self-esteem

Some people find it hard to maintain realistic levels of self-esteem. Being taken away from a familiar environment and support network, when starting university for example, can challenge even someone who is normally quite confident and self-assured, especially after a negative experience.

Also, past experiences of being bullied or rejected by others can sometimes reduce a person's sense of self-worth and increase expectations that others will find fault with them.

Sometimes it is as if there is a negative inner voice that comments harshly on someone's performance or abilities, or making adverse comparisons with others. This undermines self-esteem and makes it harder to maintain a humane and balanced view of ones' own qualities and abilities.

Having low self-esteem can affect our confidence in a wide range of activities and in our relationships. For example, a partner's abusive behaviour may be tolerated by someone who does not feel they deserve and better, or fear rejection. Low self-esteem can also neutralise the potentially helpful effect of positive experiences or successes, causing them to be dismissed or undervalued and making it even harder to build up confidence.

Sometimes drugs and alcohol are used to artificially boost levels of self-esteem, but this can be self-defeating in that it can get harder to function in social situations without them.

If you feel that your levels of self esteem and confidence are preventing you getting the most out of life or are creating recurring problems for you, it may be worth seeing a counsellor to explore how these patterns have happened and what you might do challenge or modify them. Contact Reception: counsellingreception@sussex.ac.uk  Or you might like to consider one of our ManageYour Mood workshops.