• While there are many issues discussed in therapy (including mental health conditions and relationship challenges) an extremely common issue is low self-esteem.
  • Therapists use a few key strategies to help their patients build their confidence and overcome their feelings of inadequacy.
  • The first essential step is acknowledging one’s negative thinking patterns and learning to catch his or herself when a negative thought enters the mind.
  • Next, they learn to trade this negative self-talk for positive self-talk: this practice eliminates anxiety and helps to build that confidence we mentioned earlier.
  • Another helpful practice is determining where those negative thoughts stem from—is it an unhealthy relationship, your job, social media use?
  • Finally, one must work on accepting themselves as they are; stop shaming or judging yourself and focus on bettering yourself.

Therapy is an effective treatment option for resolving or managing harmful behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and mental health conditions. It can help those going through a divorce or bad break-up, people who have been recently diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and even individuals who just don’t feel quite like themselves lately. Counselors see a variety of patients, of whom have various problems as well as goals, specific to their lives—but there appears to be one underlying issue in those who receive mental health treatment: low self-esteem.

We asked mental health professionals what the most common issue is in their clients, and the overwhelming answer was low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy. Someone might have a negative body image, while another feels insecure in his marriage—but it all boils down to not feeling good enough. Fortunately, these professionals know how to help their clients combat these feelings. Here are their tips for overcoming feelings of inadequacy:

1. Acknowledge negative thinking patterns.

The first essential step to combatting harmful negative thoughts is realizing you have them. “Negative thinking, ruminating, and low self-esteem run rampant in people’s minds. The most important tool to help fix it is awareness—you can’t take care of it if you’re not aware of it,” explains Jill Howell, Licensed Professional Counselor and Board-Certified Art Therapist. So, as difficult as it may be, you have to realize that you’re feeding yourself irrational information.

2. Trade the negative for positive self-talk.

Once you’ve become aware of your negative thinking patterns, you can work on creating positive ones. “My clients put themselves down constantly. They say things to themselves that they would never say to anyone else,” says Christine Fuchs, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She works with them to adopt positive self-talk instead, as it effectively boosts confidence and remedies anxiety. “Be kind to yourself! Treat yourself with love and respect and you will notice improvements in your mood and in confidence,” she says.

3. Pinpoint what may be enforcing or worsening these feelings.

Often, our negative feelings and behavior are triggered or reinforced by external sources: this could be an abusive relationship, a dissatisfaction with one’s job, and—unsurprisingly—social media. “Overall, social media is playing a huge role in exacerbating any problems people are having, and this is becoming a central focus of treatment for some,” explains Penny Levin, Licensed Psychologist. If you find that checking Instagram or Facebook is hurting your self-esteem or general wellbeing, then it’s probably time to log off or create healthier user habits—it’s important to determine any harmful triggers or reinforcers and eliminate or resolve them.

4. Work toward accepting yourself as you are.

“The most common issue that women present is not feeling good enough. This often manifests in body image dissatisfaction and eating concerns, as well as insecurities about career, marriage, parenting…” explains Clinical Psychologist Alexis Conason, PsyD. She says that an important step in turning these negative thoughts around is “decreasing shame and judgment around these issues, improving distress tolerance and emotional experiencing, and working toward self-acceptance.” Psychologist Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, couldn’t agree more and adds that laughing at ridiculous societal messages, which so many pressures stem from, can help too.

We’re human. We all fall victim to societal pressures. We stress about our relationships and our jobs. We worry about our appearance and our weight. We believe, at least in some capacity that we’re not good enough or that we could be better. But the truth is that we are enough. If you need help realizing this or working through feelings of inadequacy, consider working with a counselor.