How to boost your self-esteem effectively

Why? Quite simply, so that you know what you’re aiming for when you start working on improving your self-esteem.

This is a relationship site, so why am I focusing on self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence?

Well, if you can love yourself and not be worried about (and drained by) trying to please other people just so that they won’t reject you, you’ll be far more likely to build healthy relationships.

You’ll be much more likely to find a suitable partner. Rather than being dependent on him or her, the two of you are more likely to be interdependent. You’ll be happy to allow each other the freedom to develop and have friends and hobbies outside of the relationship.

So you can see that knowing how to build self-esteem (your own, but that of your children too, of course) is really important!

(BTW, if you’ve happened to lose your confidence on account of the menopause, see my article on the perimenopause symptoms. I’ve even written an article about how your partner can help you through the menopause too!)

What a great site – full of common sense advice. I’m reading this a few days after a break up which I’m trying hard to make sense of and feeling a bit lost, so will put some of these excellent strategies into practise.”


Photo of diary with text: 'Be you' and 'Love yourself'. Text: The best ways to build your self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Here’s what you need to know before you commit to improving your self-esteem…

Self-respect is made up of two components:

One part is your self-evaluation – how much you think you’re worthy of that fabulous job, that wonderful partner, that great opportunity or more generally of happiness itself.

The second part consists of your emotional response when you think about yourself. You may, for example, have a sense of accomplishment and pride, or you may feel shame and embarrassment followed by self-loathing.

There are four aspects that potentially contribute to – or detract from – your self-esteem:

  1. Biological: your genes, illness, disability and your lifestyle;
  2. Psychological: your childhood and adult experiences, the impact of any trauma, injury or shaming (which can be traumatic enough in itself), your lifestyle and your self-evaluation;
  3. Spiritual: shame or reverence, (limiting) beliefs, lifestyle;
  4. Social: your social connections and the feedback you receive from the people around you, your social competence, your lifestyle.

These factors cannot be separated to figure out where exactly self-esteem is lacking or abundant. It’s the interplay between these four factors that dictates how much self-respect you have. So, there’s no easy formula!

Most psychologists think that your self-esteem is fixed, with periodic ups and downs.

However, the good news is that, if you’re unhappy with how you feel about yourself, you can change it!

I base that confidence on having counselled hundreds of people who have been able to make permanent changes to their lives. In this article, I’m hoping to help you do the same.

To help motivate you, let me explain the importance of self esteem first…

What are the benefits of high self-esteem?

Healthy self-esteem can have a really positive ripple effect. Being around a happy, energetic and positive person is uplifting. And that’s why I want to help you build yours!

Here’s a list of some of the things you might notice about someone with high self-esteem.

When you cast your eyes over this list, you’ll notice that people with higher self-esteem have more emotional spare capacity. They can share their resources to the benefit of others (but do also read the note of caution, though).

Banner: 15 ways in which you'll think, feel and behave when you have a high self-esteem.

15 Signs of healthy self-esteem

When you’re working on increasing your self-esteem, you’ll begin to notice any of the following:

  1. You’re more likely to build healthy relationships (see: Healthy relationship tips and advice), and to generously love another person because you can love yourself. 
  2. You’re unlikely to feel devastated by criticism and negative feedback.
  3. You aim high, reach your goals and cope well with setbacks.
  4. You have little trouble defending yourself, but are also happy to reconsider your opinion if you’re proven wrong and apologise sincerely when necessary.
  5. You’re more likely to enjoy your own company.
  6. You have more self-confidence.
  7. You won’t be terrified of stepping out of your comfort zone, and you’ll gain a greater sense of achievement by stretching yourself.
  8. You’re more likely to attract friends because people are naturally attracted to someone with a positive outlook.
  9. You’re less likely to suffer from depression as you manage life’s setbacks more effectively.
  10. You’re less likely to suffer from anxiety, but if you do – you’re more likely to  to manage it well.
  11. You enjoy a healthy degree of control and volition over your environment which is one of our essential emotional needs (See: the Human Givens)
  12. You create and are offered plenty of opportunities for love, friendship and laughter – also an essential human need.
  13. You’re all-round more resilient.
  14. You don’t expect or wait for someone else to make you feel good about yourself.
  15. You work hard and play hard, making the best of your circumstances wherever you are.

These signs of positive self-esteem show just how important it is for the health and well-being of an individual, a family and a community!

If you’re suffering from low self-esteem, I hope you’ll think all of the above things are worth aiming for because you are SO worth it! Remember, you’re as unique as any star in the sky – there is absolutely no one like you.

A note of caution before you learn how to build self-esteem

An overly high sense of self-esteem can be a narcissistic trait. It can lead to overconfidence, poor decision making and increased risk-taking.

If you evaluate yourself in too positive a light, you’re less likely to have patience with – and empathy for – others. This is definitely not what we’re aiming for.

It's better to be yourself than risk having people not like you than suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone you're not. -Christine Carter

The trouble with low self-esteem

You’re searching for how to build self-esteem, so I suspect you may well recognise some of the following signs and symptoms…

13 Signs of low self-esteem

  1. You worry a great deal – particularly about what people think of you.
  2. You’re more cautious.
  3. You’d rather not move out of your comfort zone.
  4. You avoid upsetting anyone.
  5. You constantly look for other people’s approval and do whatever it takes to avoid rejection.
  6. You fear being ridiculed.
  7. You fake illness to get attention and avoid challenging events/tasks.
  8. You suffer from social anxiety and have a whole range of excuses at the ready if you can’t avoid being invited 
  9. You have a negative outlook – your glass is half-empty.
  10. You’re more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
  11. You’re more at risk of becoming addicted.
  12. You’re likely to run a constant stream of negative self-talk.
  13. You’re likely to suffer from insecurity and get stuck in dysfunctional relationships with troubled endings.

Having been confronted with this list, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that you may be depressed. And its important that you begin to deal with that depression right away too. See my article on treating depression without medication.

If you’re not sure you’re suffering from depression, see my depression test.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

What causes low self-esteem?

There is a whole host of reasons why you may have developed low self-esteem…

10 potential underlying reasons for low self-esteem

  1. You’ve been anxious since you were a child, even if you grew up in a warm, loving family and had no trouble at school (there may be a genetic predisposition.
  2. You had a parent who suffered with anxiety, and who was unable to give you the freedom to explore the world without constantly pointing out all of its dangers.
  3. You were criticised, chastised, shamed and/or bullied a lot at school, at home, by friends or at work.
  4. You grew up in a dysfunctional family and regularly experienced conflict. You could never be sure what would happen next, and you’d never know how people would behave towards you. One minute they might be loving and kind, and the next they’d be out of control, angry or even vicious and violent
  5. You’re creative and you use the ‘reality generator’ in your brain to conjure up all the worst case scenarios.
  6. You’ve made mistakes in your life and are living with a great deal of guilt and toxic shame.
  7. You were shamed by your family or community on religious grounds.
  8. You compare yourself unfavourably with someone else in particular (e.g. the other woman or man after your partner’s infidelity, a sibling, a colleague) or with other people in general.
  9. You have a poor body image, and/or you’ve fallen prey to self-loathing due to being different in some way.
  10. You have a weight problem.

All of these (and many more besides) can offer an explanation as to why you don’t have a good self-image right now.

But I really want to reassure you that none of this has to mean that you’ll suffer with low self-esteem for the rest of your life!

Fake it ’til you make it?

Here’s the most wonderfully inspiring video of Amy Cuddy’s presentation for TED TALK, with the best tips on improving your self-esteem through body-language:

How to effectively improve your self esteem

For starters, let’s look at your sensitivity from a more positive angle. Through your own experience, once you’re less wrapped up in what others might think of you:

  • you can probably walk into a room and very quickly sense when there’s discord (because you’re not so wrapped up in yourself).
  • you’ll spot the person that isn’t doing or feeling okay.
  • you may have more empathy.
  • you may be less fazed if things go wrong, because you’ve probably dealt with worse;

It all depends on how you interpret events and experiences.

The link between gratitude and self-esteem

Dr Christine Carter explains in this short video how gratitude improves self-esteem and makes for happier relationships…

The best way to boost your self-esteem

Here’s my list of tips on how to build your self-esteem and overcome your insecurities:

Photo: confident woman

12 Effective self-esteem boosters

1. Challenge your (negative) thinking!
Listen to your self-talk and ask yourself: would you say that to your best friend? How would he/she feel after that barrage of negativity for just 15 minutes?

You’re your own best friend – present 24/7 – so don’t bully yourself! Self-hypnosis is really effective for dealing with this problem.

2. Accept your flaws – they make you unique.
When you’re out and about, spot other people’s flaws in the way they look, speak and behave.

You’ll soon realise that between all of us, we exhibit a huge range of imperfections! Those ‘perfect’ people on TV and on social media aren’t real. Welcome to an imperfect world :-)  See The Power of Self-Compassion further down.

3. Stop comparing yourself with other people.
There are always going to be people who are better educated, have more money, are better at maths, are better looking, have bigger houses, etc.

When you want to learn how to build self-esteem, know that one of the worst things you can do is to compare yourself with others. Nothing is more undermining of your self-esteem than thinking of someone who seems, in one respect or another, somehow superior to you.

4. Stop undermining yourself.
I also say this to my clients (with children) who find it difficult to be kind to themselves: “Do you really want to undermine the mother/father of your children?”

5. Stop overthinking stuff.
The more emotional we are as human beings, the more limited our logical thinking.

So, when you’re feeling down or depressed you’re much more likely to over-analyse stuff, run disastrous scenarios in your mind, become over-emotional, filter out important details that contradict what you believe, and generally distort reality.

6. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are not the truth
– they are your personal interpretation of a situation and a response for which you are responsible. Only you can change this.

7. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Whatever you’re afraid of, decide you’re going to tackle it step-by-step.

Overcoming your fears will hugely improve the way you see yourself and, as a result, increase your self-confidence. It doesn’t matter how small each step is – as long as you make frequent, regular progress.

8. Become good at something you really care about
– it only takes action and time!

You may not even have to leave the house for it. The more competent you are in a certain area the more confident you’ll feel, and the more enthusiasm you’ll exude when talking to others.

9. Think carefully about who you spend your time with.
It may feel comfortable and familiar to be around other people with low self-esteem. However, they may be the very people who will undermine your progress when you’ve set yourself the goal of improving your self-esteem.

I really wouldn’t want you to ditch loyal friends – I just want you to be aware of the kind of company you need most to reach your goal. Be prepared to make some new friends.

10. Remind yourself of three things you’re grateful for
before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly?

Well, research shows what a positive impact gratefulness has on well-being. Reminding yourself of what has gone well that day will help you to go to sleep on a positive note.

11. Swap watching TV or your mobile/laptop for spending time on a hobby,
studying, joining a group, doing some voluntary work, helping a friend or helping someone in need in your community.

Any one of these is likely to help you to improve your self-esteem – because of their potential meaning to you and because you’re taking action.

12. Accept failure as a motivator.
Everyone fails sometimes, and it isn’t the end of the world. There are always lessons to be learnt from mistakes and setbacks – so make sure you’re prepared to look for and learn from them.

Here are some further tips…

Other people who failed at first…

Oprah Winfrey was demoted because she was ‘not set for television’.

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having no imagination and no good ideas.


This wouldn’t be my site without a little note about your relationship, too :-)

Is your partner supportive of you?

Do you feel they’re holding your hand when you challenge yourself, or seek to accomplish new things? Or are the two of you having relationship problems? In that case you could do with some good relationship advice, be that from a trusted person in your own surroundings or a professional licensed counsellor.

Or is he/she particularly critical of you, or perhaps even abusive?

I’m afraid in that case your relationship will hamper your progress in trying to build your self-esteem. I’d like you to hop over to my article on the signs of an abusive relationship or signs of emotional abuse.

I’ve given you some tips and advice now on how to build self-esteem. It’s up to you now to make a start and really commit to taking some steps to the new you – every day!

You can do it, you are worth it, and the rewards you’ll reap with a little bit of effort will help you keep the momentum going!

Banner: Need advice? Get help - talk to a licensed therapist now.
Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly, too embarrassing or too complicated to get personal advice (anonymous if you want) from a licensed, professional counsellor. They’ll be happy to help.