This article describes what self esteem is, how to identify high and low self esteem, and what people can do to improve their self esteem.
The meaning of self esteem can vary dramatically from person to person. Whether one relates it to body image, intelligence levels, personal success, or anything in between, the essence of self esteem remains the same: “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself” (Merriam-Webster). At its core, it is how we feel about ourselves.
People with high self esteem tend to appreciate themselves and others more, have loving healthy relationships, enjoy personal growth and discovery, and place an importance on self care and taking care of themselves.
People whose self esteem is low or impaired tend to be more judgemental, feel angry, frustrated, and/or ashamed about who they are. They often fear rejection, lack healthy intimate relationships, and display increased signs of jealousy, codependency, and perfectionism. Low self esteem may also cause a person to avoid new experiences, feel inadequate or extremely vulnerable to the opinions and criticisms of others, and experience increased feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression.
If you identify more with the latter description, you are not alone. Many people’s self esteem dips low at some point (sometimes many points) in their life. Research done by the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report found that 4 out of 5 women in Australia report low self esteem and body image. There is a lot of sound information on how to improve self esteem. This also means that there are a lot of different practices and techniques that allow one to gain a high self esteem. What has worked for others may not work for you, so it is important not to be discouraged if something you try does not work out and instead re-evaluate and try another practice.
The four techniques listed below (in no particular order) are some of the best methods for increasing your self esteem.
Being Mindful: Identifying Negative Self Talk
Becoming aware and bringing recognition to our negative self talk can allow us to realize that our negative thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. It is important to identify our negative thoughts and replace them with something positive and reinforcing. For example, if your negative thoughts are saying, “I am so lazy” after spending the weekend relaxing instead of working, replace them with more positive self talk like, “I listened to my body’s messages and took a break” or “I will be well rested for the upcoming work week because I listened to my body.” Identifying negative self talk can also be taken a step further by challenging these negative thoughts. Every time you have a negative thought about yourself, think of all the reasons why that it is untrue and write them down on a piece of paper that you can then read any time you want.
Identify What You Like About Yourself
Keeping a list of all the things that you do like about yourself, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem, can be very beneficial for self esteem. Whether it’s that you are great at making muffins or you have amazing math skills, creating a positive internal dialogue is a vital step in improving self esteem. By designing a list like this, you can refer back to it when your self esteem is low and remind yourself of what makes you great.
Using Positive Affirmations
Reciting positive affirmations are a great way to improve self esteem. Research suggests that when using positive affirmations consistently, brain pathways will become altered, leading to positive thoughts being easier than negative ones.
Choosing self esteem affirmations may be a difficult task as there are so many of them out there. Identifying negative self talk can help narrow down your search as you can then choose affirmations that are the exact opposite. For example, if you often think “I am not good enough” you may choose positive affirmations like “I am enough” or “I love myself” to counteract these negative thoughts.
Positive affirmations can be said aloud as part of a routine, written in a journal, or used when you need an extra boost. I love myself, I am confident, I am enough, I am successful, and I matter are all great affirmations to start you off.
Get Your Body Moving
Exercise has been proven countless times to improve mental health, but it also has been proven to improve self esteem. A study done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that regular exercise could have a positive effect on self esteem. It can help improve body image and mood and can provide a sense of accomplishment.
Improving self esteem can be accomplished through time and commitment. By working at it each day and making small improvements in your life, you will improve your self esteem.
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• Abrams, Allison. “8 Steps to Improving Your Self-Esteem.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/8-steps-improving-your-self-esteem
• “Affirmations to Improve Self-Esteem & Confidence.” Lifestance Health, 23 Nov. 2020,
• Campbell, Leigh. “4 In 5 Women Have Low Self Esteem. Here’s What We Can Do About It.” HuffPost Australia, HuffPost Australia, 2 Aug. 2016, huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/08/01/four-in-five-australian-women-have-low-self-esteem_a_21443099
• Milne, Lucinda. “Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem.” Counselling Directory, Counselling Directory, 11 July 2018, counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/characteristics-of-low-self-esteem
• “How Does Exercise Affect Your Self-Esteem?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group,
• Mutiwasekwa, Sarah-Len. “10 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Sept. 2020, psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-upside-things/202009/10-ways-boost-your-self-esteem
• “Self-Esteem.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-esteem
• Valencia, Carla. “25 Low Self Esteem Characteristics and Symptoms.” Self Esteem, 14 Apr. 2021, selfesteemawareness.com/25-low-self-esteem-characteristics
By Hilarapy Editorial Staff.
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