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13 Tips to Building Self Esteem

Photo by Kevin Russ
People with high self-esteem are the most desired, and desirable people in society. ~Brian Tracy

Can you recall the last time you were in an emotional slump, such that your beliefs in yourself and your abilities were slipping away? How can we maintain the beliefs we have in ourselves, such that we can live with less anxiety and more joy?

Just imagine the things we would accomplish if we had the belief that we could do absolutely anything, especially if we could maintain a level of self-esteem that no circumstance could shake. What would you be doing?

Self-esteem comes from positive self-imaging, and it is something that we proactively build for ourselves. Self-esteem doesn’t happen while we wait passively. When we leave it up to external factors, we build our self-esteem on sandy ground. What we want is a rock-solid foundation, and this only comes from building it within.

Throughout our daily routines, our minds are very good at picking up all the things we’ve done wrong, and it makes sure we are aware of them. With such a counter-productive force at work, we can benefit greatly by regularly working towards establishing and building our own self image.

I’ve learned that the way we view ourselves directly affects everything we do. People with high self-esteem get along easily with others, rarely get sick, and seem to have high energy reserves. Also, their high level of self-esteem corresponds with their high level of productivity, capacity of happiness and state of well-being.

A Personal Story…

As a style coach, I (Jae) am my own boss – which is a blessing and a curse. Without a manager to report to, deadlines, or set schedules, I am responsible for enforcing these on myself – intrinsically. I must do these things if I want to achieve my professional goals, even though it can feel like a burden at times.

Last month, after several previous hectic months of intense work, I had fallen into a lull. Maybe you can relate with me… It started with a few missed to-do items, then failure to deliver on a few commitments. I could feel the self disappointment building inside. I felt stressed.

I woke up each morning with the thought of making up for the previous day’s failures, only to find myself failing once again. Iin this vicious cycle my work started to accumulate, and for days I needed to push back on obligations and commitments.

I felt the grip on my self-esteem slipping, and was now scrambling to hang on to the remaining scraps of what was left of it. I kept making excuses and rationalizations for why I wasn’t getting stuff done, and as my integrity waned, I started to lose faith in myself and procrastinate even more.

This was me a month ago.

It has been a beautiful learning experience being able to observe myself in this state of mind, and ultimately learning how I overcame it.


A Closer Look

Self-esteem = how much we like ourselves.

How much we like ourselves = level of self-dominion.

What is self-dominion? It is our ability to get ourselves to actually do, what we want ourselves to do; in other words, self-discipline and self-trust.

A person who has dominion over themselves has self-integrity – staying true to their words and commitments.

Every time we fail to listen to our inner voice, and do not take action in something that we need to, we lose trust with ourselves and our abilities. This lack of self faith continues to spiral downwardly as we flounder to fulfill more commitments.


Turning Point: How to Start Building Self-Esteem


Photo: Mike Bailey-Gates

Most of us are familiar with the concept of momentum. When we do something well, regardless of how small the task, we build positive energy and momentum, which can fuel other tasks on our list.

For example, if you have just washed all the dishes, mowed the lawn, and made calls to all of your clients, it will be easier for you – psychologically – to quickly move on to and complete the next task. You will have built the momentum necessary to getting things done, and you are simply riding on that energy and building on previous successes.

On the flip side, when we put off what we want to do or know we should do, we lose momentum, and more importantly, we lose trust in ourselves.

Another way to view this is to pretend we have a personal assistant. The better they perform on the tasks assigned to them, the more confident we will feel towards their abilities to handle responsibility. Gradually, we will assign more important tasks to them as trust is established. We now have faith in their abilities to follow through. We trust them.

Conversely, if our assistant procrastinates and misses deadlines regularly, we will lose faith in their abilities to follow through. We stop trusting them. We stop giving them tasks (at least the important ones), and we start to look for a replacement assistant.

Now, think of ourselves as our own assistant. The more we follow through with actions, the more confidence and trust we’ll establish with ourselves. We will then gain faith in our ability to take on more tasks.

The small wins with ourselves, directly affect how much we like ourselves. Each time we successfully follow through, the experience becomes a building block towards a more positive self image.

13 Tips to Building Self-Esteem

In order to build your self-esteem, you must establish yourself as the master of your own life. Every single minute of your life is a moment you can change for the better.

If you’ve been delaying some action for half the day, don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up for it, shift your focus to the present moment and what you can do right now. Start with the smallest or the most important task.


Photo: Vanessa Paxton

The following are tips to help build continuous upward momentum towards higher self esteem.

1. Start Small

Start with something you can do immediately and easily. When we start with small successes, we build momentum to gain more confidence in our abilities. Each completed task, regardless of how small, is a building block towards a more confident you. What are some small actions you can take immediately to demonstrate that you are capable of achieving goals you’ve set for yourself? For example, clean your desk, organize your papers, or pay all your bills.

2. Create a Compelling Vision

Use the power of your imagination. Create an image of yourself as the confident and self-assured person you aspire to become. When you are this person, how will you feel? How will others perceive you? What does your body language look like? How will you talk? See these clearly in your mind’s eye, with your eyes closed. Feel the feelings, experience being and seeing things from that person’s perspective. Practice doing this for 10 minutes every morning. Put on music in the background that either relaxes you, or excites you. When you are done, write a description of this person and all the attributes you’ve observed.

3. Socialize

Get out of the house or setup a lunch date with a friend. Socializing with others will give us opportunities to connect with other people, and practice our communication and interpersonal skills.

4. Do Something that Scares You

As with all skills, we get better with practice and repetition. The more often we proactively do things that scare us, the less scary these situations will seem, and eventually will be rid of that fear.

5. Do Something You Are Good At

What are you especially good at or enjoy doing? Regularly doing things that you are good at reinforces your belief in your abilities and strengths. I (Tina) can be very efficient with completing errands or administrative work. Whenever I have a few hours filled with ways in which I’ve maximized my time, I feel highly productive and this boosts the confidence have in my abilities as an organized and efficient person.

6. Set Goals

According to a study done at Virginia Tech, 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals. And the people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetime as people who don’t. By setting goals that are clear and actionable, you have a clear target of where you want to be. When you take action towards that goal, you’ll build more confidence and self-esteem in your abilities to follow through.

7. Help Others Feel Good About Themselves

Help somebody or teach them something. When you help other people feel better about themselves and like themselves more, it will make you feel good about yourself. See what you can do to make others feel good or trigger them to smile. Maybe giving them a genuine compliment, helping them with something or telling them what you admire about them.

8. Get Clarity on Life Areas

Get clarity on the life area that needs the most attention. Your self-esteem is the average of your self-concept in all the major areas of your life. Write down all the major categories of your life, e.g., health, relationships, finance, etc. Then rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in each area. Work on the lowest numbered category first, unless they are all even. Each area affects the other areas. The more you build up each area of your life, the higher your overall self-esteem.

9. Create a Plan

Having a goal alone won’t do much. Get clarity on your action items. One of the biggest reasons people get lazy is because they don’t have a plan to achieve their goals. They don’t know what the next step is and start to wander off randomly. When you’re baking a cake, it’s a lot easier to follow a set of clear instructions, than randomly throwing ingredients together.

10. Get Motivated

Read something inspirational, listen to something empowering, talk to someone who can uplift our spirits, who can motivate us to become a better person, to live more consciously, and to take proactive steps towards creating a better life for ourselves and our families.

11. Get External Compliments

As funny as this point suggests, go find a friend or family member and ask them “What do you like about me?” “What are my strengths?” or “What do you love about me?” We will often value other people’s opinions more than our own. We are the best at beating ourselves up for things not done well, and we are the worst at recognizing what we’ve done well in. Hearing from another person our strengths and positive qualities helps to build a more positive image of ourselves.

12. Affirmations & Introspection

Use affirmations, but in the right way. Some people think that when they’re in a slump, using positive affirmations will help them get out of it. I love affirmations, but I’ve realized you have to use them in the right way. Sitting on your couch and saying “I am highly motivated and productive” does nothing. Say something like “I am sitting here being very unproductive right now, is this the ideal me? What would be my best self?” Your affirmations have to be the TRUTH. Once you’re honest, take the first step towards doing the thing, no matter how small.

13. No More Comparisons

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Low-self esteem stems from the feeling of being inferior. For example, if you were the only person in the world, do you think you could have low-self esteem? Self-esteem only comes into the picture when there are other people around us and we perceive that we are inferior. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing. Accept that it’ll serve you more to just go down your own path at your own pace rather than to compare yourself. Pretend you’re starting over and begin immediately with the smallest step forward.

Self-esteem comes from self-dominion. The more power you have in getting yourself to take the right actions, the more self-esteem you will have. Your level of self-esteem affects your happiness and everything you do.

** What did you do the last time you fell into a slump? What has been affective for you in developing your self-esteem? Share your thoughts and stories in the comment section. See you there!

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About the author

Jae Song is a men's style consultant who writes articles for, a men's style development company. He also does 1-on-1 image consultations, contact him via his website for any style-related needs. To read more articles by Jae, subscribe to his blog.

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63 thoughts on 13 Tips to Building Self Esteem

  1. Fantastic fantastic fantastic!!

    In this time when things are at their lowest and so many people are feeling deflated and defeated – this serves as a wonderful guide!

    Thank you!

  2. The last time I was in a slump it seemed that absolutely everything was difficult from finishing my projects in the laboratory to opening a bottle of milk.

    What snapped me out was the sudden realization that all these barriers I thought I was seeing everywhere, had actually been there everyday of my life and weren’t really barriers at all.

    There are difficult things to overcome, but a reality check might reveal that on the hardest days you might be seeing difficulty in things that you have achieved easily in the past.


  3. So true Tina. I’ve found the best thing to get me back on track and excited about getting closer to a goal is first off “chunk down” the task into manageable pieces and then just check the smallest thing off. The momentum starts rolling from there and then it’s off to the races.

    Thanks for the refresher!


  4. Rob

    Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power. ~Clint Eastwood

    To gain the respect of others, it is important to have faith in yourself. This is not an egotistical pride, but modest self respect and faith in your inner capacities. For me self-respects depends on 8 simple points:

    1. Open up
    2. Go for gold, not glory
    3. Don’t tell, show
    4. Let others shine
    5. Have faith
    6. Selectively reveal weaknesses
    7. Ask for feedback
    8. Step back

    A full explination behind each of these points appears on my blog.

  5. “Do something that Scares you”. This is absolutely a valid point that makes us overcome a fearful situation.

    Great Post.

  6. What a great article! I enjoyed it very much. I will try to apply some of the things you mentioned above, definitely.


  7. ‘Self-esteem doesn’t happen while we wait passively”- Tina, these are gold words and I am totally agree with you. Nothing can be worse that sitting in your arm-chair and having no desire to act. Nothing can be worse that to lose belief in yourself. Passiveness leads to emptiness as in your life as in your thoughts. That is why the art of self-esteem should be mastered by all of us, without any exception.

  8. Hi Tina,

    After reading, I very like about “Do something that scares you”. Very inspiring.

  9. Nice one Jae Song! (and Tina too).

    In an email to Tina recently, I told her how I used to be scared, to some degree, in taking risks. But my doing a number of things in this list above (and taking advice like what she dispenses in many of her other articles here), I somehow managed to lose most of my fears.

    I can’t put a finger on exactly why I did, but I noticed the change in myself.

    I think that part of it was that in “playing things safe”, I found that I had lead myself down a path towards being miserably unhappy. I was listening to people who were also very risk averse. I had developed a “brain cloud”.

    Yes, do things that “scare yourself” as often as you can. I started doing that and found out that risk taking rarely results in anything bad happening. Go watch “Joe vs the Volcano” (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan), to learn what a brain cloud is and afterward, ponder what steps you need to take to scare yourself.

    One thing that I developed is an ability to occasionally get myself to do the thing that the people around me are least likely to expect from me. Totally random and funny things. When people start to see a completely new “you”, then you will see yourself as somebody very different as well, and capable of anything. Break away from thinking that you have to meet other people’s expectations. Have fun!

    I’m not necessarily encouraging irresponsibility, but challenge yourself a bit. Some of you may remember that car commercial of the girl in grammar school coloring with the crayons and the teacher crankily giving the instructions, “Stay…within…the lines…” Next the girl smiles and just scribbles all over the page and the image fades to her as an adult in a car driving recklessly adventurously in her red sporty car… Hey! The fun is when you ignore the lines!

    One day, I was in my car (luckily an AWD car), and I saw this massive pile of dirt in the town’s maintenance garage area. It had to be three stories tall and had a path up it from the bulldozer or dump trucks that had been backing up it. I had my two kids in the back seat… I stopped in the middle of the street looked at it and said, “Ya! I can do it!” And I did. I turned into the maintenance facility pulled up to the pile and stepped on the gas, right up to the top. The kids screamed. It was like being on a rollercoaster. The kids looked in fear out their windows, since all they could see was sky on either side and they felt the steep incline. “Woooo! What do you think?! Should we go all the way over!?” They screamed “No! Dad!! Back down!!!!” I wouldn’t have gone over, but I did back down to the bottom and I said, “Let’s do it again!” “No!!!!” I didn’t do it again, but it was fun, and the kids remember it to this day.

    I think this may have something to do with how my daughter, a high school student, dreams of being an astronaut. Her friends tell her how dangerous it is and she’s foolish because it’s really hard. She says, “I can do it and you have to take risks if you want to pursue your dreams, and there are lots of astronauts who have fulfilled their dreams and by the time I’m ready to do it, it will be even safer.”

  10. I’ve been lucky enough to work with quite a few dedicated people, helping them build their self esteem and in my expereince, whilst self belief (which it sounds like you’re suggesting people develop) is important, without another critical factors, it’s almost pointless.

    That factor is self acceptance.

    In my definition, self belief is basing your self worth off your ability to achieve goals. This is great but as soon as you fail to achieve your goals, then your image of your self worth is going to suffer.

    Self acceptance is accepting and loving yourself, regardless of your ability to achieve goals. That way, whilst you can feel good when you complete a task, you won’t feel bad when you don’t.

    But that’s just my experience.

  11. BAM!

    8 months ago I fell into a severe feeling of hopelessness and depression. I literally gave up on all daily life functions except laying on the couch and watching Tv night and day. I couldn’t even sleep in my own bed. I lost weight, I ignored my mail and phone calls. I was absent!
    I too have my own business in the garment design industry, which is one of the more disorganized and least structured types of fields to work in. I knew without my attempt to work i would simply stop creating income for myself. I truly for the first time in my life at the age of 34 did not know who I was nor what I wanted to do. Since I was 7 years old I always had a clear vision of what I will become “a fashion designer.” The fact that suddenly I began asking myself “what is my passion, what am I good at?” was a terrifying feeling to me. Everything changed from an extremely busy schedule and endless daily tasks to pure silence and crickets. It was a very dark place. That designer who once lived within me with passion, imagination and drive to create suddenly died. It was devastating.
    Luckily the one good thing going for me was therapy sessions every Friday night. After 6 months of what I call “emotional coma,” with the amazing help of my therapist and anti depressants “Buproprion” to be exact; I began to slowly come out of the fog. I began to open my mail box and pay my bills. I began to leave the house again. I began to eat more than 1 meal a day and gain some of the weight I lost. I began to feel human again step by step. Even though the recession was still kicking my business in the ass, I was still able to become and remain optimistic. I rebuilt the belief of positive thinking, that the doors will open again and my faith began to grow stronger. I started to work out again and results in my body started to show. I wouldn’t say I am the happiest person on earth, but I am more content than disappointed in myself and my life than that dar time of what felt like an early mid life crisis! I was always against popping mood altering pills and resisted the idea as long as I could, but I realized that it was necessary when I could no longer get off the couch and take a shower. I need to at least function again. Today I have good days and bad days but at least I am able to perform what I set up as my responsibilities. I still suffer with low self esteem but it is not the end of the world if I feel that way, I am able to tune out and do something like go to the gym, or cook a nice meal. I am functioning again, I am creating projects for myself that are opening new doors. I am working on feeling better about myself. I will be 35 tomorrow and feel the need to cleanse mind, soul and body. I am hoping to spend the day in some form of meditation.

    Thank you for this wonderful article I found a lot of value in every paragraph written. I will always go back to this and read it to remember that I need to work on my self esteem in order to grow it.

    Ps. my apologies for any potential typos, my fingers were racing on the keyboard. :)

  12. Mina

    Thanks. This is really helpful :)

  13. amy

    thankyou! this has given me so much hope :)

  14. Agustine

    This information has been helpful in my project assignment. However how do i reference the author

  15. aryan

    I needed an article for my behavior modification project and this was it. thank you soooooo much for posting buy using these 13 steps my confedience has increased a lot. god bless you

  16. Jennifer

    Great article!!! I read articles (like this one) for a boost when I need to find inspiration and motivation. For me staying positive and upbeat can sometimes be a lonely walk. Volunteering your time and skills to those who are less fortunate can also be a great way to build your self-esteem. (I volunteer every so often at a local soup kitchen.) Being in the service of others can be humbling, grounding, and serve as a welcome reminder that the world is bigger than us as individuals. Also helps to remember everyone we meet, every day is going through something challenging.

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