How to Develop Self‐Esteem

Four Parts:Identifying your Self-EsteemImproving your Self-CareAdopting a More Positive LifestyleLetting Go of Perfection

Our self esteem is instilled in us during our youth. Being constantly criticized by family, friends, and society in general tends to slowly strip us of our feelings of self worth. Our low self esteem strips us of the self confidence to make even the smallest of decisions. These feelings do not have to be permanent, however. Improving your self esteem increases your confidence and is a first step towards finding happiness and a better life. Read on to find out how!

Part 1
Identifying your Self-Esteem

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    Learn self-esteem. Self-esteem, or the way we feel about ourselves, is an important aspect of our emotional well-being. High self-esteem means that we love and accept ourselves for the way we are, and generally feel satisfied most of the time. Low self-esteem means that we are not happy with the way we are.
    • The Centre for Clinical Interventions describes people with low self-esteem as having “deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These beliefs are often taken as facts or truths about their identity.”[1]
    • Untreated low-self esteem can often lead to life-long problems, such as being the victim of abusive relationships, feeling constantly self-conscious, and being so afraid of failure that you don’t even try to set goals.[2]
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    Evaluate your self-esteem. Knowing that you have low self-esteem is the first step to improving and overcoming that mental habit.[3] You may have low self-esteem if you have negative thoughts about yourself. These thoughts can revolve around one specific trait, such as your weight or body image, or it can encompass many areas of your life, career, and relationships.
    • If your inner voice, or thoughts about yourself, are mostly critical, you likely have low self-esteem.[4]
    • If your inner voice tends to be positive and comforting, you have higher self-esteem.[5]
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    Listen to your inner voice. When you have thoughts about yourself, determine whether they are positive or negative. If you have trouble evaluating this or noticing a pattern, try writing down thoughts you have about yourself every day for a few days or a week. Then look at the statements for patterns or tendencies.
    • The inner voice of someone with low self-esteem often manifests in one of the following personas: a nagger, a generalist, a comparer, a catastrophizer, or a mind-reader. Each of these unique inner voices either insults you or assumes the worst about other people’s perception of you.
    • Silencing the negative inner voice is a first step in building your confidence. Replacing it with more positive thoughts will be the next goal.
    • For example, your inner voice may say “I didn’t get the job I just applied for, so I will never have a job again and I am useless.” You want to change that to “I am disappointed about not getting this job, but I have worked hard and the right job is out there waiting for me; I just have to find it.”
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    Investigate the source of your lowered self-esteem. [6] No one has inherently low self-esteem from birth; it generally builds from childhood due to needs not being met, negative feedback from others, or due to a major negative life event. Knowing the source of your self-esteem problems can help you overcome them.
    • If you noticed a particular pattern when evaluating your inner voice, try to trace those feelings back to your first memory about them.
    • For example, if your negativity is about your weight or appearance, try to remember when you first started feeling uncomfortable with your weight; was it due to a particular comment or group of comments?
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    Set a goal to improve your self-esteem. The key to developing self-esteem is to turn your inner voice from a negative, critical voice to a positive, encouraging voice. Ultimately, you will have to decide to put in the work of re-framing the way you think about yourself. Setting an initial goal to be more positive about yourself will put you on the path to greater self-confidence.
    • For example, your goal may be “I will be more positive about myself and talk to myself like a friend rather than an enemy.”

Part 2
Improving your Self-Care

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    List your positive attributes. Focus on the things that you like about yourself to remind yourself that there is more to you than the negative thoughts your inner voice focuses on. Congratulate yourself for your accomplishments without qualifying them.[7]
    • People with higher self-esteem are able to accept that they have positive attributes, even if they are not perfect.[8]
    • Post your list somewhere visible, like your bathroom mirror, and look at it daily. You can add to it as your inner voice becomes more positive.
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    Keep a positivity journal. Write down you accomplishments, compliments people give you, and good thoughts you have about yourself. While the negative thoughts may not completely go away, spending more time focusing on the positive will improve your overall feelings of self-worth.[9]
    • Journaling can be a powerful tool to monitor your inner dialogue and improve your self-esteem.[10]
    • Try to focus your positivity journal on opposing your normal negative inner thoughts. For example, if you would tend to insult yourself for not speaking your mind about something, be sure to write down times that you do speak your mind.
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    Use your journal for goal setting. You can set goals for improving yourself without expecting perfection in every aspect of your life. Your goals should be clear and specific, but allow some “wiggle room” for imperfection.
    • For example, instead of, “I will always speak against people who are spreading discrimination and hate,” you might make your goal, “I will do my best to calmly oppose the ideas of others who spread discrimination and hate.”
    • Instead of “I will never eat sugar again and will lose 30 pounds,” your goal could be, “I will strive to live a healthier lifestyle with better food choices and more exercise.”
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    Forgive yourself for being imperfect. Remember that you, like everyone, are human. You do not have to be perfect to have high self-esteem.[11] If you can accept yourself as you are, even if you are trying to improve in some areas, you will have much higher self-esteem.
    • Create a mantra for yourself, like “that’s okay, I’m awesome anyway.”
    • For example, if you lost your temper and yelled at your child at the park, you can say to yourself, “I am not perfect, and I will work on keeping my emotions in control. I will apologize to my child for yelling and explain to him why I became upset. It’s okay, I’m an awesome mom anyway.”
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    Seek counseling. If you feel that you are unable to improve your self-esteem on your own, or if you become very upset when exploring the roots of your low self-esteem, you may want to see a therapist who can help you identify and deal with the roots of your self-esteem problems.[12]
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach that will address your automatic negative thoughts about yourself and teach you how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way.[13]
    • For more complex self-esteem issues, more in-depth psychodynamic therapy may be a better option for dealing with the roots of your problems.
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    Participate in charitable work. Many people begin to feel better about themselves when they are contributing to a cause outside of their own needs. Volunteering for a charitable organization helps both the volunteer and the recipients of the charity: a real win-win![14]
    • Find an organization that addresses a cause that you feel passionate about.
    • Volunteer somewhere with a friend or a group of friends; this will help the organization (many hands make light work) and the experience may be more enjoyable.

Part 3
Adopting a More Positive Lifestyle

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    Set aside time for self-care. It can be difficult to make time for yourself, but making time to do things that make you feel relaxed and happy can improve your self-esteem as well as your productivity at work and at home.
    • Find a hobby that makes you feel better physically and mentally. Some people find that yoga, bicycling, or running help them find a calm, centered positivity.
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    Surround yourself with positive people. If there are negative influences in your life that cause you to feel badly about yourself, try to minimalist or eliminate the time you spend with them. Include in your life instead people who are positive and support your positive self-thoughts.
    • Making your loved ones aware of your self-esteem building journey will encourage them to act as a support system for you.
    • You may want to tell close friends or family something like “I am working on improving my self-esteem. You can help me by pointing out when I say something negative about myself so that I am more aware of my negativity.”
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    Eat a healthy diet. Choosing foods that are more nutritious and lower in sugar and fat can boost your energy, cut down on sugar crashes, and improve your overall health.
    • Avoid fad diets and opt for whole foods that are minimally processed.
    • Avoid foods such as candy bars, soda, cake, doughnuts, and pastries, which lead to massive energy crashes, possible headaches, and offer no nutrition, possible illness, and added calories.
    • Eat more fruits, veggies, lean meats, and legumes. Think of them as all-day energy and abundant nutrition for your body, that will enable you to keep up with your job and kids, protect your body against illnesses, and extend your life so you can enjoy more time with your family.
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    Exercise more. Even when going to the gym isn’t an option, a brisk walk is often all you need in order to move more and improve your health. A little exercise can give you more energy, make you feel better, and help boost your immune system.
    • Many people find that walking outdoors is refreshing and restorative, particularly if they spend most of their time working indoors.
    • Even a 10-minute workout once or twice every day offers benefits to your health.
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    Spend time on personal hygiene and presentation. If you put thought and time into your personal appearance by selecting clothing that makes you feel confident and put-together and practicing daily hygiene habits, you will feel more comfortable and confident.

Part 4
Letting Go of Perfection

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    Recognize unreachable standards. Like Picasso's paintings, perfection changes in the eye of the beholder. Perfection is a state that is subjective and often self-imposed. It's okay to hold yourself to higher standards, but often, those standards are idealistic because life doesn't always go as planned. It is easy to get frustrated when you cannot match our ideal image of yourself.
    • This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because this is what motivates people to improve, find better and more efficient ways of doing things, and be the most excellent they can be.
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    Forgive yourself. You can learn to prevent this very human tendency from becoming unproductive by becoming more forgiving of yourself when things don't go the way you'd like, and more supportive of ourselves by feeling good in our accomplishments and strengths so we can truly enjoy being who we are right now at this very moment.


  • Surround yourself with people who care about your feelings! People who don't care about you won't help your confidence.
  • Don't concentrate on impressing others. Instead, be yourself, then others will think highly of you and your comfort with yourself.
  • Tell yourself you are confident and outgoing even if you don't feel that way. Your feelings and beliefs all come from the thoughts you think, so, if you believe you are confident and outgoing, you will be. Think and act as though you don't even know what it's like to have low self-esteem.
  • Be assertive. Boosting your self-esteem is all about getting what you need/want. Do things for your own sake. Remember, you must help yourself first before you can help others.
  • You are who you are and no one can change that. Be yourself and don't try to copy others.
  • The most important thing of all is that you have to believe in yourself. If you believe you can, then you will be able to.
  • Your inner strength will enable you to reach your goals in life. If you fall down, pick yourself up and try again.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror every day. Try to find something to admire about yourself: your looks, your accomplishments, your achievements.
  • Don't let magazine ads and other media outlets quash your self confidence with their marketing ploys: Marketing campaigns often prey on fear and insecurity by bringing those feelings to the forefront. Resist marketing efforts with your inner confidence and awareness of marketing tactics.
  • Make sure your self talk is positive at all times. Tell yourself how great you are or how good you look today. Make being positive your natural state of being.
  • Ignore the negative comments people give you. Listen to yourself and be confident, no one can judge you for being yourself.
  • People who consistently say negative things about others are low quality people and if they were characters in a book they would not be worth the ink that's used or the paper they're printed on.
  • Do some yoga, if you think it will help. Try meditating as well.
  • Think positively of yourself and know that there is always someone out there that appreciates you for who you are.


  • Consistently low self esteem could be a sign of depression. Talk with your doctor and review all available options if you think this might be the case.

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