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How to build self esteem: 8 tips to think more positively about yourself

Knowing how to build self esteem is the key to positive mental health and well-being.

Self esteem is everything you think about yourself, whether that be your values, how you physically look, or your attitudes toward your strengths and weaknesses.

We all have days where we’re not feeling our best and judge ourselves particularly harshly. But it’s in those moments that the work you’ve done to build high self esteem is the most important. The time we spend working on our attitude toward ourselves ultimately plays a crucial role in building a healthy and successful life.
Let’s get started by looking at what exactly self esteem is, why it’s important to have high self esteem, and how to build up self esteem on even the gloomiest of days.

Table of contents

What do we mean by high self esteem?

According to the American Psychological Association, self esteem is “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive.” In other words, self esteem is a measure of how positively or negatively you think about yourself. The more positive your attitude toward yourself, the higher your self esteem. 

Self esteem is based on a number of different factors, like your self-image, your view of your capabilities and limitations, and how you think others feel about you. It’s not simply about whether or not you like yourself. To have high self esteem, you also need to respect and value yourself, in both your actions and your feelings.

Does that mean people who have high self esteem are happy all the time?

Absolutely not! In fact, it’s impossible for us to be in a positive mood every second of the day. 

When you’re thinking about how to build self esteem, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to feel great about everything you do or say. It’s perfectly normal to have fluctuating self esteem on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis depending on how your life looks at any given moment.

The key to high self esteem is in having a positive frame of mind most of the time, but also being self-critical when you need to reassess and trusting yourself to make the right decisions for you. You embrace your weaknesses and actively look for ways to overcome them, rather than dwelling on mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Is high self esteem the same as confidence?

The short answer is no, but confidence can play an important role in building self esteem. 

Confidence is more focused on your ability to do something, often with a tangible and measurable result, and how you present yourself to other people. Self esteem is all about what’s on the inside and how you feel about those abilities—it’s the hidden part that only you can see.

They both feed off each other though, as high self esteem can make you a more outwardly confident person, whereas having confidence when you’re working on a task and then successfully completing it can boost your self esteem and your belief in yourself. Ever heard of the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it?” Sometimes pushing yourself in the middle of doubt can actually end up increasing those positive feelings about your own capabilities.

Why does building self esteem make a difference?

Pop quiz time: Which of the following is true of people with high self esteem?

  • They live fully in the present moment, not worrying about the past or future
  • They’re more sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others 
  • They can make informed choices without feeling guilt or shame
  • They have clear personal values and aim to live by them every day

If you guessed that all of those were true, you’re right! Individuals with high self esteem generally feel more secure, happy, and enjoy their lives as much as possible. Who wouldn’t want to feel that way?

There are plenty of benefits to having high self esteem that can be life changing not only for you, but for the other people in your life. Here are some of the most notable:

1. You form better and more stable relationships

When you have a deep appreciation and respect for yourself, it’s hardly surprising that those feelings translate to your relationships with other people. 

Studies have suggested that higher self esteem also generates great prosocial behavior. In other words, you’re more likely to be generous and have empathy for others, which helps to build and deepen the relationships that you have. All in all, high self esteem is great for everyone.

2. You increase your ability to be assertive and express your needs 

Whether it’s in a work or personal setting, being able to say what you need in that moment is an important part of self-care. It also helps you to learn how to rely on other people and work as a team, along with feeling more confident in your ability to say no if the situation doesn’t feel right. Learning how to be assertive is an important part of stress management and is an essential coping skill that can be beneficial in all areas of your life.

3. You feel more confident about the decisions that you make

There’s nothing worse than making a decision, big or small, and then spending the rest of the day wondering if you’ve done the right thing. 

Building your self esteem gives you the ability to feel good about the choices you’ve made and learn to live with whatever the consequences may be. You trust your own judgement and respect the conclusion you’ve come to, rather than dwelling on what would have happened if you’d gone in a different direction.

4. Your expectations are realistic so you’re better equipped to deal with stressful situations

Problem solving can be tricky at the best of times, but believing in your ability to handle anything and understanding what the likely outcomes of a situation could be is a crucial way to manage stress and stay calm. 

We usually do our best thinking when we can have a positive frame of mind, so training yourself to live in this mental state most of the time thanks to your high self esteem means that this will usually be your default position should you find yourself in a difficult situation.

5. You have space to be creative without worrying about your abilities

When you’re not spending time thinking about what could go wrong or what has gone wrong when you’ve tried something new in the past, the possibilities for what you could achieve are endless. 

With high self esteem comes a freedom to explore and create as much as you’d like, whether that’s trying out a new hobby or taking a skill you already have to the next level. You get to enjoy the process, rather than being fixated on the outcome, because you already know where your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can work with those to improve yourself.

How to get high self esteem that lasts

When 70% of teenage girls believe that they aren’t good enough in one way or another, it’s time for us to take action and make positive steps toward improving our own self esteem and that of others. But in a world that constantly makes us second guess ourselves, encourages us to look or behave a certain way, and places high value on successful outcomes, finding a way to build self esteem can be a real challenge. 

It takes work but it’s possible. Here are a few examples of how you can actively start working on gaining high self esteem and be on the road to a brighter and happier future. 

1. Learn how to accept compliments

We’re often taught that accepting compliments will make us big-headed and unnecessarily over-confident. But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Even if you find it uncomfortable at first, try to answer positively whenever someone compliments you by responding with a simple “thank you” or “that’s very nice of you to say,” rather than immediately leaping to a reflexive response that denies their statement. 

While learning to accept compliments is a sign that your self esteem is improving, it’s also important that you don’t actively seek them out because you want recognition. Instead, do good deeds because you want to be helpful and the compliments will start naturally flowing your way.

2. Cut yourself some slack

We all make mistakes and the sooner you accept that, the better your frame of mind will be. It’s natural to feel disappointment when something goes wrong or to be embarrassed over an error that you’ve made. But instead of thinking about your negative feelings, take some time to process what happened, analyze what went wrong, and think about what you can learn from that situation to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

3. Start a gratitude journal

This may sound a little “woo woo” but stick with us. A 2014 study found that when individuals practiced gratitude on a frequent basis, there was a significant positive correlation between this and how they rated their happiness and self esteem. 

Take a couple of minutes at the end of each day to write down three to five positive things that happened in the day or that you feel grateful for in that moment. It could be anything, from something you accomplished to smaller things like seeing a puppy out for a walk on your street or making your favorite meal for dinner. Whenever you’re having a down moment, you’ll have a whole notebook of wonderful memories to reflect on to cheer yourself up.

4. Ask your friends and family why they love you

If you’re struggling to think of positive attributes about yourself, turn to the people who know you best. You’ll probably hear things that would never have even crossed your mind and it’s great practice for learning how to accept compliments. 

Having these open and honest conversations with your nearest and dearest is also the perfect way to deepen your relationships and get to know your closest circle even better.

5. Actively work toward improving yourself

Whether you want to level up in your coding skills to get that promotion you’ve been after or finally learn how to make your grandmother’s signature apple pie, finding ways to improve your skills is a great way to boost your self esteem. 

If you’re lacking confidence, start with a skill that you already have some proficiency in and simply want to get better at. That way you already have some reassurance that you know what you’re doing and won’t be as concerned about possible failures. 

You don’t have to stop at skills though! Improving yourself could also mean adding some more exercise time into your weekly schedule. Working out, even an activity as simple as a walk around the block, releases endorphins that make you feel good so try to ride that high for as long as you can.

6. Find hobbies that you enjoy

While building skills is important for both your own personal satisfaction and improving your mindset, you also need to find activities that you can enjoy just for fun. 

Taking the time to relax, either by yourself or with others, is one of the most important parts of self-care. Our bodies need time to recharge from all of the daily tasks we need to do, so find ways to switch off and unplug (metaphorically or literally) for a few hours every week.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparison truly is the thief of joy and spending your time wondering how you measure up to everyone else is never going to be beneficial. While it’s never pleasant to hear negative comments about yourself from other people, it’s important to remember that it’s just one opinion out of many and that how you think and feel about yourself matters so much more. 

Put boundaries in place to help protect you from unnecessary comparisons, like limiting who you follow and social media and how much time you spend scrolling. Remember that the empathy you show to others should also be shown to yourself and that nobody is perfect, including all of those people that you’re comparing yourself to.

8. Recite positive affirmations

How you talk about yourself, even inside your own head, is one of the best ways to build high self esteem. Positive affirmations like “I look beautiful today” or “I’m doing the best that I can” may feel far-fetched and unbelievable at first, but after enough repetition, we can guarantee that you’ll start to feel like they’re true. 

Spend some time thinking about what your inner voice is already saying to you and challenge any negative thinking that comes up. Make a list of affirmations that are the opposite of your negative self-talk and set a time each day to look in the mirror and recite them out loud. Whenever you feel yourself slipping back into negative territory, repeat the affirmations several times until you’re no longer thinking about the unhelpful thoughts that you were before.

Invest in yourself by learning how to build self esteem today

Working toward a place of having high self esteem takes time but the long term benefits are worth the hard work that it takes to get there. 

You’ll soon find yourself in a better frame of mind, enjoying a more positive mental health journey, and living the best life that you can.

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