Self-Confidence Counseling: How A Therapist Can Improve Your Esteem

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people live with low self-esteem or experience feelings of low self-esteem within their lifetime. Low self-esteem can impact self-confidence and life satisfaction. Thus, some people feel they don’t have the motivation or insight to set boundaries, meet their goals, improve their self-image, or take positive risks. 

In these cases, a self-confidence counselor can help clients learn to improve their self-esteem through research-backed techniques and compassionate guidance. This article explores how self-confidence counseling may be able to improve self-esteem issues, reduce negative beliefs, and improve a person’s life.

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What is self-confidence?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), self-confidence is the trust you have in your own abilities, judgment, and capability. This attribute is often discussed as a positive quality. It might be used in a social or professional setting to describe someone’s capacity to take leadership or hold themselves confidently in front of others. 

It might look like the following:  

  • Accepting your understanding of the situation, even when others don’t 
  • Being assertive
  • Standing up for yourself and others
  • Believing in your ability to meet goals
  • Having a healthy self-esteem
  • Apologizing when necessary, but not over-apologizing
  • Asking for help when it would benefit you 
  • Trying again when you don’t succeed the first time
  • Setting realistic goals 
  • Prioritizing your mental health 
  • Taking healthy risks
  • Recognizing that you can grow and change
  • Knowing your strengths and areas for improvement
  • Having a solid sense of self 
  • Working for your own desires instead of other people’s expectations 

Self-confidence can be beneficial in the workplace, school, or interpersonal relationships. It can also help you defend yourself by allowing you the confidence to say “no” and set boundaries

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a neutral term to describe how you see yourself. Your self-esteem can be low, average, or high, depending on your thought patterns, beliefs, and self-care activities. Someone with low self-esteem might believe they are incapable of meeting their goals, have no redeeming qualities, or are unattractive, for example. 

Low self-esteem affects many areas of a person’s life. For example, they may not have a realistic sense of how other people view them and they may view their life experiences through a more judgemental lens. 

Conversely, someone with high self-esteem might feel they can succeed, are beautiful inside and out, and can function independently while maintaining healthy relationships. They may have a secure attachment style and feel comfortable setting boundaries that keep them safe. In addition, they may have a lot of self-confidence. 

Some may believe that high self-esteem means you’re “stuck up” or “full of yourself.” On the contrary, high self-esteem is positive and healthy. It’s often the result of positive early childhood experiences and healthy development of core beliefs. 

Someone who acts as if they are better than others or has narcissistic tendencies often has low self-esteem. These individuals may use outward displays of negative behavior to hide their inner self-loathing. Studies indicate that many individuals with a narcissistic personality have a low sense of self-worth, low self-esteem, low self-respect, and little trust in themselves.

How can a therapist improve low self-esteem and mental health?

A stigma exists that tells us therapy is only for those with mental illness. This isn’t the case, though. Therapy can be a beneficial resource for various challenges, including low self-confidence and self-esteem.

Mental health professionals often use methods like narrative therapy and minfulness techniques to improve their client’s self-esteem. 

Below is an in-depth look at a few ways a therapist might help you build self-confidence and self-esteem:

Reducing negative self-talk

Low self-esteem is often linked to negative self-talk, an inner dialogue made up of thoughts or feelings that are counterproductive to one’s well-being. These thoughts might come from messages you’ve heard as a child or expectations you’ve put on yourself due to what you perceive to be “correct” or “acceptable.”

Negative self-talk might feel harmless, but it can have a significant impact on your self-esteem and even relationship satisfaction. Studies have found that athletes who engage in positive thinking and self-talk perform better than those who indulge in negative self-talk before performing. 

When you believe in yourself and are ready to take on challenging tasks, you might be more likely to achieve your goals than if you tell yourself you’re useless and can’t move forward. This can help you have a more realistic sense of your capabilities. 

Although self-talk might not impact the outcome of every scenario, it can play a part. A therapist can help you reframe these negative thoughts. If your thoughts cause significant distress or feel uncontrollable, your therapist can help you develop strategies to reduce or prevent them.

Identifying cognitive distortions

Negative self-talk and low self-esteem often involve forms of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are maladaptive beliefs that people may form from childhood or through interaction with others. They might involve patterns like the following:

  • “Should” statements
  • Black-and-white thinking
  • Labeling 
  • Personalization or self-blame
  • Mental filtering
  • Overgeneralization
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Catastrophizing 

A therapist can help you identify cognitive distortions and reframe them using a process called cognitive restructuring and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Maladaptive thoughts are commonly expressed in popular media and may be repeated by family members. Understanding why and when they occur may help reduce the impact they have on your self-esteem. 

Understanding self-compassion

Self-compassion is another skill you can learn about in therapy as you work toward greater self-esteem and wellness. There are several techniques therapists might use to help you develop compassion for yourself on your journey toward improving self-esteem. Some examples include mindfulness, deep breathing, gratitude exercises, commitment therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, or journaling. 

One study on the practice of meditation found that it can significantly increase self-compassion in those who practiced it while also improving physical health. In addition, self-compassion is associated with mental well-being, happiness, optimism, connectedness, and decreased anxiety and depression.

Exercises in therapy

If you want to improve self-confidence over time, your therapist can lead you through self-confidence exercises during your session. For example, you might practice public speaking, roleplay an intimidating conversation, or experiment with facial expressions and body posture. Your therapist can help you set goals for what type of confidence you want to form through these exercises. 

Some people might feel self-confidence in some situations but not others. For example, they could feel comfortable with their academic or professional abilities. However, when it comes to socializing, the same person may struggle to get words out and come across confidently. A therapist can personalize your treatment plan to work on the specific type of self-confidence you want to gain. 

Setting and meeting goals

Low self-confidence may come from difficulty with time management, meeting goals, or caring for oneself. A therapist can help individuals develop behavioral strategies to increase motivation such as a sticker chart, for example. Although it might sound juvenile, a visual aid such as a sticker chart may help you motivate yourself to complete tasks. 

Reducing pressure 

Pressuring yourself to complete a task or change your mindset immediately can be harmful. This is natural for human beings. Many people require time and patience to unlearn the thought patterns they’ve picked up throughout life. In addition, telling yourself you “should” or “need to” complete a task might cause you to want to do it less. 

This phenomenon can be seen in the feeling a child might experience when their parents tell them they must clean their room. Even if they wanted to clean their room before, they might feel less motivated once told they must do it. Studies have identified this phenomenon in both children and adults, finding that people are more likely to complete a task if they’re told not to do it or not pressured to do it. 

To increase self-confidence and build self-esteem, your therapist can help you take pressure off yourself by leading you through an exercise in self-compassion and patience. When you have a task to complete, try telling yourself not to complete it while going about your day. You might notice that your motivation to complete it changes once the pressure is gone. 

An exercise for you to do at home 

When you lack confidence, it can be challenging to see self-confident people in the media and in your personal life. This may cause you to want to make immediate changes, but you may not know where to begin. There are ways you can practice self-confidence at home in conjunction with therapy sessions for quicker results. Below is a potentially fun self-help activity you can try daily: 

  1. Write the letters A-Z on pieces of paper and add them to a jar or bowl. 
  2. Pick out three to five pieces of paper each day and come up with positive adjectives that describe yourself starting with each letter. 
  3. Write these adjectives in a gratitude journal and explain why you believe they describe you.
  4. If you can’t come up with any adjectives that describe you, choose five adjectives that you would want to describe you in an ideal situation. 
  5. Write down the adjectives you would want to describe you and think of one way you can work toward those goals today.  

Below is an example using the letters A, E, and G: 

  • Elegant (E): I believe I am elegant because I felt beautiful in my dress today. 
  • Attentive (A): I was attentive when I noticed a patient’s symptoms at work and was able to diagnose them correctly. 
  • Generous (G): I am generous because I think about how I can help others. 
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Benefits of online therapy

Self-confidence can be challenging to develop on your own. If you think counseling could benefit you, there are several avenues to consider. Some people prefer in-person therapy because they like to see their providers sitting across the room from them. However, if you don’t have time for regular therapy or can’t afford sessions, you can also try online counseling. 

With platforms like BetterHelp, clients can find a provider that meets their preferences upon signing up. In addition, they can receive counseling over the phone, via video, or through live messaging software. These methods may be more available for those looking for cost-effective counseling, and it may be easier to work on self-esteem and self-confidence in a familiar environment where you feel safe. 

Studies support the effectiveness of online therapy. One such study found that online counseling was associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in self-esteem. These results were maintained at the six-week follow-up, and results were promising for future online therapy studies. 


Self-confidence and self-esteem are often interconnected. If you’re looking for ways to improve either, you might benefit from talking to a therapist. There are hundreds of therapeutic modalities you can try that are explicitly focused on growing your self-worth. Contact a licensed BetterHelp counselor for further guidance and information on how to get started.
You are deserving of positive self-esteem
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