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Self-Esteem and Self-Criticism Worksheets & Exercises

Self-esteem is the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It refers to a person’s global appraisal of his or her value based upon the scores that persons gives themselves in different roles and domains of life (Harter, 1999; Markus & Nurius, 1986; Rogers, 1981). Low self-esteem does not appear as a separate diagnostic category in either the DSM-5 or ICD-10, although it is associated with a wide range of mood and anxiety disorders including depression and social anxiety. There are two cognitive behavioral models of self-esteem that clinicians will find provide useful therapeutic interventions. Psychology Tools has a range of self-esteem exercises. Read more
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Problem

Therapy tool

Language

Assertive Communication

Communicating assertively is an essential skill for maintaining healthy self-esteem and strong relationships. This information handout describes the k ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/assertive-communication/

Information Handout

Assertive Responses

Communicating assertively is an essential skill for maintaining healthy self-esteem and strong relationships. The Assertive Responses exercise helps c ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/assertive-responses/

Exercise

Avoidance Hierarchy

Avoidance and safety-seeking behavior serves to maintain anxiety, and exposure to the fear stimuli/situation is an effective treatment for anxiety. Th ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/avoidance-hierarchy/

Exercise

Behavioral Experiment

Behavioral experiments allow individuals to test the validity of their beliefs and assumptions. They are a core experiential technique for therapeutic ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/behavioral-experiment/

Worksheet

CBT Thought Record

The CBT Thought Record is an essential tool in cognitive behavioral therapy. Thought challenging records help people to evaluate their negative automa ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/cbt-thought-record/

Worksheet

Challenging Your Negative Thinking

A cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy is that an individual’s interpretation of an event determines how they feel and behave. We all experie ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/challenging-your-negative-thinking/

Guide

Developing Psychological Flexibility

Developing Psychological Flexibility is a client information handout which can be used to familiarize clients with the ACT model. ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/developing-psychological-flexibility/

Information Handout

Gratitude Journal

Cultivating gratitude is an evidence-based positive psychology technique. This information handout describes reasons to cultivate a grateful attitude ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/gratitude-journal/

Exercise

Self Critical Thought Challenging Record

Disputing thoughts is a critical skill in cognitive therapy. The Self-Critical Thought Challenging Record helps clients to identify and challenge thei ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/self-critical-thought-challenging-record/

Worksheet

Self Critical Thought Monitoring Record

Self-monitoring of thoughts, feelings, and symptoms is an essential skill in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This Self-Critical Thought Monitorin ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/self-critical-thought-monitoring-record/

Worksheet

Self Criticism Self Monitoring Record

Self-monitoring of thoughts, feelings, and symptoms is an essential skill in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This Self-Criticism Self-Monitoring ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/self-criticism-self-monitoring-record/

Worksheet

Therapy Blueprint

Since the publication of this version of the therapy blueprint we have also developed a more sophisticated version: Therapy Blueprint (Universal) A th ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/therapy-blueprint/

Exercise

Thought Challenging Record 7 Column

The thought record is an essential tool in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Thought challenging records help people to evaluate their negative auto ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/thought-challenging-record-7-column/

Worksheet

Unhelpful Thinking Styles

Human thinking is subject to a number of characteristic biases. Cognitive restructuring is the process of helping individuals to overcome their biases ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/unhelpful-thinking-styles/

Information Handout

Assessment

Intervention

Exercises, Worksheets & Workbooks

Self-esteem

Assertiveness

Information Handouts

Worksheets

Self-Help Programmes

Improving self-esteem

Recommended Reading

CBT approach

COMET approach

What Is Low Self-Esteem?

Signs and Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can be associated with the following behaviors or experiences:

  • high levels of self-criticism
  • ignoring or downplaying positive qualities
  • comparison of self to others and negative self-judgment
  • use of negative words to describe self
  • dismissal of positive achievements as ‘luck’ or ‘fluke’
  • difficulty accepting compliments

Psychological Models and Theory of Low Self-Esteem

Melanie Fennell published a cognitive behavioral protocol for low self-esteem in 1997. The model is grounded in Aaron Beck’s cognitive model of emotional disorders. It assumes that, based upon what they have experienced, people form beliefs or assumptions about themselves, others, and the world. When activated, these beliefs and assumptions give rise to negative automatic thoughts which in turn lead to negative affect, and behavior. Fennell describes a self-perpetuating vicious circle whereby negative thoughts lead to painful affect and self-defeating behaviors such as avoidance or withdrawal, which act to maintain and reinforce the thoughts and underlying beliefs.

Kees Korrelboom has developed a protocol for increasing self-esteem through a program of Competitive Memory Training (COMET: Korrelboom, van der Weele, Gjaltema, & Hoogstraten; 2009; Korrelboom, de Jong, Huijbrechts, & Daansen, 2009; Korrelboom, Maarsingh, & Huijbrechts, 2012). The COMET protocol is intended for people who know that their negative self-judgment is too severe but who nevertheless continue to view themselves negatively. The model draws upon Brewin’s retrieval competition theory of memory (Brewin, 2006, 2015) where information to be retrieved ‘competes’ for attention. A less accurate negative version of the self (e.g.,‘I’m pathetic’) might ‘win’ a competition against an alternative view (‘I’m kind and competent’) by nature of being reinforced/​practiced. COMET aims to assist accurate views of the self to ‘win’ the retrieval competition by systematically building up and rehearsing an accurate view of the self.

Evidence-Based Psychological Approaches for Working with Low Self-Esteem

Cognitive behavioral interventions for low self-esteem have been tested in a number of small trials and indicate generally favorable results (Hall & Tarrier, 2003; Morton, Roach, Reid, & Stewart, 2012; Waite, McManus, & Shafran, 2012).

The COMET protocol has been used to improve self-esteem in a variety of conditions including depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. The trials indicate generally positive results with medium to large effect sizes on indices of self-esteem (Korrelboom et al., 2009, 2009, 2012).

Resources for Working with Low Self-Esteem

Psychology Tools resources available for working therapeutically with low self-esteem include:

References

  • Brewin, C. R. (2006). Understanding cognitive behaviourtherapy: A retrieval competition account. BehaviourResearch and Therapy, 44(6), 765–784.
  • Brewin, C. R. (2015). Reconsolidation versus retrieval competition: Rival hypotheses to explain memory change in psychotherapy. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, e4. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X14000144
  • Fennell, M. J. V. (1997). Low self-esteem: A cognitive perspective. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 25(1), 1–26.
  • Hall, P. L., & Tarrier, N. (2003). The cognitive-behavioral treatment of low self-esteem in psychotic patients: A pilot study. BehaviourResearch and Therapy, 41(3), 317–332.
  • Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Korrelboom, K., van der Weele, K., Gjaltema, M., & Hoogstraten, C. (2009). Competitive memory training for treating low self-esteem: A pilot study in a routine clinical setting. The Behavior Therapist,32, 3–8.
  • Korrelboom, K., de Jong, M., Huijbrechts, I., & Daansen, P. (2009). Competitive memory training (COMET) for treating low self-esteem in patients with eating disorders: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,77(5), 974–980.
  • Korrelboom, K., Maarsingh, M., & Huijbrechts, I. (2012). Competitive memory training (COMET) for treating low self‐esteem in patients with depressive disorders: A randomized clinical trial.Depression and Anxiety, 29(2), 102–110.
  • Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954–969.
  • Morton, L., Roach, L., Reid, H., & Stewart, S. H. (2012). An evaluation of a CBT group for women with low self-esteem.Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy,40(2), 221–225.
  • Rogers, T. B. (1981). A model of the self as an aspect of the human information processing system. In N. Cantor & J. F. Kihlstrom (Eds.), Personality, cognition, and social interaction(pp. 193–213). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Waite, P., McManus, F., & Shafran, R. (2012). Cognitive behaviourtherapy for low self-esteem: A preliminary randomized controlled trial in a primary care setting. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43(4), 1049–1057.