School of Self Esteem press releases.


Overcoming Low Self Esteem: Change Your Beliefs

By Vik Nithy

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 We know that our beliefs can influence our self-esteem, but how can we actually change them?

Much has been written in both academic and personal development literature about the importance of our beliefs in influencing our thought patterns, emotions and behaviour. Perhaps all human behaviours ultimately stem from conscious or subconscious beliefs. Why does a child sulk, cry or throw a tantrum in a crowded store when he doesn’t get what he wants? On one level, maybe he believes his tantrum will increase the probability that his parent will allow him what he wants. Perhaps he is right.

If we want to start a conversation about overcoming low self esteem, we need to talk about beliefs – and not the religious kind. Here is an opportunity to learn to address the kinds of core beliefs that influence our day-to-day behaviour outside of our awareness.

Beliefs in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Psychologists use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (“CBT”) more than any other evidence-based technique to help their clients, The foundation of CBT is the ABC model, which becomes relevant when managing a distress-inducing situation: [A] An Activating event or situation, [B] your underlying Belief, and [C] the Consequence of this belief.

[A]: Activating Event or Situation

Let’s take the childhood example. Sandra is in the supermarket with her 5-year old son, who throws a tantrum because he wants an unhealthy treat. This is the activating event or situation.

To best explain CBT, let’s now skip to Step [C]: the Consequence of this event.

[C] Consequence

Sandra feels guilty and ashamed of her son’s public outburst, and ends up purchasing TWO unhealthy sugar-coated treats – one to pacify her son and the other for herself.

What underlying beliefs and thought patterns led to this response?

Sandra’s thought pattern was as follows:

“Other people are watching”

“They can see that I can’t control my son”

“They probably think I’m a bad parent”

“I AM a bad parent”.

[B] Belief

Thoughts and beliefs influence how we “see” / perceive a situation (or [A]ctivating event). When an [A]ctivating event happens, our beliefs and thoughts result in self-talk that ultimately influences our emotions and behaviour – the [C]onsequence. This can often be unhealthy or unrealistic, subject to what our beliefs are.

The core belief – “I am a bad parent” led Sandra to feel the uncomfortable sensations that accompany the emotion of shame. I.e. this is a physical feeling in her body, possibly going red in the face, discomfort in her gut and maybe even physical pain. This emotion results in her habitual response – comfort eating.

On some level, Sandra believes she is a bad parent, and behaves in a way that reflects this belief.

Examples of Negative Beliefs

“I should be better” 

“I’m not good enough”

“I am ugly”

” I can’t trust anyone” 

“I am incompetent”

“I don’t deserve love”

“I am alone” 

“I might as well give up now”

“i’m a failure”

When we feel sad, angry, ashamed or afraid, we can just take a minute to pay attention to our mental world and hear the stories we are telling ourselves. Identifying our negative thoughts gives us an opportunity to begin the long journey to transform them.

How to Transform Negative Beliefs: The Work by Byron Katie

“The best form of Cognitive Therapy, in our opinion, is offered in The Work of Byron Katie, who provides an approach to disarming catastrophic thinking by means of a process that one can do oneself. This is the approach that we recommend” – Stanford Psychologist David Wise, Ph.D and urologist Rodney Anderson, M.D, 2008.

Byro Katie

Belief expert Byron Katie asks four key questions to help us think critically about our beliefs and overcome low self esteem:

1) Is it true?

From Sandra’s perspective, in her moment of distress, it can feel absolutely true that she is a bad parent. To address this, Katie asks:


2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Even in the depths of psychological distress, it is clear to Sandra that this belief is quite subjective. What objectively constitutes a “bad” parent? Compared to an alcoholic parent who abuses their child, Sandra would be considered a wonderful mother.


3) How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?

This question invites Sandra to feel her feelings of discomfort, rather than avoiding them.

In order to answer this question, Sandra needs to reflect on the action she was about to take. She feels the emotion of shame in her body, and acts in a way that reflects this emotion – she buys sugar-coated sweets that she may have otherwise avoided – for herself and her child. Of course, we cannot judge Sandra as having made a good or bad choice – the purpose of this exercise is to acknowledge her own self-talk and self-judgement.

Sandra’s belief that she is a bad parent brings stress, not peace into her life, and actually fuels an unhealthy lifestyle for herself and her child.

4) Who would you be without that thought?

Sandra reflects that if she didn’t believe that she was a bad parent and feel ashamed, she would instead have the capacity to connect meaningfully with her child while still retaining firm boundaries, in whatever way feels right for her. In doing so, other storegoers might just admire her conviction, compassion, and patience.

Changing the way you think about thoughts and beliefs

CBT presents a new way for most of us to think about our beliefs – reminding us that:

  1. Our thoughts and beliefs are not necessarily true
  2. Our beliefs influence our lives in a meaningful way
  3. We are not our thoughts

Take a few seconds to pause and reflect silently on your thoughts. Notice your thoughts as being spoken by a voice in your head. It’s like your talking to yourself. We all engage in “Self Talk”. When you are reading something (like you are this article), you can hear the words you are reading in your own head. Since you can “hear” this voice, it is separate to your thoughts and feelings. You are not your thoughts!


Being able to observe this self-talk and recognise that “we” are separate to these thoughts allows us to be free from their controlling influence, as we can now challenge them and/or choose to behave in a way that reflects different, less self-critical beliefs. Sometimes, a belief like “I should be better”, can be transformed to “I can be better”, a belief like “I am alone” can be transformed to “I feel alone”, and a belief like “I am ugly” can be transformed to “I am beautiful”.

In science, there is fascinating research around an emerging method called “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”, which proposes an “observer self” view of personal identity. The research has shown that people who foster this perspective about their beliefs developer better mental health outcomes than those who are “fused” with their thoughts and beliefs.

Our thoughts, emotions, and actions interact with each other in a dynamic and complex way, but it is never too late to start listening to your own self-talk. By identifying the core beliefs that lead to negative emotional and behaviour patterns, you are taking the most important step in overcoming low self-esteem


References and Further Reading:

Beliefs and Self Esteem – Academic Research:

Daly, M. J., & Burton, R. L. (1983). Self-esteem and irrational beliefs: An exploratory investigation with implications for counselling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 30(3), 361.

Gumley, A., Karatzias, A., Power, K., Reilly, J., McNay, L., & O’Grady, M. (2006). Early intervention for relapse in schizophrenia: Impact of cognitive behavioural therapy on negative beliefs about psychosis and self‐esteem. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45(2), 247-260

Pierce, J. W., & Wardle, J. (1997). Cause and effect beliefs and self‐esteem of overweight children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(6), 645-650.

Byron Katie and The Work:

Byron Katie on The Work:

Katie, B. (2003). Loving what is: Four questions that can change your life. Harmony Books.

Wise, D., & Anderson, R. U. (2010). A headache in the pelvis: A new understanding and treatment for chronic pelvic pain syndromes. National Center for Pelvic Pain Research. – (Praise for Byron Katie)


The observer self

Explanation Video:

Self-As Context Exercise:

Fletcher, L., & Hayes, S. C. (2005). Relational frame theory, acceptance and commitment therapy, and a functional analytic definition of mindfulness. Journal of rational-emotive and cognitive-behaviour therapy, 23(4), 315-336.

Harris, S. (2015). Waking up: A guide to spirituality without religion. Random House. (Related Reading)

Eiffel Tower, Paris lit up in red, white and blue

Sydney School Helping Parisians Post Terrorist Attacks

Self-esteem expert and Principal of School of Self Esteem, Sean Nunan, said the events of Friday the 13th of November in Paris had so moved him, he felt compelled to assist those affected by helping to reduce their anxiety and fear.

Mr. Nunan said, “After waking up to the news on Saturday morning, I felt both a deep sadness and also powerless to help. I assumed a foreigner couldn’t practically assist the people of Paris or France. I then went to work Monday and started working on a relaxation and anxiety-reducing recording. We use these to reduce the anxiety and fear of our students. It then occurred to me that fear was exactly what the people of Paris would be experiencing and relaxation is what many needed right now.”

He said, “The School of Self Esteem uses Audio Relaxation Recordings to help people reduce their fear and anxiety. This is common amongst people suffering from low self-esteem. I’ve found these recordings to be amazingly effective in helping people.”

“The recordings take the listener through each part of their body and relax it and release the tension stored here. Once relaxed, the recording takes the person through a simple but effective visualisation to release their fear and anxiety.”

“With the Paris recordings, we have included bilateral stimulation. This is a sound moving from left to right and helps listeners re-engage the left and right hemispheres of their brains. When people go into fight or flight mode, they focus on survival and lose their ability to access the logical and creative parts of their brain. This bilateral stimulation is the basis for EMDR therapy, which is used to treat patients of post traumatic stress disorder.”

The recordings have been made available in both English and French and can be found here:

“Making the recordings took a team effort. First we needed feedback on the English language recording. Given my French is limited, I had a Frenchman in Sydney translate the script. I then needed to find a French voice over artist. With Google’s help, I shot off emails to a number of people in France and settled on an artist who had experience with similar material. Incredibly, 48 hours later I had a recording in French. I then needed a French speaker in Sydney to review her work to ensure it hit the mark. A week later and with all that help, and we have released it and are helping people.”

“To the extent we can help reduce the world’s anxiety and fear even a little bit, then we are helping to defeat terrorism.”

Mr. Nunan has released more details on the back story and work undertaken on the School of Self Esteem’s blog:


About Sean Nunan and School of Self Esteem

Sean Nunan is a Sydney based self-esteem expert, and the founder of School of Self Esteem. Sean has studied Positive Psychology at U.C. Berkeley and Personal Change at Harvard University.

School of Self Esteem exists to help people build their self-esteem. It is a predominantly online school providing online courses, anonymously publish peoples’ self-esteem stories and hosts a self-esteem community. For more information visit

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Media Contact:

Mr. Sean Nunan

M: +61 430 313 717

Bondi Close Up 2

School of Self Esteem's Vivid Event

Vivid Event and Launch of Self Esteem Courses

On Friday 29 May 2015, the School of Self Esteem’s principal, Sean Nunan, presented, Self Esteem: How Science Can Help, to a sold-out crowd as part of Sydney’s Vivid festival.

Sean’s talk was about helping people with low self esteem improve how they feel about themselves. It took attendees through the science of building your self-esteem.

The muli-media presentation utilised interviews of people who had vulnerably shared their personal stories on camera.

Sean’s presentation equipped the audience with the tools and techniques to start building their self-esteem. He covered:

  • What is Self Esteem
  • Where it initially comes from
  • How we as humans are programmed to make mistakes and how overcoming our perfectionist tendencies are important to feeling better
  • How self-talk influences your self esteem and tips for quietening negative or critical talk
  • Why thinking like a scientist can help

After his Vivid presention, Sean said:
“What anamazing opportunity to be a part of the Vivid Ideas programme for 2015!Thanks to Vivid Sydney and Hub Australia for the chance to be involved. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my thoughts, the science and video interviews on self esteem with the audience. It was a big day for us, as we also launched the School of Self Esteem’s courses online. I urge those who are struggling with their self esteem to take a look at our free course and resources online.”

The presentation was well-received by the attendees, many who stayed to mingle and socialise afterwards.

If you missed Sean’s sold-out presentation or are looking for a recap, then look no further! You can watch Sean’s presentation here:


Women emerging from her self esteem issues

Self Esteem: Five Signs Yours Needs Boosting

If you feel:

  • like no one understands you;
  • directionless about where you’re headed with your life;
  • lacking or worthless;
  • ashamed and held back by something that’s happened in your past;
  • afraid to be yourself;

then it’s likely your self esteem is in need of boosting.

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Low self-esteem is where we feel deficient and often spend a significant amount of energy pretending we aren’t. And that’s draining.

The School of Self Esteem fosters discussion, sharing and learning in a safe online environment.

As one User of our website wrote, “Low or no self-esteem is being afraid to:

  • do what you want or need to do;
  • speak your mind;
  • stand your ground;
  • fight for your beliefs;
  • insist on respect;
  • take responsibility for what happens to you;
  • stand alone when others won’t stand with you;
  • take risks;
  • be flawed and imperfect;
  • trust others;
  • accept love;
  • laugh at yourself every now and then;
  • make mistakes or fail completely;
  • say no;
  • be disliked.

Do you notice the common thread here? It’s fear. As far as I’m concerned, low or no self-esteem is based entirely on fear, nothing more, nothing less. And fear is something I had in abundance. All of the traits I listed above are all things that plagued me mercilessly, for years and years. And most of the time I didn’t even know it.”

Can you relate to any of those fears? Most of us can.

The good news is there is a solution and your life CAN get better. The School of Self Esteem has many inspiring stories of people who rebuilt their self esteem.

To share one of the most poignant, let me take from an interview with Max (not his real name). Max fought bipolar disorder for seven years and tried to take his own life three times. While his self esteem was near zero, bipolar is a much bigger problem to overcome than just low self esteem. Yet Max pulled himself out of it by:

  • Learning to listen to his self talk (i.e. psyche) and dialogue with it. In his words, “We only learn how to do this when we are down, feeling like shit”;
  • Not doing it alone. Max pushed through the stigma he felt to get the help he needed from the people and organisations available to him;
  • DOING the everyday things: because behavioral change happens slowly. And the best way to do that is through a daily practice. “I would go for a walk in the morning. I would write in my diary every night. I would make sure I read at least two pages of mental health related subject matter, every day. My depression lasted seven years and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then a year ago, something clicked. I had done enough work, finally stepped over the 50% point and there was no going back. It was the little things.” To which I would add, you can never give up. Max didn’t and his life has turned 180 degrees.

To learn more about how the School of Self Esteem can help boost the way you feel about yourself, join our mailing list by emailing And follow our Facebook page to add happy and thought provoking posts to your newsfeed 🙂