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Low self-worth is at the root of all of our problems

photo by Tachina Lee

For the past few years, I have been working as a Counsellor for a number of different Charity’s across West Yorkshire.

Since working as a therapist (and seeing many different clients of all different Ages, Gender, Ethnicity, Race etc.), I began to notice a familiar pattern arise with everyone I came into contact with (and in this I also include myself).

What I began to notice is that no matter what problems are presented to me (inside and outside the counselling room – the underlying issue will always come back down to one thing and one thing only…..

Low self-worth!

In short - Low self-worth is at the root of all of our problems (Even right down to the way we cope with grief)

And if you focus solely on building up your self-worth- your whole life will change!

I like to look at life like a boot camp - as the real test to our happiness and contentment (in life) is actually in how we respond to the daily challenges that are forced upon us, and in how we respond to other people.

For example; If you have low self-worth, you will respond and cope in a completely different way (to every situation), to someone who has high self-worth.

In short - everything comes down to how we feel about ourselves and how we feel we come across to other people.

Why we all suffer with low self-worth (at some point in our lives)? and secondly how can we build up our own self-worth and live more in the present, instead of continuously living in the past, or trying to control our future.

When we first came into this world, we loved ourselves for who we were. We didn't care if we had chubby little arms and legs, and our parents or care givers took hundreds of photos of us.

As we grew up however, significant others, such as our parents, siblings, teachers, other school kids, ‘friends’, work place boss/superiors - (the list goes on), would control us, criticise us, belittle us, judge us, and (at times) make us feel worthless.

We then adopted these false beliefs as our own and eventually learn to become self-critical in a bid to shield ourselves away from other people's comments.

(Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, over eating etc., are also ways of beating ourselves up for not being perfect)

We become our harshest critic, and constantly tell ourselves to do better and strive for more, otherwise we are a failure.

“All humans have the same need – to feel like we are enough” - Carl Rogers

What's important to understand however, is that these voices that we are still hearing, and the messages that we replay in our heads (over and over) don't belong to us, they belong to the people who made the comments in the first place. i.e. Insecure people, who most likely hated themselves!

“Every word that comes out of some ones mouth belongs to them”

The reason I know this to be true is because….

When a person has high self-worth, and is truly happy within their own skin, they will barely judge others at all.

They go through life only looking for the good in other people, and the silver lining in every situation they are faced with.

People with high self-worth will also only surround themselves with a small amount of friends who are genuine and trustworthy, because they value themselves too much to get caught up in other people's drama and negativity (and learn to walk away).

They will also make quick decisions because they trust themselves enough to cope if things don’t work out the way they had hoped.

People who suffer with low self-worth are the opposite.

They will struggle to make decisions, because they are constantly worried about the repercussions (i.e. if they are perceived to have made the wrong one).

They will also feel guilty, and rely on other people's opinions to guide them through life.

They will also judge others and thrive on drama and negativity.

So if you are someone who is judgemental of others, or if you find yourself caught up in a lot of drama and chaos in your life,

If you are someone who struggles to make decisions or fears missing out - then please read on….

Having been on the self-discovery journey for a number of years now, I have captured what I believe to be the most important tips and techniques (that you will need) to completely transform your self-worth for good.

How to overcome Low self-worth

Going on a journey of self-discovery is one of the most exhilarating experiences you could possibly do with your life, and the only way, you will ever find true happiness.

“We need to know ourselves inside out in order to make changes”

1. Start by taking off the mask, and owning up to your fears and insecurities.

Don’t be afraid of judgement - people who criticise or judge other people, are really just talking to themselves.

“Everything we see in another person is just a reflection of us” (Please remember however – do not play the victim)

If you have made a mistake, hold your hands up – don’t look to blame other people.

“Genuine people are actually more likable and therefore more attractive to others”

This is important, because if we spend our time blaming the people we perceive to have done us wrong – then we stay stuck in victim patterns, and constantly live in the past.

Talk about the people who have wronged you (preferably with a therapist) and get all the anger and resentment out of your body…

Writing things down can also help to release old, suppressed, feelings and emotions.

Once you feel the weight being lifted off your shoulders, learn to forgive others,

(If you are finding this hard, please bear this in mind - if these people were happy, they would not have wronged you in the first place. These people are already suffering on the inside – more than you could possibly know, so seeking revenge is not necessary.)

“If you can’t change something, change your mind-set”

2. Work on making the inner child feel safe

One thing to be aware of when going on a journey of self-discovery is that old feelings and memories will resurface.

For example; Childhood memories

This is all completely normal.

Don’t be afraid - let the childhood memories come.

“If you can’t get close to other people, it’s because you don’t know how to be close to your inner child” - Louise Hay

One way to really face this fear is to find an old photo of yourself as a child and look to see what feelings come up for you.

Many people will push these feelings away as this may bring up a lot of guilt, shame, resentment, fear, panic.

Try not to be afraid of the sensations, accept them, and allow them to come. Feel the fear, don’t fight it - and it will go away (i.e. take slow deep breaths and reassure your mind and body that you are safe).

Now imagine hugging yourself as a child and reassuring your younger self that you are safe and loved.

Now imagine (yourself as the adult) forgiving your younger self and apologising for being so hard on them all of your life.

Now do this again but imagine yourself as a teenager, and repeat the process.

This may sound silly or embarrassing but I promise you - its life changing!

“Connecting with your inner child is the only way to heal old wounds from the past” - Louise Hay

In some cases, if we suffered a particularly traumatic event, we can stay stuck in that period of our life, until we talk about it and allow our brain to process it properly.

If you feel that some of the memories are too traumatic to face on your own, book yourself in for some counselling sessions.

Don’t be afraid of the stigma attached to therapy – judgement is just fear.

And In my opinion - Everyone Needs Therapy!

Therapy is so effective because you are talking to someone who is non-judgemental and is really listening to what you have to say.

You won’t get that kind of attention from family and friends because everyone wants to pass on their opinions. You may even end up more confused.

A therapist knows that we are the best experts on ourselves, and once we start talking (out loud) in a space that feels safe and non-judgemental, all the answers that we will ever need will start to become clear.

If you have tried therapy before and didn’t feel that it was right for you - it may have just been the connection and rapport with the therapist.

Always try another therapist - because the relationship you have with the therapist is the most important aspect of therapy success.

Not one therapist fits all.

3. Self-love

As Humans, we love what is familiar, and are programmed to love routine because it makes us feel safe.

We often fear change.

Also everything we do is learnt behaviour, and is often learned within the home.

Therefore, if our parents panicked when faced with a challenging life event, then it is likely that we respond in the same way.

If our parents or caregivers worried about their weight or were negative and self-critical, then it is likely that we will follow suit, because we haven’t been taught any different.


We have the power to break the cycle

This is important to remember because everything we do is just a habit – and habits can always be broken.

Breaking a habit however, takes time (i.e. small steps everyday), patience and consistency.

Here are some tips to really help to get you started with changing your mind-set…..

Don’t Scare Yourself

If we are constantly reading online newspapers, watching the 10 o’clock news, or scrolling through social media sites (just before bed) - that are filled with negative and frightening stories, is it any wonder that we are constantly living in fear?

There is nothing worse than lying in bed at night trying to go to sleep, when all those awful thoughts come to the surface.

This causes the panic and anxiety to rise within our bodies, and then we are caught in a cycle of fear, adrenalin, fear.

What is so important to remember is that our mind responds to the words and pictures in our head, so if we spend all of our time filing it with fear and negative words and pictures, then this is how we will live our life.

Try and watch light hearted programmes before bed (or a light hearted book or magazine).

“Every time a thought pops into your head that doesn’t serve you, replace it with one that does” - Mel Robbins

At night time, as you lay in bed, if you can feel all of that anxiety rising –take ten deep breaths (in through the nose and hold for 5 seconds and out through the mouth slowly) and repeat to yourself “I am safe”.

When we are anxious – we forget how to breathe properly

When your mind and body can see that there is no danger – it will eventually learn to calm its self-down, and you won’t need to do this exercise quite so much.

Meditation videos are also good to listen to before bed.

Please remember, doing something once will not retrain your brain….

If you are really serious about changing - consistency is the key.

Be Kind and Patient with Yourself

Stop criticizing yourself and start praising yourself!

I understand this is hard; you have spent a lifetime calling yourself all the negative names under the sun but the thing is…

Your mind doesn’t know who is giving you the compliment and it doesn’t care, so give yourself the compliment.

Start by standing in front of the mirror and look at yourself - repeat out loud or in your head…

‘I love and value myself’ ‘I am a wonderful and kind person’

By doing this on a daily basis - (just for a few minutes)

We retrain our brain to receive positive messages about ourselves, and then in turn, our brain will eventually start to believe them.

Instead of looking for all the things you dislike about yourself, learn to love your negatives

When you feel that panic and anxiety rise within your body (i.e. when you look in the mirror) and you go to insult yourself – tell your brain something different this time. i.e. I love my body shape and my curves (one of mine)

I know this is hard and we don’t feel like it sometimes - but what’s the alternative?

To spend the rest of your life hating yourself?

Habits take time to break – but once they are broken, we have a whole new perspective on life.

We must remember that only we can meet all of our needs….

Don’t rely on someone else to fulfil you and make you feel valued

It’s not someone else’s job to validate us

Let go of the negative people in your life

If you find yourself surrounded by people who constantly make you feel on edge, or anxious when you are with them – and when you come home (from an evening out etc.), you are second guessing yourself and replaying conversations over and over in your head, please pay close attention to the company you are keeping…..

“We are a reflection of the 5 main people around us” - Mel Robbins

If you surround yourself with people who attract a lot of drama and negativity, and they love nothing more than to gossip about other people, then this will have a massive impact on your mental health.

You will never be able to please these types of people – so stop trying

These types of people dislike themselves so much - that all they know how to do is to attack others.

Until they are ready to face up to this and make changes of their own – distance is the key, to maintaining your own sanity.

It you struggle with the guilt of walking away or letting people down

Practice saying no – you may feel anxious at first but the more you do this, the easier it gets.

When people can see that manipulating you doesn’t work, they will stop doing it.

People will only control you as long as you allow them to.

And lastly……..


Every morning I wake up - I look around and state at least 5 things that I am grateful for.

This can be anything from my morning coffee (I love coffee) - to my wonderful family and home that I live in.

As well as getting into a habit of being kinder to ourselves - try and get into a habit of seeing all the positives you have in your life right now.

Focus on the things you do have – not the things you don’t have

Again it’s retraining your brain to see the positives in your life, instead of always looking for the negatives or things that might go wrong.

For example; when things don’t work out the way you had hoped (i.e. you don’t get the job, you get caught in traffic, get a speeding ticket for example) - try not to fly of the handle (so to speak) and then go into victim mode (i.e. I can’t believe this has happened to me)…..

Instead try to look at what you have learned from the situation –

These daily challenges are forced upon all of us and are trying to teach you something……

They help us grow as people.

"We never lose, we either win or we learn" - Nelson Mandela

Author's Bio


Rebecca McCaffrey, a married, working mother living in Leeds, West Yorkshire is no stranger to tragedy in her personal life and has a huge passion for helping others by drawing on her own experiences. In addition to working for Cruse Bereavement Charity and the Well Woman Charity Rebecca is a Person Centred therapist in her final year of training,

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