Self-esteem is the reputation we have with ourselves. Having a high self-esteem means that the internal messages we send ourselves are positive. It involves appreciating our own worth and importance. People with poor self-esteem tend to be anxious, unhappy, self-critical and may have difficulty building up positive relationship with others.

Rate your self-esteem by ticking the dots next to the characteristics that apply to you.

1. High Self-Esteem

  • I have a general sense that I am in control of my life and I trust in my own abilities.
  • Although, I am not able to do everything, I continue to be positive and accept myself for who I am.
  • I am willing to risk the disapproval of others because I generally trust my own abilities.
  • I do not feel I have to conform in order to be accepted.
  • If I make a mistake, I do not see this as bad or wrong. But just part of normal learning.
  • I generally feel loved, wanted and accepted.

2. Low Self-Esteem

  • I depend on the approval of others in order to feel accepted.
  • I avoid taking risks because I fear failure. I do not expect to be successful.
  • I tend to put myself down and discount or ignore compliments that are paid to me.
  • I often feel like life is a burden, an obligation or a responsibility to be dealt with.
  • I often feel invisible, alone, wanting or needing recognition.

Note: If you ticked most of the items in A. congratulations and keep it up. If you ticked any items in B. you may need to work on your self-esteem or come to the counselling centre for help.


If you have a low self-esteem it is likely that you have learnt to doubt yourself. Learning to accept yourself is the first and greatest step in developing more confidence and high self-esteem. Here are a few behaviours which are learnt and ultimately contribute to a lack of self-esteem.

Shyness: This is characterized by timidity, and a hesitance in social situations. This is often based on feelings of inferiority and a distrust of one’s own abilities.

Frequent apologies: People who have low self-esteem often apologize and ask to be excused for minor errors of judgement or etiquette.

Conformity: People who place huge value on what they wear, who they know, how much money they have are often masking insecurity. Such things do not have anything to do with your personal worth.

Rejecting compliments: Although growing up we are cautioned to be humble, this should not imply negating and rejecting compliments because you do not feel worthy of them.

Fearing competition: If someone does not feel good about themselves and their abilities, they often fear competition because they underrate themselves, thinking they won’t be able to win.

Fear of trying new things: People with a low esteem often do not see mistakes as steppingstones to success. Instead mistakes are often seen as signs of failure.

Setting impossibly high standards: The need to be perfect diminishes the feeling that you are acceptable. Accepting less than perfection means recognizing the limitations of being human. Learn to value who you are, rather than who you could become if you did everything perfectly.

Not accepting limits to your abilities: Some of us focus so much on our failures that we do not give ourselves credit for what we have accomplished and learned from our experiences. Accept that a given goal may be out of your reach because of many factors but this does not mean that you are a failure.


If you can relate to any of the above but have made a decision to enhance your self-esteem you are giving yourself the power to be happy and content. You have decided to take into your own hands the way you think of yourself and how you judge yourself. Up to now, it is likely that this has been done automatically and unconsciously. It is likely that you haven’t been kind in your judgement of yourself. Take a few moments to think about the decisions you have made about yourself and your abilities up to this point.

It is now your right and responsibility to decide if this is true.



Do not compare yourself with other people. There will always be bigger, stronger, smarter, richer, people than you (not forgetting of course those who have even less). Learn the valuable art of counting your own blessings, and more importantly, the art of making ‘self to self” comparisons.

Make a list of all your past successes. This doesn’t necessarily mean monumental accomplishments. This should include all of your “minor victories.” Read this list often. Whilst reviewing it, close your eyes and recreate the feelings of satisfaction and joy you experienced when you first attained each success, no matter how slight or insignificant.

Do not put yourself down. Many people do not assess themselves correctly. Some people have inflated egos whilst others think very little of themselves. Be aware of the tendency to underestimate yourself. You are probably a better person than you think you are. From now-onwards, begin speaking about your appearance, your career, your relationship, your finances, or any other aspects of your life, in a highly positive manner. Discover how to view a familiar situation in a new light, and really work at this to re-frame those situations that you had previously been negative about.

Learn to accept all compliments with ‘thank you

When you reject a compliment, the message you give yourself is that you are not worthy of praise. Respond to all compliments with a simple “Thank you”.

Use self-talk, or affirmations to enhance your self-esteem.

On the back of a small card write out a statement such as “I like and accept myself” or “I am valuable, loveable person, and deserve the best in life.” Take it with you everywhere. Repeat the statement often during the day, just before going to bed, and upon waking. Each time you say the affirmation, allow yourself to experience positive feelings about your statement.

Make a list of your positive qualities. Are you honest? Unselfish? Helpful? Creative? Be very honest with yourself and write down at least 20 positive qualities. Then review this list often. Most people who dwell on their failures and inadequacies often wonder why their life isn’t working out. So, begin focusing on your most positive traits and you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving what you wish to achieve.

Associate with the most positive and supportive people you can find. When you surround yourself with negative people who often put you and your ideas down, your self-esteem is lowered. On the hand, when you feel worthwhile and are accepted and encouraged, you are in the best possible environment to raise your self-esteem.

Take stock of what you’ve been giving to those around you. When you do things for others, you begin making a positive contribution and you will feel more valuable, which, will lift your spirits and raise your self-esteem.

Immerse yourself in work and activities you love. Self-esteem flourishes when you are engaged in work and pastimes that you really enjoy and make you feel worthwhile and valuable. Devote leisure time to hobbies and activities, which you find interesting and enjoyable.

Don’t be afraid to try. When you try something, you will either succeed or fail. Although failure is difficult, some failures are tolerable. Refusing to try is because you see no hope of success. Not trying rules out any chances of success and can be depressing and affect your functioning.

Be a good friend to yourself. If you hear yourself saying mean things about yourself say STOP and replace them with one of the nice things about yourself. Liking yourself and being your own good friend helps you to be happy and enjoy being you.

Understand that not everybody has to like you. Not everybody in this world will get on with you and that is OK.

Be true to yourself. Live your own life but not the life others might decide is best for you. You’ll never gain self-respect and truly feel good about yourself if you are not leading the life you want to lead. If you’re making decisions that essentially please your friends or family, then you are not being true to yourself. Follow your own dreams and recognize those who are not supportive and if they are people you cannot avoid, develop a strategy to shield yourself from them.


Dr. Bernard Kissi-Abrokwah
Head, Counselling Center
[email protected]
+233 20 824 8314

Visit the Counselling Centre behind Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences for assistance.


Thank You.