Our confidence and our self-esteem have an effect on how we behave in our day-to-day lives. Some of us may feel confident academically, musically or in a sport, but feel far less so with regard to our appearance or conversational skills. 

Realising this, it is valuable to think about what causes us to feel worse about ourselves in a given situation, and to think about the different ways we respond to people and occurrences in different moments.  

Positive affirmation about yourself, telling yourself that ‘I am a confident person and I can do this’ is one of the most effective ways to overcome low self-esteem. By convincing yourself that you are confident and acting as such, you might find that you have in fact become a more confident person.  

Starting university and being a member of the dynamic landscape and community of college life can be a jarring experience for one’s confidence. Those who may have once felt confident and assertive, may suddenly find themselves a bit lost and taken aback. On the other hand, those who may have been shy and lacking in high self-esteem before may discover that they flourish and become infinitely more confident in college. 

University of Galway aims to promote student wellbeing in every way it can and wants to encourage anyone feeling low in confidence to not allow it to take over and to instead tackle those feelings head on. 

What causes low self-esteem? 

If you have suffered from low self-esteem, it can be useful to try and understand where that comes from. Everyone is different, but perhaps some of these scenarios commonly linked to low self-esteem will resonate with you: 

  • Powerlessness
  • Other people 
  • Our labels 
  • Rejection or loss 
  • Physical ill-health 
  • Self-Defeating Thought Patterns
  • Childhood Experiences 

 Ways of tackling low self-esteem 

  • Record how you feel and thinkA journal can help you to be in touch with what you feel and to understand your behaviour and actions. 

  • Develop an optimistic attitude and use affirmations, positive statements to empower you. 

  • Avoid comparing with others. 

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses, and, when it is time, ask for help. 

  • Look after your body. Exercise. Eat well. Get enough sleep. A healthy body will lead to a healthy mind. 

  • Manage stress and negative emotions: if you find yourself angry, sad, and anxious, stop and take action. 

  • Nourish your relationships. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Instead of saying something that you will regret, stop and come back to the conversation when your emotional turbulence is gone. 

  • Learn from your mistakes. 

  • Use positive self-talk. 

  • Practice self-acceptance: accept what you can’t change, and also what you can. 

  • Value your successes, whether they are big or small. 

  • Take more considered risks. 

  • Tell your friends that you are attempting to face some old wounds, and enlist their help. They may have had similar experiences, and have useful advice and suggestions. 

  • Learn to be assertive. 

Assertivenessis an important trait to have when trying to boost your confidence around other people. This does not mean that you become arrogant, blunt and loud. Rather, it means being clear and honest in the way you speak, communicating what you want and feel in a clear way. This will make you a stronger conversationalist, and will encourage others to listen to what you have to say.  

Assertive body language will aid you in the process of both appearing and becoming more confident. 

  • Stand up straight and make eye contact with the person you are talking to 

  • Listen carefully to what they say 

  • Keep your voice calm 

  • Make sure your body language is in line with the words you are expressing 

  • Being direct and clear with what you want, and feeling free to say no, will make conversation flow far better and will help you and the other person/people reach any decisions or agreements more effectively. 

Boosting Confidence 

  • Be nicer to yourself – practice treating yourself as you do your friends 

  • Write down your qualities – draw on your past successes (making sure you don’t dismiss them as pure luck). Keep you list close by, so you have a tangible piece of evidence to remind you that you are a worthy person 

  • Allow yourself to make mistakes – no one is perfect all the time 

  • Accept and give compliments. Notice when people smile at you, make an effort with you, or praise you 

  • Do more of the things you enjoy or you know you’re good at.  

  • Notice what you do differently when you are in situations where you feel okay. Do you walk taller, make more eye contact, communicate more, worry less, assert yourself more? Use these skills that you already have, in other, more tricky situations. 

  • Understand your self-esteem trap and where you learnt to fall into it. Recognise this is something that, with action, you can change 

  • Get involved in something different. Join a club or society, volunteer, catch up with old friends, make some new friends. Keep a track of all your successes 

  • Challenge your inner critic