52 Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem

 by Allison Salituro, PhD

An unhealthy self-esteem is toxic.  It can make you a less productive employee, ruin your relationships, and make you feel depressed.  If you feel like you don’t deserve happiness, a good job, or love, you will seek out or settle for less.  Not knowing what you deserve can prevent you from pursuing or taking in good things when they come along.


Improving our self-esteem is complicated—it’s not a simple matter of daily affirmations.  We have to believe in our improved value, which might take action on our part.  And though the approval of others helps, self-esteem is self-validation, not validation by others.


In approximately one month, we will be starting exercise programs and diets to lose holiday weight, or making New Year’s resolutions.  Here is one thing you can practice for each week of 2011 to improve your self-esteem:


1.        Make some time in your day to reflect.  You will never improve your self-worth if you are constantly performing on-the-go; your performance will never be your best!

2.        Take an inventory of your negative beliefs about yourself.  Try and determine where your negative beliefs came from.

3.        Think about why you still continue to believe the negative beliefs about yourself.

4.        Come up with a list of facts supporting or refuting the negative beliefs.  Rate them on a scale of 1 to 100 of how strongly you believe them.

5.        Come up with a list of more realistic beliefs about yourself. Adapt your negative voice from “I am lousy at my job” to “I did not finish college, and I am naturally not as sharp as the guy in the next cubicle.”

6.        Silence your negative voice.  Every time you are harsh and judgmental toward yourself, say out loud “I don’t deserve to be treated that way.”

7.        If you’re not happy with your life, do something about it.  Think about what your purpose in life is.

8.        Develop a goal about your purpose in life (setting goals and reaching them is a way to keep lasting happiness and self-esteem).

9.        Make your goal realistic and measurable, and set a deadline.

10.     Break your goal down into easy, attainable steps or smaller goals.

11.     Find pictures that represent your goals, or come up with an action plan and post them.

12.     Stay positive about the goals; if something gets in your way, see it as a challenge or as feedback that your goal needs to be revised.

13.     Help someone else.  Volunteering or helping others makes you feel better about yourself, what you have to contribute, and sometimes gives you perspective on what you have.

14.     Take better care of yourself.  When you feel better about yourself, you take better care of yourself.  When you take better care of yourself, you feel better about yourself.

15.     Pretend to be more confident.  “Fake it until you make it.”  Self-esteem can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

16.     Surround yourself with positive people. 

17.     Make a list of toxic or negative people in your life.  Try to change your relationship with these people.

18.     Minimize your contact with these negative people.  You can’t change anyone else.  You can decide what you will and won’t listen to, however. 

19.     Create a support system for yourself to deal with negative people.

20.     Cut negative influences to your self-esteem out of your life.

21.     Lose the victim mentality.  Think of yourself as a “survivor.”

22.     Decide to get rid of guilt.

23.     Take calculated risks, where you are more guaranteed to succeed.  Keep challenging yourself.

24.     Resolve past issues.  Figure out where things went wrong, talk to people to right these wrongs, or decide to lay these issues to rest.

25.     Forgive yourself. 

26.     Don’t hold onto past mistakes in shame.  Rather, use them as a tool or guide—learn from them.  The real cost of a mistake is not in the making if it, but by neglecting to learn from it.

27.     Accept your weaknesses as “personality characteristics” that have pros and cons.  Capitalize on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of them.  When you see and accept your flaws, you are not blind to a sneak attack by others.

28.     Stay positive about the future and persevere.

29.     Try not to take everything personally.  A famous quote summarized is that “we see others not as they are but as we are.”  Often someone else’s feedback has more to do with them than us.

30.     Understand that there are many differences between people.  You may be judged by others due to cultural misunderstandings, etc.  Look for the commonality and the validity in another’s point of view.

31.     Celebrate small victories.

32.     Practice visualization; visualize yourself being successful, confident, and actively living with a healthy self-esteem.

33.     Face and take responsibility for your mistakes in the past.  Own your actions in the future.  You disempower yourself for blaming others for the results of your actions.

34.     Find a way to learn from constructive criticism.

35.     Lose perfectionism: make your goals more realistic, take time to enjoy daily accomplishments, learn to forgive yourself for mistakes

36.     Forgive others who have hurt you.

37.     Promote and validate yourself.  It is not conceited to publicly admit the things you have done well.

38.     Save and review positive memorabilia from others.  Pull out old “thank you” cards or e-mails that made you feel good.

39.     Try not to worry about what others think of you.  Don’t be concerned about fitting in.

40.     Try to be yourself no matter where you are.

41.     Take some time to allow for creativity.

42.     Try something different.

43.     Think of yourself as someone deserving of love and nurturance and do one new thing for yourself.

44.     Give something to someone else (e.g., time or a listening ear), it will make you feel better about yourself.

45.     Make choices that improve your well-being.

46.     Practice integrity.  Try to act within your own value system and moral code.

47.     Develop a sense of humor about the negative things in your life.

48.     Take a compliment.

49.     Say “no” or say “I’ll get back to you on that” about something.

50.     Look at your list from number 4.  See if you have made progress in your 1-to-100 ranking.

51.     Start seeing a therapist who helps you feel good about yourself.

52.     Be patient with yourself, self-esteem takes time and practice.


Several of these ideas were adapted from The Everything Self-Esteem Book by Robert M. Sherfield.