In Module 3, we talked about how dormant low self-esteem becomes active and maintains itself until it
becomes acute. When you encounter an at-risk situation, your negative core belief about yourself is
activated and leads to two types of negative thoughts – biased expectations and negative self-evaluations.
In the previous module, we talked about how to address biased expectations. In this module, we will
discuss negative self-evaluations in more detail, and discuss ways of changing and overcoming them. By
addressing your negative self-evaluations in daily situations, you can prevent the negative beliefs you hold
about yourself from being confirmed and re-activated. Again, this will help you to chip away at your low
What Are Negative Self-Evaluations?
As we have already seen in Module 3, negative self-evaluations are negative thoughts that
commonly occur when you encounter an ‘At-Risk Situation’ where your unhelpful rule or
assumption is broken and your negative core beliefs have been activated. When this
happens you will tend to evaluate yourself in a negative way, becoming harsh and critical of
who you are as a person. You will tend to:
• Tell yourself that you “should” have done this or “shouldn’t” have done that, chastising yourself and
beating yourself up, for not meeting the standards you have set for yourself
• Put negative and derogatory labels on yourself, calling yourself hurtful names like “pathetic,” “useless,”
• Make sweeping generalisations about yourself, based on a very specific event, saying things such as “I
am always doing this,” “I never learn,” “Everything is ruined.”
When you are so critical of yourself, you will tend to tend behave in particular ways – often engaging in
unhelpful behaviours. You will tend to:
• Withdraw or isolate yourself from family or friends,
• Try to overcompensate for things,
• Neglect things (opportunities, responsibilities, self-care), or
• Be passive rather than assertive with others.
At the end of the day, the unhelpful thoughts and behaviours contribute to you feeling depressed, low, sad,
guilty – and this is confirmation that your negative core beliefs are true.
Here’s an example of negative self-evaluations in action. You can follow this example that is illustrated in
the form of the model on the next page. Let’s say that you have the negative core belief, “I am worthless.”
At present, your low self-esteem is dormant as you have developed the rule and assumption, “I must make
everyone else happy to be accepted.” As long as you are able to live up to your rule, you might feel okay
about yourself. However, the situation is about to change. You have had to cancel dinner with a friend
because of work commitments. You are now in an at-risk situation because you have disappointed
someone. This means that your rule has been broken.
At this point, you might have thought, “I’m a useless and pathetic friend,” “I don’t deserve to have friends,”
or “I should not let other people down,” and are probably feeling sad, depressed, and guilty. It’s also at this
point that you could choose how to behave in this situation. You could apologise profusely and put
yourself down to your friend. You could try to make up for cancelling the dinner by offering to pay for the
next outing or re-scheduling your dinner to a time that suits your friend but is inconvenient to you. This is
overcompensation. Alternatively, you could withdraw from your friends for a while and avoid their calls
• Psychotherapy • Research • Training
Module 5: Negative Self-Evaluations