How to increase your self esteem

Raising low self-esteem - NHS

We all have times when we lack confidence and do not feel good about ourselves.

But when low self-esteem becomes a long-term problem, it can have a harmful effect on our mental health and our day-to-day lives.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves.

When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life's ups and downs.

When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges that life throws at us.

What causes low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem often begins in childhood. Our teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us positive and negative messages about ourselves. 

For some reason, the message that you are not good enough is the one that stays with you.

Perhaps you found it difficult to live up to other people's expectations of you, or to your own expectations.

Stress and difficult life events, such as serious illness or a bereavement, can have a negative effect on self-esteem.

Personality can also play a part. Some people are just more prone to negative thinking, while others set impossibly high standards for themselves.

How does low self-esteem affect us?

If you have low self-esteem or confidence, you may hide yourself away from social situations, stop trying new things, and avoid things you find challenging.

In the short term, avoiding challenging and difficult situations might make you feel safe.

In the longer term, this can backfire because it reinforces your underlying doubts and fears. It teaches you the unhelpful rule that the only way to cope is by avoiding things.

Living with low self-esteem can harm your mental health and lead to problems such as depression and anxiety.

You may also develop unhelpful habits, such as smoking and drinking too much, as a way of coping.

How to have healthy self-esteem

To boost your self-esteem, you need to identify the negative beliefs you have about yourself, then challenge them.

You may tell yourself you're "too stupid" to apply for a new job, for example, or that "nobody cares" about you.

Start to note these negative thoughts and write them on a piece of paper or in a diary. Ask yourself when you first started to think these thoughts.

Next, start to write some evidence that challenges these negative beliefs, such as, "I'm really good at cryptic crosswords" or "My sister calls for a chat every week".

Write down other positive things about yourself, such as "I'm thoughtful" or "I'm a great cook" or "I'm someone that others trust".

Also write some good things that other people say about you.

Aim to have at least 5 positive things on your list and add to it regularly. Then put your list somewhere you can see it. That way, you can keep reminding yourself that you're OK.

You might have low confidence now because of what happened when you were growing up, but we can grow and develop new ways of seeing ourselves at any age.

Other ways to improve low self-esteem

Here are some other simple techniques that may help you feel better about yourself.

Recognise what you're good at 

We're all good at something, whether it's cooking, singing, doing puzzles or being a friend. We also tend to enjoy doing the things we're good at, which can help boost your mood.

Build positive relationships

If you find certain people tend to bring you down, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how you feel about their words or actions.

Try to build relationships with people who are positive and who appreciate you.

Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself means being gentle to yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical.

Think what you'd say to a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.

Learn to be assertive

Being assertive is about respecting other people's opinions and needs, and expecting the same from them.

One trick is to look at other people who act assertively and copy what they do.

It's not about pretending you're someone you're not. It's picking up hints and tips from people you admire and letting the real you come out.

Start saying "no"

People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to other people, even when they do not really want to.

The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed.

For the most part, saying no does not upset relationships. It can be helpful to keep saying no, but in different ways, until they get the message.

Give yourself a challenge

We all feel nervous or afraid to do things at times. But people with healthy self-esteem do not let these feelings stop them trying new things or taking on challenges.

Set yourself a goal, such as joining an exercise class or going to a social occasion. Achieving your goals will help to increase your self-esteem.

Where to find help for low self-esteem

Talking therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help.

You can refer yourself for talking therapies on the NHS.

If you prefer, you can talk to a GP first and they can refer you.

You could also find a private therapist. Make sure they're registered with a professional body.

Audio: unhelpful thinking

In this audio guide, a doctor helps you to replace negative thoughts with more positive thinking.

Media last reviewed: 2 March 2021
Media review due: 2 March 2024

Visit healthtalk. org to hear young people talking about their experiences of low self-esteem.

Video: talking therapies for stress, anxiety and depression

Animated video explaining self-referral to talking therapies services for stress, anxiety or depression.

Media last reviewed: 14 March 2022
Media review due: 14 March 2025

8 Tips to Give You a Boost

Jump to section

What is self-esteem?

Why is it important to pay attention to it?

What can lower self-esteem?

What are the effects of low self-esteem?

8 tactics to improve your self-esteem

Get support on your journey

Self-esteem can shift from moment to moment, and day-to-day. Sometimes, your sense of self-worth is high — you’ll feel like nothing can bring you down. Shortly afterward, your mind may become flooded with negative thoughts. 

Maybe you start scrolling through social media with ample self-confidence after a great post, but soon after, you feel it plummet. You can feel this change in your self-esteem several times a day, even within the same hour. 

Having high self-esteem takes energy every single day. It can be exhausting. And research shows that the constant pursuit of high self-esteem isn't healthy. Commit to improving your well-being by learning how to improve self-esteem without making it your top priority.

What is self-esteem?

Before you can care for your self-esteem, it helps to define the term. According to Kristin Neff, who writes and talks extensively about her research on self-compassion as an alternative to self-esteem, the way self-esteem can fluctuate is a big part of its problem. So, too, is how it focuses on judgment of ourselves and others.

Self-esteem refers to the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It represents how much we like or value ourselves, and is often based on comparisons with others. 

Dr. Kristin Neff

Self-esteem revolves around your opinion of yourself and what you have accomplished. When we’re surrounded by social media and inundated with lifestyle content, our opinion of ourselves can't help but be relative. Self-esteem can take a hit every time you open your newsfeed. 

Self-esteem can affect how you practice "self-talk." If you assess yourself and find yourself lacking, you may focus on negative thoughts and self-criticism. However, the opposite can happen for people too concerned about preserving their self-esteem. They might focus on building themselves up and putting others down to feel better.

While saying positive things to yourself helps counter automatic negative thoughts, check in on whether that interior voice is constantly comparing, whether favorably or not. If you constantly think you aren't good enough, it can affect your relationships, physical health, and how well you do your job. 

There's a difference between self-esteem and confidence. Your self-esteem affects how you see yourself. In contrast, your self-confidence dictates how you perceive your own skills and talents.

Your self-esteem results from your life experiences, beginning in childhood. Any trauma you've experienced, dramatic life changes, and your environment impact your self-esteem. Even at a young age, your self-esteem begins to fluctuate and develop. 

You build self-confidence in a specific situation by developing and using your own skills and prior experiences related to the task. Believing in your abilities to complete a task while doubting your self-worth is an example of having high self-confidence but low self-esteem.

Why is it important to pay attention to it?

Take time to pay attention to how you speak to yourself. It's a good indicator of how well you take care of yourself. 

Yes, self-esteem fluctuates — but lower self-esteem can signal something in your life is harming your well-being. And if you have high self-esteem, you could be practicing some excellent self-care. 

Self-esteem issues can creep up on you. It doesn't take much out of your day to take a moment and notice how events affect your mood and self-esteem.

Pay attention to other people's self-esteem, too. If you notice a loved one or a coworker is voicing a lot of self-doubt, they might need your support. Once you've identified where you want to improve, it’s hard to figure out your first steps.

If you're looking for help getting started, our BetterUp can support you with personalized coaching to help you find your self-esteem and cultivate your self-compassion.

What can lower self-esteem?

Many different factors lower your self-esteem. Those factors might be things like people in your life or your environment or mindset. Understanding what causes your self-esteem to drop helps you make an action plan on how you will help it thrive and build your self-awareness. 

Perhaps you're unsure about what factors we're talking about. To give you a better idea, here's a list of things that can cause your self-esteem to lower:

  • Abuse: Abusive and difficult relationships with your parents, either during childhood or adulthood, can harm your self-esteem. Research has found that physical and emotional abuse by parents or other adults is a major factor in low self-esteem.
  • Mindset: A pessimistic attitude and fixed mindset lower self-esteem because it overwhelms your mind with negative thoughts. You're reminded that you aren't good enough or that nothing positive will happen to you, and your confidence suffers.
  • Life events: While some life events uplift you, others lower your self-esteem. An example is if you're taking a hard course at school and have failed a few assignments. You start criticizing yourself and the opinion your accomplishments are poor. Graduating from school, changing jobs, or moving cities could all affect you personally. 
  • Social standards: One survey of college freshmen found that 65% of them said they base their self-worth on their appearance. External sources like approval of others and body image cause your self-esteem to lower at any time, and it might be difficult to regain it.
  • Goal setting: Setting goals is great if you know how to set them properly. When you set goals that are unattainable and unrealistic, it makes you think poorly of yourself when you don't achieve them. Even if those goals weren't achievable in the first place, your self-esteem takes a hit.

What are the effects of low self-esteem?

When you have low self-esteem, your mental health can suffer. Frequent negative self-talk can harm your mental health. 

People with poor self-esteem are very critical of themselves. They have difficulty moving past challenges and mistakes. It may lead to people isolating themselves because they want to protect their self-esteem.

They neglect standing up for themselves because they'd rather stay quiet and put space between themselves and their challenges.

In reality, self-imposed social isolation only hurts them more. It keeps people deep within their comfort zones instead of seeking new opportunities or hobbies.  

Low self-esteem can also contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Negative ways of thinking can halt efforts to build confidence or self-worth, and negative thoughts also hinder efforts to develop a growth mindset.

8 tactics to improve your self-esteem

It's no easy task to build self-esteem, but achieving a healthy level of self-esteem can make a difference to your well-being. 

Take a look at these eight tactics to help bolster your self-esteem. Think about which ones you'd like to start implementing in your daily life. But don't stop there: remember that the best way to achieve healthy self-esteem is to focus less on esteem and more on practicing self-compassion and improving self-confidence.

1. Write out a list of things you admire about yourself

It can be challenging to sit down and think about our admirable traits — even awkward. But acknowledging your skills or things you like about yourself can improve your self-talk.

Try keeping a journal of things you've done that you enjoyed or admired. Gratitude journals also work wonders for improving your outlook on life and recognizing what you have to be thankful for.

Don't just write down any positive affirmation you come across. Instead, look for relevant affirmations and consider how to accept yourself. What is it that you appreciate and admire? Remember these attributes when you notice your mind fills with negative thoughts. Avoid generic mantras and focus on phrases meaningful to you.

2. Stop being a people pleaser

People with poor self-esteem can feel obligated to say yes to requests. They often put helping others before their own mental health. This can lead to being easily overwhelmed, whether that’s at work or in your personal life. That, in turn, causes a lot of stress.

It's nice to be helpful and supportive when you can, but your self-esteem eventually suffers when you tie your self-worth to how much you do for others. Learn how to say no to others.

3. Step outside your comfort zone

Those with low self-esteem tend to avoid challenges and new opportunities. This can be due to fears or self-doubt. But when you succeed in any big or small way, you show yourself that you can persevere through rough moments.

Stepping outside your comfort zone doesn't mean that you have to throw yourself into highly uncomfortable situations. It means you're willing to try new things even if you enter difficult situations.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others

Your progress and self-worth shouldn’t be connected to how well other people are doing. There will always be someone better at something than you, but that doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you do, or good enough. 

It's not easy to stop comparing yourself to others. But staying away from social media can help this effort. If you do scroll, remind yourself that people only share the best, most flattering parts of their life online. Don't let likes on a photo dictate your self-worth. Practice an occasional digital detox to reduce your exposure.

Appreciate your differences compared to others, but remember that you’re not in competition with anyone else’s progress.

5. Forgive yourself for your past thoughts

As you work to build your self-esteem, you need to forgive yourself for how you treated yourself before. You can't move forward with your progress without accepting that you used to judge yourself and others harshly. It's a hard habit to break.

Acknowledging this weakness exercises self-compassion and resilience by helping you see yourself clearly. You’re building a more solid foundation when you choose to have a healthier relationship with yourself.

6. Set boundaries in your relationships

Think about what your boundaries are in your personal and professional life. To have higher self-esteem, you need to understand what your boundaries look like and how they align with your values.

Plus, you'll need to think about how you'll respond when people cross them because that'll happen — intentionally or not. Setting boundaries is a way of not letting others control or take advantage of you and practicing assertiveness. 

Learning how to set boundaries at work may look different than in your personal life. You can mute notifications when the workday ends to maintain your work-life balance, but you can’t avoid your friends when you don’t know how to be firm with them. Be patient, and be honest.

7. Celebrate your wins

Victories come in all sizes, and you should celebrate them all. Did you practice some positive self-talk today? Did you banish some negative beliefs or face one of your fears? Acknowledge those feelings of confidence and pride, and embrace them. It'll help your self-confidence grow and show you that building self-esteem helps you feel more comfortable with yourself.

8. Let go of negative people

It's one thing to let go of negative thoughts, but have you thought about letting negative people go? The people you surround yourself with have a big impact on your mood and level of self-esteem.

If people constantly remind you of your flaws, make fun of your mistakes, or fill you with self-doubt, you'll have poor self-esteem. But letting those influences go will allow more positive encouragement and kinder thoughts to help grow your self-esteem. And once you identify someone’s toxic traits, it’s hard to see past them.

Get support on your journey 

While you’re learning how to improve your self-esteem, you’ll experience setbacks. You’ll have days where your poor self-esteem seems overpowering. Be patient with yourself. Progress doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t always linear.

Celebrate that small stuff. If you find even just one tactic that makes a difference in your well-being, that’s something to be proud of. 

At BetterUp, we’re all about finding ways that make you feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments. This helps you feel more motivated to guide your progress forward. Plus, it builds your self-confidence when you encounter any challenges.  

How to Increase Self-Esteem and Confidence: Psychology


Practices how to

Tip 1. The only way to realize who you are is to find what suits you.

Tip 2. Talking about problems in a relationship reduces the fear of being abandoned.

Tip 3. Perhaps you are always trying to guess what the norm is. It is important for people with low self-esteem to know and understand that the concept of "normality" does not exist. It is more effective to ask yourself the question: what is really important to you? What is important to your family? The challenge isn't to figure out what's normal for you, but to figure out what works best for you and your loved ones.

Tip 4. The first step in overcoming any bad habit is to recognize it. To boost self-esteem and self-confidence, just watch yourself. Instead of engaging in self-judgment, try to get to know yourself by analyzing how you behave. When a person begins to look at himself honestly and without judgment, can separate himself from his behavior, he is able to change, develop and grow.

Tip 5. Feelings cannot be right or wrong. If we consider our feeling to be wrong, then guilt is added to it, and this makes the situation even worse. The anger you feel is real. If you decide that it is wrong to feel angry and that you should be compassionate instead, it will not help you. You cannot substitute one feeling for another.

Advice 6. It is impossible to completely overcome the feeling of loneliness, but there are ways to reduce it. First of all, you need to take the risk of opening up to others. The best way to get what you need is to start doing it yourself. If you want to be loved, first offer your love to others. This is the risk of being misunderstood, abandoned. But by avoiding risk, you doom yourself to loneliness. If you take risks, you get the opportunity to change. It's not enough to try once. Make a promise to yourself that every day you will step out of your comfort zone a little.

When you choose to be yourself, you get a lot more opportunities.

Tip 7. There is a good group exercise that shows that self-criticism is always very subjective. Participants sit in a circle, the task is to free themselves, in whole or in part, from those qualities that they no longer want to possess. If someone likes the rejected qualities, he or she can appropriate them.

For example, one participant says that he wants to get rid of procrastination, and this quality does not have time to reach the center of the circle, while another already says that he would like to take it, because, on the contrary, he is hyperactive. Someone else says, “I want to get rid of guilt,” and immediately gets the answer: “I need some of your guilt. I feel too selfish."

The exercise demonstrates that our traits need to be studied. To what extent are they useful to us? How much do they interfere? Obviously, judging yourself and your shortcomings is not helpful. When you choose to be yourself, you have many more opportunities to improve your self-esteem.

Advice 8. An acute reaction to a minor event—for example, friends canceling a meeting at the last minute—is usually related to our past. Something similar has happened before - once or many times, usually in childhood.

The first thing you need to do is to be clear about when you start to overreact. How appropriate is your response to the circumstances? Is it worth it to react so sharply? If these questions make you feel defensive, then you are indeed overreacting to the situation.

The first step towards overcoming such reactions is to realize their essence and understand what caused them in the past. The next step is to consciously change habits. Ask yourself how attached you are to your usual plans. Can you go home another way? Or go to the store on Wednesday instead of Thursday as usual? Can you change plans without disorienting yourself? This is a chance to become more flexible. Flexibility in one area makes it possible to develop flexibility in other areas.

Advice 9. Analyze what kind of people are present in your life and what is the nature of your relationship with them. Do you receive from others as much as you give to them? To what extent are these people stronger or weaker than you? Perhaps if you objectively evaluate your surroundings, you will see that you are giving people more than you are receiving. Then you will have to change your social circle and maintain relationships only with those who are capable of symmetrical relationships.

Perhaps this is because you yourself do not allow others to do things for you. You consider yourself strong enough to take care of yourself, but allow others to participate in your life.

Pain, sadness or anger can only belong to the one who feels it

Tip 10. If you say to yourself day after day: “Why am I staying with this person? Why can't I give it all up?" - It is worth analyzing your relationships. People who do not deserve our loyalty are often very critical of us. They often criticize us. Be careful when you hear this - who is the person really talking about? Do his statements really apply to you, or is he projecting his own shortcomings onto you?

Pain, sadness or anger can only belong to the one who experiences it. These feelings should not become yours, you can only show empathy and compassion. You may have been dragged into an unhealthy relationship by playing on guilt. If you are easily manipulated based on this feeling, you begin to think that you owe something to someone else. “He was kind to me. He took care of me."

Feeling guilty or obligated for these reasons is wrong. You don't owe people anything for supporting you. You are self-worth. If you feel obligated to support them, you are admitting, "I'm worthless."

Advice 11. You will gain self-confidence if you can solve the tasks that you set for yourself. Tasks can be simple or complex, but you need to be sure that they are achievable.

Things don't always work out. If something worked out, it’s great and it didn’t happen by accident, you deserve your success. Reward yourself for completed tasks. Always remember the things that you are good at. Don't ignore them. Use them as a foundation to become a whole person. If you didn’t succeed, you need to get out of this situation and try something new. It shouldn't devastate you.

About the Expert

Janet Voititz (1939–1994) pioneered research into the problems of children and families of alcoholics in the 1980s. The impetus was her husband's alcoholism. Woititz found that children of alcoholics and children who grew up in single-parent families, as well as families where one or both parents suffered from addictions and phobias, as a rule, grow up with low self-esteem and experience great difficulties in communicating with other people. Her book, Adult Children of Alcoholics, became a bestseller and helped launch a movement that has grown worldwide.

Text: Ksenia Tatarnikova Photo credit: Getty Images

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January 24 Life

Even the best of us doubt ourselves sometimes.

1. Talk to the mirror

Strange as it may sound, you need to learn how to talk to your reflection in the mirror. And not just to speak, but to convince that you are the best, gifted, capable and confident.

This idea may seem very silly. Ignore it and start practicing. Convince the reflection of your own strength and rightness. If you perform this exercise regularly, then it will definitely give results.

2. Drive away bad thoughts

Bad and negative thoughts, like a tenacious spider, can entwine us with a web of doubt. Most often, of course, this happens before bedtime. At night, even small mistakes knock the ground out from under your feet.

You will need all the will to drive these thoughts away. It will be difficult, but you try. Otherwise, uncertainty will swallow you up.

3. Do some introspection

Take a piece of paper and divide it into three parts. On one write down ten of your strengths, on another write down ten accomplishments, and on the third write down ten things you like about yourself.

It is not necessary to write down the most significant achievements or main character traits. After all, the ability to bake the perfect pizza can also be a strength.

These lists are for reminding yourself how awesome you are.

4. Do not compare yourself with others

Not in reality, not on social networks. On the Internet, everyone is trying to create only the appearance of an ideal life, which should not be trusted. And certainly you can not compare yourself with some ephemeral virtual image.

Can't get rid of the feeling that everyone around you is better than you? Then do this: be interested in the lives of other people, but do not compare yourself with them, but find out exactly how they achieved success.

5. Be kind to yourself

We make very tough demands on ourselves and reproach ourselves for wrongdoings that we would forgive another person in a minute. Don't do it. Be kind to yourself, stop self-flagellation and treat your actions and thoughts with understanding and compassion.

6. Seek support

It is very important that you have someone you can rely on. Friends greatly influence how we feel, our level of happiness, our self-esteem.

Surround yourself with those who help you feel better, improve your mood and smile every day.

7. Don't Forget the Basics

When talking to your reflection or writing down a list of ten accomplishments, don't forget the simple principles:

  • Eat right.
  • Wear clean and nice clothes.
  • Maintain personal hygiene.

Why is it important to be clean and look good? Because it helps you feel better and more confident.

8. Do charity work

Numerous studies have shown that helping others makes us feel better. Volunteering and charity make us happy. By helping those who are less fortunate, you begin to appreciate what you have. It's also nice to lend a helping hand. This is a simple and good thing.

9. Learn something new

First of all, it's fun and interesting. Secondly, you will find new acquaintances and friends.

Learn more