Integrative Therapist Billie Dunlevy discusses low self-esteem and shares how you can start to improve yours, today

‘Self-esteem’ is a phrase we hear and use often but what is the definition of self-esteem, and more importantly perhaps, low self esteem? Billie Dunlevy, a Counselling Directory Member and Integrative Therapist has the answer and shares some realistic ways we can start to improve our own self-esteem.

“Self-esteem is a measure of how we value and perceive ourselves,” Billie explains on Happiful's podcast. “It’s fundamentally about our attitude and how much we like ourselves. It’s different from self-confidence which is based more on an external measure of success, such as our ability to solve problems, land a promotion or give a dazzling presentation. Some people can actually have high self-confidence but low self-esteem.”

Low self-esteem

When we engage with our sense of low self-esteem, Billie continues, it can leave us with a sense of heaviness or hopelessness. “We can tend to have an overall negative view of ourselves, which can make us judge and speak to ourselves harshly. We can sometimes feel unloveable, incompetent and fearful of making mistakes or letting other people down.”

How low self-esteem presents to the outside world, she notes, is very individual.It could manifest in the avoidance of other people and relationships, overworking, being constantly busy and productive and having issues around boundary setting and people pleasing.

Billie Dunlevy

Working on yourself

The good news is that it is possible to work on low self-esteem and improve this over time. Billie outlines some of the practices we can start to include in our daily routines to address our low-self esteem straight away.

  • Check your self-talk. Don’t allow it to run, try to counter it with another voice that is more compassionate or kind. That also goes for jokingly putting yourself down in a self-deprecating way. It’s really not helpful.
  • Be more mindful and come off autopilot. Find a quiet place and ask yourself these questions regularly. ‘How am I feeling?’ ‘What do I need?’ ‘What’s going on?’ Noticing without judgement here is key.
  • Treat yourself like someone who matters! Behave towards yourself as you would towards a friend who is in need of a little extra care. What would you do for them that you could do for yourself instead?

Pause for thought

One great and proactive way to counter low self-esteem, Billie says, is to make time for something that you are good at. “Mastery really helps to improve our levels of self-esteem and people might be reading this thinking ‘I’m not really good at anything’, to which I would say, have you taken the time to find out what you like and what you could potentially get interested in?”


Get curious and take yourself on a ‘thought date’. It could be to the park with a notebook, or an hour in a coffee shop where you can people-watch and take your time to consider the following questions:

  • What do I like?
  • What matters to me?
  • What would I like to become more interested in?

Billie explains that this self-work helps someone with low self-esteem to prioritise and make time for themselves. “Low self-esteem and people pleasing goes hand in hand. People pleasers are so ‘other’ orientated that their focus is on what other people want and need, so they really have to step back to consider what their own needs and wants are.”

“And by making time for this, you're sending a very important message to yourself; ‘I matter, I’m of value and my value isn’t tied to my doing, it’s tied to my being’.”

Find out more about Billie’s work and follow Billie on Instagram