How does CBT deal with any self-esteem issues?

In this blog, we will learn about self-esteem and “how CBT deals with any self-esteem issues” and explore how self-esteem affects people’s lives. 

How does CBT deal with any self-esteem issues?

CBT deals with many mental health issues, including self-esteem, by challenging the negative thought process and replacing it with a positive thought process to modify the behavior. 

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a subjective perspective, opinion, and thoughts that we possess about ourselves. It is our determined sense of worth and value. Depending on how a person views, the self-esteem could be either high or low. Self-esteem is an essential measure of our self-identity and works as a guiding force towards our aspirations and goals. 

The beliefs, assessments, and evaluations a person holds about themselves determine their identity, capability, and potential. Self-esteem is a strong inner influence that provides an internal guiding mechanism and helps us by steering and nurturing our life and monitoring our behavior. People’s concepts and feelings about themselves are generally labeled as their self-concept and self-esteem. 

Self-esteem works as both a protective barrier against external threats and also a causal factor in many physical and mental health issues. It has been found that self-esteem is essential for a healthy mental state and social well-being. 

Positive effects of Self-esteem 

Self-esteem is an essential psychological factor that helps improve health and quality of life. Research has shown that subjective well-being is directly proportional to high self-esteem. It also plays a part in both mental well-being and happiness. Additionally, self-esteem is a major and important predictor to measure happiness. 

According to researchers, there is a  relationship between self-esteem and academic performance and achievement.  Positive feelings generated due to high self-esteem have been shown to increase confidence in children that lead to success at school. It has been found that there is a positive relationship between high self-esteem and higher cognitive aptitudes in children. 

Self-esteem and coping with stress in combination with coping with physical disease

The positive aspect of self-esteem is its protective nature that can be seen when a person is dealing with stress, physical diseases, or any threatening event. Some studies have proved that self-esteem helps people handle fear and uncertainty better even in stressful, traumatic situations. Self-esteem has also been shown to increase the ability to cope with any disease and also increase the chances of survival post-operation. Negative effects of Self Esteem

While high self-esteem yields positive results, on the other hand, low self-esteem leads to negative consequences.

Negative aspects of Self-esteem 

There can be several negative consequences of poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem can result in poor self-appreciation, development of unproductive or self-trivializing attitudes, increased vulnerability to threats regarding self-identity, social problems, or risk behaviors. It is important to consider that perhaps self-esteem can also be the outcome and not just a dysfunctional behavior. For example, A person could believe in negative things regarding their appearance which might lead to the development of a misconception about themselves. Contrastingly, flaws in one’s appearance or negative remarks regarding it from others could lead to feeling bad, which might decrease self-esteem.   

Self-esteem plays a significant role in the development of a variety of mental disorders. Poor self-esteem could lead to following disorders or dysfunctional behavior

  • Eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa)
  • Depression and depressive disorders
  • Mood disorder (Manic and hypomanic disorder)  
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Dysthymic disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Anger issues
  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Engaging in Risky actions
  • Substance abuse
  • Personality disorder (Narcissist, Avoidant, Borderline)
  • Suicidal behavior Etc.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or better known by its acronym as CBT. CBT is a psychotherapy based on the concept of challenging negative thoughts to achieve desirable behavior modification.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT consists of a lot of techniques, approaches, and strategies that control, and modify thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. CBT is a vast therapeutic treatment with a combination of behavioral and cognitive approaches and principles. Over time many different approaches developed based on the foundation and formulating ideas of  Cognitive-behavioral Therapy. They are as follows:

  • Cognitive therapy

It focuses on identifying and changing unreasonable, baseless, or distorted thinking patterns and also the emotional responses, and behaviors that arise due to them. Cognitive memory is a precursor to CBT.

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

In this therapy, emotional regulation and mindfulness are utilized to modify thoughts and behaviors.

  • Multimodal therapy 

This therapy proposes that seven modalities that are distinct yet interconnected can be used to deal with mental health issues. The seven modalities are behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal factors, and drug/biological considerations.

  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) 

In this approach, irrational beliefs are assessed to challenge them and substituted with rational thoughts to change the thought and behavior patterns 

Though each type of cognitive-behavioral therapy works differently all the approaches aim to assess, identify the underlying thought patterns that lead to psychological distress.

What are the characteristics of poor self-esteem?

  • People with low self-esteem often display the following characteristics
  • Being extremely critical about oneself and underestimating or ignoring their positive attributes. 
  • Being unnecessarily judgemental and comparing themselves with others. 
  • Using derogatory or unflattering words to describe themselves. Internalizing words such stupid, dumb, ugly, idiot, useless, etc.
  • Even the discussion they have with themselves has a negative 
  • If anything good occurs then attribute that to chance or just good fortune instead of crediting their hard work or skills.
  • If anything negative happens then taking the blame for it on themselves even if others do not think so or they had no role to play in that event or control over that event. 
  • Doesn’t believe in the compliments that others give them 

Causes of Poor Self Esteem 

Following are some of the common causes that are found to hurt self-esteem. 

  • Childhood experiences (Often past traumatic experiences result in the development of poor self-image and internalization of negative thoughts. This results in low self-esteem.
  • Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence
  • Academic performance or Intelligence can have an impact on self-esteem as it causes decreased confidence. If the performance is not as expected or desired then it can cause conflicting feelings to be generated in the person. 
  • Stressful situations that occur in day-to-day life such as troubles in relationships,  financial crises, or losing a loved one. 
  • Sometimes improper, insulting behavior or treatment from people around the individual can cause a lack of confidence and poor self-opinion. A person might start believing the hateful things being said about them and that could lead to the development of poor self-esteem in the person. 
  • Physical disability, or even chronic pain, life-threatening illnesses (for eg. Cancer) can hurt a person’s mental health which might lead to low self-esteem.
  • Bullying, physical violence or violent environment, physical and sexual abuse are some of the other common factors causing poor self-esteem.
  • Psychological disorders or illnesses such as mood, personality, anxiety disorders, or depression are some of the few mental illnesses known to cause a reduction in confidence and self-esteem. 

Following are the strategies adopted in CBT to either build or improve Self-esteem

  • Cognitive restructuring: 

Cognitive restructuring is just as the name suggests restructuring of the cognitive process. In Cognitive restructuring, negative thoughts and beliefs are identified to replace them with positive, encouraging thoughts that are helpful and effective.  For low self-esteem cognitive restructuring focuses on assessing negative thoughts and distorted thinking patterns about self. These thoughts could be anything like having negative thoughts about their intelligence and thus developing a negative portrayal of themselves. 

  • Behavioral activation: 

Due to low self-esteem people avoid engaging in activities and events that they fear. This fear is often due to believing that they won’t fit in, or be able to perform well.  As a result, they have few rewarding experiences or opportunities for rewarding experiences and become desolate. Behavioral activation is just the right technique to mend this issue. It is an activity-based technique that helps the person become involved in an active lifestyle thus allowing them to gain new experiences. 

  • Assertiveness training: 

People with poor self-esteem often have difficulty asking for what they want, saying no to requests, or making their true feelings known. Poor self-esteem hurts a person’s ability to make a mark of themselves. It makes even doing little things like asking for something they want or getting things done difficult. They cannot assert themselves and often display timidity. Assertiveness training is an amazing technique to remedy this issue. It helps people learn to effectively and skillfully get what they want from others without sacrificing their relationships.

  • Problem-solving training: 

Hopelessness sets in when people suffer from low self-esteem over an extended period of time. Therefore problem-solving training is utilized to help people take control of their own lives. This involves helping them to identify problems, find resources, and come up with solutions to solve them. 

  • Social skills training: 

Low self-esteem and poor social skills are positively correlated. As self-esteem decreases so do social skills. To assist in this problem that can have adverse effects on a person’s social life but also interpersonal relationships, social skills training is utilized. This training helps people have greater positive and enriching social behaviors and discourages engaging in negative social behavior. 


In this blog, we answered how CBT deals with self-esteem issues and explored how the self affects people’s lives.

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently asked Questions

How does CBT improve self-esteem?

CBT helps build our self-esteem by aiding us in identifying our negative thoughts and behavior. The therapist will work with the client to discover some of the limiting beliefs the client may possess of themselves or their abilities and help them develop new and rational beliefs about themselves.

How does a person with low self-esteem behave?

Low self-esteem can reduce the quality of a person’s life in many different ways, including Negative feelings – constant self-criticism can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame, or guilt.

Can low self-esteem be cured?

Sadly the answer is negative. Studies have shown that low self-esteem is related to stress, depression, and anxiety. Some psychologists believe that self-esteem remains as it is permanently. In conclusion, according to them, if a person has low self-esteem, there’s nothing that can be done to improve it. 

What mental illness causes low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is not a mental condition by itself but in combination with other symptoms, it can indicate other disorders or conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders.

Is confidence born or made?

Confidence is not something one can be born with. Nobody has been confident since birth. Confidence is something to be developed as we go through life and as we put ourselves in situations or environments that are new and exciting. When you see others who ooze confidence, they weren’t born that way.


Ackerman, C. E., MA. (2021, January 18). What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains. PositivePsychology.Com.

How cognitive behavior therapy works. (2009, March 3). Verywell Mind.

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