How To Build Self Esteem: Tips And Techniques To Increase Self-Confidence
By: Rachel Lustbader
Updated February 14, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Self-esteem is the phrase used to describe the way we feel about ourselves, especially in relation to other people. Another way to define self-esteem is that it's your opinion of yourself. If you don't value yourself as an individual, learning how to build self-esteem can change your entire life for the better.
Benefits of Building Self Esteem
Saying your life will be better when you have healthy self-esteem may leave you wondering exactly how your life will change. Most of the changes can be sorted into the following categories of benefits:
Higher Self Confidence
When you feel good about who you are, you feel more competent to do the things you need and want to do to have the life that suits you best. You'll make decisions more easily and find it more comfortable to follow through with your choices. You'll try things you've avoided and stop letting fear rule your life.
High self-esteem is one of the most crucial keys to career success. Because it improves your self-confidence, healthy self-esteem prepares you to have the confidence you need to accomplish whatever your boss or prospective employer demands of you. You're less likely to feel stuck in a dead-end job when your self-esteem is high, because you feel you're valuable enough to find a job elsewhere if you decide to do so.
It's very hard to have a strong and happy relationship when you constantly feel inadequate. You may end up relying too much on someone you feel is more confident than you are. You might find it hard to be real with a loved one if you feel embarrassed for others to know the real you. Yet, those same relationships can flourish when you understand how to build your self-esteem. Once you develop a higher opinion of yourself, you can go confidently into your relationship, share who you are in the most intimate ways, and give as much as you receive.
Improved Mental Health
Low self-esteem can be a component of other mental health struggles. Because it generally involves negative thinking about yourself, you may become depressed or anxious as you try to navigate your world without the protection of a healthy respect for who you are. Sometimes low self-esteem can be a result of depression or anxiety.
When your self-esteem is low, it's hard to feel happy. Instead, you may feel sad, hopeless, confused, incompetent, unworthy of love and respect, or not deserving to have good things in your life. Once you learn how to raise your self-esteem, you can make the changes you need to make to feel better about yourself. Then, as you become more self-confident, more successful in your career, more secure in your relationships, and mentally healthier, your happiness will steadily increase.
The Problem with Praise and Affirmations
Decades ago, psychologists and teachers thought that the way to build self-esteem in students was to dole out constant praise. They would look for the smallest thing to praise or sometimes even praise children for things they didn't do well. Unfortunately, the result of all this praise wasn't what they thought it would be. Instead of growing more self-confident, many children became shyer, acted out, or failed scholastically. There were several problems with their theory.
Praise Not Earned
If children didn't have to do anything special to receive praise, they had less motivation to do well. On top of that, children often lost respect for teachers and others who seemed so easily impressed.
What the adults needed to realize was that earning praise for a job well done, a creative idea well-expressed, or a kind and unselfish deed would have gone much farther in helping the children feel good about themselves than praise based on nothing more than the adults' desire to 'cure' the child of low self-esteem. In fact, if the child did something outstanding, they might not even need the praise to build self-esteem.
You're Smarter Than That
How likely are you to accept praise for something everyone does every day without thought? The children of the late 80s and early 90s who received all that excessive praise weren't fooled at all, and chances are, you wouldn't be fooled now, either. The children then, and you now, see through the flimsy praise and understand very well that it isn't real. You see that it's just a ploy to try to raise your self-esteem artificially.
Empty Affirmations Are No Better Than Empty Praise
Have you ever tried to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you're good at something when you aren't? It kind of sticks in your throat, doesn't it? Saying affirmations that you completely disbelieve only makes you feel foolish, pitiful, and sometimes, hopeless. Certainly, you can talk more kindly about yourself. However, trying to build yourself up with empty affirmations leads nowhere fast.
How to Build Self Esteem More Effectively
Right now, you might be wondering how to raise your self-esteem if you can't do it through praise and affirmations. Fair enough. So many people have pushed the praise/affirmation concept that the most effective ways to increase your self-esteem have been largely overlooked. Following are several tips and techniques for how to build self-esteem.
Techniques for Building Self-Esteem
If you're ready to tackle your low self-esteem head-on, the best way to get started is to talk to a therapist. They can help you in many ways, providing help in learning and implementing self-improvement techniques for building your confidence. Here are some of the techniques they might use.
Understand That It's Okay to Think Well of Yourself
Many people have the mistaken notion that liking yourself makes you an arrogant person. They fear that if they value themselves, they will be more likely to hurt someone else or get themselves into trouble. The truth is that you can accomplish more, help others more often, and live a truly honorable life when you have a healthy level of self-esteem. If you find this hard to accept, talking to a counselor can make it easier for you to face and overcome these fears.
Identify the Sources of Your Low Self-Esteem
Many mental health professionals operate under the assumption that children naturally have high self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem, it's thought to be because something happened to you that undermined your positive self-image. So, one of the most crucial tasks you need to accomplish to raise your self-esteem is to address the root causes that your self-esteem isn't as high as it needs to be.
A counselor can help you find those incidents and longer-term situations that contributed to your low self-esteem. As you explore your childhood and more recent past, you may find out exactly when your self-esteem plummeted. Or, you may come to understand how many factors added up to cause your feelings.
With that knowledge in mind, your counselor can go on to teach you techniques for changing the way you think about those past events and situations. For example, if someone told you repeatedly that you were stupid, you can learn to restructure your thoughts to see that the person who made those statements wasn't talking from a sense of the truth but instead using an unhealthy form of communication to vent their anger about something else entirely.
Look at Your Strengths and Weaknesses More Objectively
When you have low self-esteem, you tend to look at the world through a filter of negativity. You can get past your negative view of yourself by seeing your strengths and weakness in a more objective, factual way.
Your counselor may ask you to write down all your strengths and weaknesses as a homework assignment. Then, during the next therapy session, your counselor can help you go through your list to determine how accurately you're seeing each item. Or, the therapist may simply ask you to talk about your strengths and weaknesses and explain why you consider your attitude to be based on the truth.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, your counselor can help you change the way you think and behave. As you think and do what you believe is good and right for you, your self-esteem naturally rises.
DIY Tips to Raise Your Self-Esteem
Getting help with raising your self-esteem can improve your ability to make the major changes you need to have stable, long-lasting results. However, you can also work on this life challenge on your own. Try these do-it-yourself self-esteem-building tips.
Use Positive Words to Describe Yourself
Whether you're talking to others or thinking about your thoughts and behaviors within yourself, negative self-talk reinforces the mistaken notion that you're unworthy of love, friendship, and respect. Instead, try to be as objectively accurate when you speak of yourself. You don't have to use words you'll never believe are true, but you can use words that remind you that you are as worthy of receiving the good things in life as most other people are.
Do Something Worth Being Proud Of
Think of something you could do that would make you proud to be who you are. It doesn't matter what someone else thinks or wants you to do. Do something that has meaning to you. Start with small tasks that you haven't attempted before, either out of fear you'd make a mistake or because you were afraid others wouldn't 'get it.' Then, take that small risk. Do the thing. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment.
Get Support for Your Quest to Improve Your Self Esteem
Share your success with loved ones who know you're struggling to raise your self-esteem and understand how hard it is for you. If none of your friends or family fit that description, get support from a counselor. Finally, celebrate each success and move on to something a little more challenging.
There are many options for counseling in most areas, and online therapy is a unique platform that allows you to message your therapist any time of day or night, and schedule live sessions. Counselors at BetterHelp.com are licensed and have years of experience. With affordable options and thousands of counselors to choose from, you can find someone that fits with you. Whether you choose in person or online therapy, getting started as soon as possible can pay off in significant rewards like a feeling of confidence that translates into a happier, more productive, and more fulfilling life.