Self-esteem is a popular topic these days, with even parenting guides encouraging parents to start young in encouraging their children’s self-esteem.
It’s not hard to see why — people with a good sense of self-esteem consistently have better mental health and are happier and more successful.
But what happens when you don’t have a high self-esteem? It’s not too late.
When you struggle with low self-esteem, improving your sense of self-worth can be a journey that takes both time and dedication.
However, there are things you can do right now to get you started on that journey. Below are 12 simple activities that you can do to boost your self-esteem today.
1. Make Yourself a Priority
From the time we are young, we are taught that putting other’s needs before our own is a virtue, while prioritizing your own needs is selfish. However, you can’t have a good sense of self-esteem if you don’t make your own needs a priority.
So what does prioritizing your own needs look like in the real world? It means meeting your own needs instead of ignoring them for the sake of others.
This can be easier said than done, especially if you are a parent or work in a demanding work environment, but when you recognize that your own needs have value, you begin to realize that you yourself have value.
2. Stop Being a People Pleaser
As Aesop once said, “He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.” This includes yourself — if you spend your whole life trying to please everyone, you won’t find personal happiness.
That is because people pleasers have an unfortunate habit of making everyone else a priority over themselves and pretending to be someone other than their authentic selves.
As you can imagine, pretending to activities that you actually can’t stand or pretending to possess certain qualities you don’t actually have in order to get others to accept you can have a negative effect on your self-esteem.
You are, in essence, telling yourself that you aren’t good enough. The next step towards boosting your self-esteem, then, is forgetting what others want you to be and being your own authentic self.
3. Find Yourself
If you’ve spent your whole life ignoring your own needs and pretending to be someone else in order to please others, you may not know what your authentic self actually is. This is your chance to figure that out!
Turn your gaze inwards and analyze what really drives you and brings you joy. It may feel strange at first, but there is no wrong emotion in this scenario — all are an important step towards authenticity and increased self-esteem.
4. Watch Your Self Talk
Part of developing a healthy self-esteem requires analyzing how you talk to yourself.
We all talk to ourselves in some way, whether out loud or just in our heads, and the language we use can be a significant insight into how we view ourselves. Negative self-talk (i.e. calling yourself ugly or unlikeable) creates a feedback loop where your self-esteem drops, which leads to more negative self-talk, and so on.
The most effective way to break the cycle is to counter that negative self-talk through being kind and positive towards yourself.
Anytime something negative pops into your mind, counteract those thoughts by writing down something positive (i.e. a list of your positive attributes) until positive self-talk becomes a habit.
5. Don’t Beat Yourself up over Your Mistakes
As humans, we are frequently harder on ourselves than we are on our loved ones. Unfortunately, many of us view our mistakes as personal or even moral failures.
The thing is, we are all human, and all humans make mistakes. Instead of dwelling on your mistakes as some sort of personal punishment, try to view these mistakes as opportunities to improve yourself. Just by changing your way of thinking, you can boost your self-esteem.
6. Acknowledge Your Successes
On the flip side, you should also recognize your achievements. It is common for many of us to downplay our successes.
We say “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone could do it.” This leads to feelings that we haven’t achieved much with our lives, hurting self-esteem.
If you want to boost your self-esteem, you should celebrate your successes. Think about the person you were just a few years ago, and recognize how much you have grown and changed.
Write your successes down and as time goes on you’ll be amazed at how much you have accomplished.
7. Be Grateful
Cultivating a healthy sense of self-esteem also involves the ability to be grateful for what you have. Some individuals tie their entire sense of self-worth in what they have, but someone else will always have more than you do, whether it’s more money, better looks, etc.
Instead of getting caught up in what you don’t have that others do, focus on what it is that you do have. Be grateful. When you focus on being grateful for the things that you do have, you start to feel happier with your life and more self-assured.
8. Nurture a Positive Attitude
A lot of changing your self-talk, emphasizing your successes over your failures, and being grateful has to do with maintaining a positive attitude. Such an outlook can be difficult to cultivate, as our brains naturally tend to dwell on the negative instead of the positive.
The first step towards nurturing a positive attitude is to associate with positive people. Negative people can only bring you down to their level. Positive people can only help you improve.
9. Commit to Your Decisions
Another way to cultivate positivity in your life is to fully commit to your decisions.
Once you have decided on a course of action, don’t waste your energy on self-doubt and second-guessing yourself. Use that energy to do the necessary research and work to see your task through.
When you give in to self-doubt and second thoughts, you are telling yourself that you don’t view yourself as a competent adult capable of making the right decisions and successfully completing a task.
As such, committing yourself to your decisions boosts your self-esteem by eliminating those doubts and insecurities.
10. Learn How to Say No
Another aspect of making yourself a priority and committing to your decisions is learning how to say no in a decisive yet respectful way. When you learn how to say no, you teach others that your boundaries are to be respected and that you won’t be taken advantage of.
One of my favorite quotes from the late Steve Jobs emphasizes the importance of saying no:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Substitute focus for happiness and you’ve got a winning strategy for life, not just business.
By teaching others to respect your boundaries, you affirm to yourself that you are allowed to have needs and boundaries. You also avoid getting stuck with tasks that drain your energy and sense of positivity.
11. Be Generous to Others
Making your needs a priority and learning how to say no to the things you don’t want to do doesn’t mean that you have to shut others out in order to build up your own self-esteem.
In truth, humans are social creatures and a lack of meaningful human connections can severely impact your self-esteem.
For many people, helping others gives them a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
If you have the time and the means, give to charity, volunteer your time to a cause you feel passionate about, or even give blood at the local blood bank.
12. Love Yourself
At the end of the day, a person with high self-esteem is a person who loves himself. This doesn’t mean loving yourself as Narcissus loved his reflection, but rather loving yourself as a person who has value and worth.
When you love yourself, you lead a healthier life. You take care of your body by exercising regularly, eating the right food, and you take care of your mind with positive talk and a healthy social life.
In short, even if you currently don’t have a high sense of self-esteem, there are simple steps that you can take to start developing a strong sense of self-esteem today.
Some of these twelve activities might not be easy at first due to ingrained habits developed over a lifetime, but if you consistently practice these actions every day they will start to become second nature and you will start to see an improvement in your self-esteem.
by Daniel Fries
Daniel Fries is an entrepreneur and writer. He is the co-author of two highly-cited papers in the field of translational oncology research. Dan’s diverse background includes positions as a research associate at OSI Pharmaceuticals, an associate scientist at Medtronic Cardiovascular, and research scientist at both the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and the Meyerson Lab at Dana Farber of Harvard Medical School. Currently, Dan manages and operates a portfolio of internet companies, and has partnered with Wired Investors to help grow the company the in the rapidly expanding micro-private equity space. Dan holds a BS/BA in molecular biology and Spanish from the University of Michigan. He speaks Spanish fluently and currently splits most of his time in between startup incubators in Chicago, Saigon, and Mexico City. He is fascinated by the potential of exponential technologies in both biotech and cryptocurrency.
Fries, D. (2018). 12 Simple Activities You Can Do to Start Building Self Esteem Today. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 11, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/12-simple-activities-you-can-do-to-start-building-self-esteem-today/
Scientifically Reviewed Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 19 Jun 2017) Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018