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Tips for building Self-esteem

This page created 22 July 2013

By Priya (ADAVIC Volunteer)

What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the name given to the value we place on ourselves and includes the accompanying thoughts and feelings these evaluations give rise to. For example, people with a healthy self-esteem have a positive view of themselves, and value their qualities and achievements. Having a healthy self-esteem contributes to feeling happy and satisfied.
While it is normal to occasionally lack confidence, people with chronically low self-esteem may experience a  negative opinion of themselves most of the time. This negative opinion of the self tends to result in feelings of sadness and dejection.
It is normal for life experiences to increase or decrease our self-esteem and these changes may be accompanied with strong emotional changes. For example, getting a job promotion can increase self-esteem and positive emotions. Meanwhile, being made redundant may have the opposite effect on self-esteem thereby result in feelings of unhappiness. Whilst such changes in how we feel about ourselves based on life experiences are understandable, chronic low self-esteem can negatively impact many aspects of a person’s life.

Why is self-esteem important?

Self-esteem is important because the way we feel about ourselves determines how we think, act and also relate to other people. Being aware of our self-esteem is important because having a positive view of yourself can contribute to happier emotions, respecting yourself and others, greater confidence, accepting you for whom you are, and enjoying greater overall well-being. Importantly, researchers have found that higher self-esteem is related to greater resilience and problem-solving (Dumont & Provost, 1999). In other words, having a positive view of yourself and your accomplishments makes it easier to “pick yourself up” after a fall. On the other hand low self-esteem may be debilitating for a sufferer. For example, factors associated with low self-esteem may include a fear of trying new things, relationship problems, negative feelings, and a fear of being judged by others. The good news however, is that with committed attention and daily practice, self-esteem can be increased over time.

8 Tips for building self-esteem:
Here are some examples of tips to increase self-esteem:

1.         Notice how you talk to yourself, be kind; often the automatic comments we tell ourselves impact our self-esteem and the way we feel. For example, if we do something wrong and think “I’m always a failure”, we are likely to feel horrible. When such negative thoughts arise try to be supportive, understanding and kind to yourself, especially when you make a mistake.
2.        Challenge negative self-talk;  be aware and question the validity of negative self- talk. For example, when you criticise yourself stop and question the evidence regarding how true this criticism is
3.       Avoid comparing yourself to others; often when we compare ourselves to what others have in their lives we can be left feeling inadequate and unhappy. Acknowledge that we are all unique, whole and complete exactly the way we are.
4.       Keep a journal; recording thoughts about how we respond to the world around us can help reveal unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. By being aware of unhelpful ways of behaving we can then take effort to replace them with new and helpful habits.
5.          Acknowledge and accept what you cannot control; often we worry about things that are out of our control. Instead of continuously worrying about this issue which will not change the situation, we can learn to acknowledge that there are some things we cannot change. Accepting the circumstance can help us move forward.
6.          Have fun; schedule “you” time into your week to do a fun, enjoyable activity. This gives you a chance to   actively do something that you enjoy and that makes you feel happy.
7.         Acknowledge the positive;  often low self-esteem is involved with not acknowledging one’s positive qualities and achievements. Take the time to recognise all the strengths in yourself, your experiences, and your accomplishments. Remind yourself of this often.
8.        Gratitude;  gratitude is the feeling or attitude of recognising the benefits of the good in our self and our life. Gratitude can be extremely powerful because rather than amplifying and thinking about “the negatives”, gratitude enables us to focus and amplify what we are happy for.  Writing or saying out loud what we are grateful for may help focus on the task. These may even be as simple as “I am grateful that the sun is shining, that I have food to eat, that I am able to read and write, that I have a strong support network.” Researchers have found expressing gratitude increases and maintains positive emotions such as happiness (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)

Where to get help?

If you are having trouble improving your self-esteem or if persistent self-esteem is creating anxiety or depression:

  • See your doctor for more information.
  • Beyondblue Info Line Ph: 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline Ph: 13 11 14
  • Relationships Australia (Victoria) Ph: 1300 364 277


  • Dumont, M. & Provost, M.A. (1999). Resilience in adolescents, Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28 (3), 343-363.
  • Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82.


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