Nearly two thirds of women cite body image issues as the leading source of self-esteem issues

New research from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has found that body image is the leading source of self-esteem issues for women, with 61% citing it as a reason for low self-esteem.

This research comes at the same time as Love Island, showcasing similar body types, and past contestants talking of “punisher days,” making it especially necessary

to speak out.

BACP’s research also showed:

· Over half (54%) of women say their self-esteem impacts their day-to-day choices, such as what events to go to and whether to speak up at work

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· Half (49%) of women struggle with, or are affected by, self-esteem issues and for 48% of women their self-esteem is a barrier to seeking new opportunities.

· Self-esteem issues are most often experienced by women for the first time at around 10 years old (10%)

· Following body image, other sources of self-esteem issues for women include social comparisons (31%), career and professional life (29%) and romantic relationships (25%)

BACP wants to highlight the importance of recognising and responding effectively to negative feelings of one’s confidence or abilities, so women don’t accept or normalise these feelings and see them as fixed or unable to change.

BACP Director of Professional Standards Policy and Research, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard said:

“Women experience self-doubt in many areas of life such body image, age, weight, workplace ability, feeling inadequate, personal relationships, motherhood and imposter syndrome. For any women experiencing issues related to self-doubt, I recommend seeking out a BACP-registered counsellor or psychotherapist who can help explore them with you in a safe and non-judgemental space.

“In whatever circumstances women are held back by their own self-doubt, the right therapist can help to shift negative feelings into more positive ones shaped around peoples’ strengths and attributes. Nearly a quarter of women (22%) included in our survey agreed that therapy helped boost their self-esteem.”

BACP Accredited Psychotherapist and Coach, Nicola Vanlint stated:

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"Women often adopt a variety of views and beliefs about themselves, many of which are shaped by external influences such as family, peers, or societal context. Some of these beliefs can be negative and inaccurate.

"Seeking support from a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist can help women uncover the roots of their limiting self-beliefs, challenge their validity, and shift their focus to positive qualities, achievements, and beliefs.

"By overcoming self-doubt, women may find their energies liberated, enabling them to pursue opportunities that previously seemed out of reach."

For more information visit

BACP Therapist Tips

Reframe your thoughts:

“Self-esteem is often influenced by negative core beliefs. It is important to recognise our negative core beliefs and understand how they were formed. Negative core beliefs may include, "I am not good enough,", "I am not pretty enough," or "People who love me will leave me." Once you have recognised your negative core beliefs and their origins, begin to change them to positive ones by writing down affirmations that you can read daily. Regular journaling can also help you gain insight into how your thoughts affect your emotions and behaviour.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist, Kate Megase

“Make a list of your positive qualities and achievements, no matter how small. Reflect on these regularly to reinforce a positive self-image.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist and Coach, Nicola Vanlint

Reframing our thoughts is powerful tool for enhancing self-esteem because it involves changing how we perceive and interpret experiences, especially those that are negative or self-defeating. Start talking to yourself like you would a close friend rather than your worst enemy. Take note of the way you respond to the negative self-talk." BACP-Registered Psychotherapist, Natasha Page

Avoid comparison:

Women are more likely than men to compare their faces and bodies to others with perceived similar or better physical qualities. It's vital for women to avoid comparing themselves to others, as it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a focus on perceived shortcomings rather than strengths. Social media exacerbates this issue by presenting idealised versions of others' lives, creating unrealistic standards.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist, Kate Megase

“Recognise that social media often portrays an unrealistic version of reality. Focus on your journey and progress rather than comparing yourself to others.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist and Coach, Nicola Vanlint

Practice self-compassion:

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“Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend. Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Instead of being harsh or self-critical, try to speak to yourself in a supportive and gentle manner. Imagine how you would comfort a friend and use those same words for yourself.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist and Coach, Nicola Vanlint

“Self-love is essential for self-esteem because it involves accepting and appreciating oneself unconditionally. It means recognising our inherent worth and treating ourselves with kindness, respect, and compassion. Self-love encourages us to prioritise our well-being, set healthy boundaries, and engage in activities that nurture our mind, body, and spirit. By fostering a deep sense of self-love, we validate our own experiences and emotions, reducing the need for external validation.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist, Natasha Page

Set boundaries:

“Women often invest more in relationships due to societal expectations related to motherhood and balancing career responsibilities. Additionally, women tend to take on nurturing and caregiving roles, especially in romantic relationships, which can lead to giving more than they receive. It is important for women to learn to set boundaries, say no, and establish healthy limits with others. Respecting one's own needs and limits is crucial for maintaining self-respect and self-esteem.” BACP-Registered Psychotherapist, Kate Megase

Burst the self-doubt

BACP's Burst the self-doubt campaign highlights the issues of self-doubt and low self-esteem among women and aims to help you find a trained therapist who can give you support.

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