How to Build Self-Esteem, Self-Confidence, and Self-Worth

The key to cultivating your own strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth is understanding that it has to come from within.


Good personal hygiene, exercise, a healthy diet, and a tidy wardrobe all can promote self-worth by reminding you that you are worthy of self-care.

© Kerkez | iStock/Getty Images

We live in a culture that tends to undermine true self-esteem and self-worth. In a world where people are actively comparing with others how many designer clothes they have, what kind of car they drive, or how much weight they have lost, it’s easy to feel inadequate.

Messages from the media, celebrities, and politicians also can be confusing because being belligerent, rude, or demanding have been inappropriately linked with standing up for yourself and displaying self-confidence.

In fact, having true self-confidence and self-worth means you don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. You don’t need a fancy car or a high-profile job to feel good about yourself. You understand that you have intrinsic value just because you are a human being on this planet and that you can increase your value by being a positive influence on the world through things like acts of kindness and giving back, not by showing off.

Standing up for yourself comes naturally when you recognize your own self-worth, and you recognize and respect that others have as much worth as you do.

The key to cultivating your own strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth is understanding that it has to come from within. Studies show that if you base them on external factors, such as your grades or approval from others, this only will contribute to unhappiness.

11 Tips to Cultivate Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

With that in mind, Here are 11 tips that can help you effectively build your self-worth and self-esteem:

  • Silence your inner critic: We all have that little voice that tells us we’re not good enough or that we cannot accomplish something. It’s just louder in some of us than others, or some of us have a stronger tendency to listen to it. You can help silence your inner critic by recognizing that it’s not you, nor does it represent your beliefs or any objectively accurate beliefs. It’s usually the result of negative or painful experiences you had in the past. Think of it as totally inaccurate background noise. If you can’t ignore it outright, then talk back with objective truths that discredit these negative messages. Writing them down might help. So, if your inner critic keeps saying, “You never do anything right,” simply write down several things you have done right. Enlist someone to help you if you’re struggling.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: You can’t win this one. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, more popular, or rich-er than you are. Instead, think about what skills, traits, and values matter to you and work toward building those in yourself as best you can.
  • Identify and focus on your strengths: Take the “Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths” test to help you identify your core strengths. Then think of ways to use those strengths in different aspects of your life, to promote your own sense of competence.
  • Take care of yourself: Good personal hygiene, exercise, a healthy diet, and a tidy wardrobe all can promote self-worth by reminding you that you are worthy of self-care.
  • Set realistic goals: Many people sabotage their self-confidence by setting lofty goals and then beating themselves up when they fail to achieve them. Start small. Write down a simple goal that you know you are likely to achieve. Once you accomplish that, try something a little more challenging. Build from there, but don’t sabotage yourself by going overboard with your expectations.
  • Accept mistakes and shortcomings: You will make mistakes, and you will fail at certain things in life. This is simply part of the human experience. Beating yourself up about it serves no purpose and will only make it harder to achieve the next time. All you can do is dust yourself off and try again.
  • Make friends with failure: Failure is and must always be an option. Otherwise, you will prevent yourself from learning new things. It is impossible to achieve anything of value without leaving a trail of failures behind you. Failure is evidence of trying hard and striving to improve, not a fundamental lack of worth. Failure is evidence that it is time to try again.
  • Surround yourself with people who support you: Some people are battling not only an inner critic but an outer one, too. If there is someone in your life who is constantly berating you, it might be time to show that person the door. If that’s not possible, see these tips on dealing with negative people.
  • Be kind to others: Not only do acts of kindness help us feel better about ourselves, but they make others like us more, too, resulting in new sources of positive feedback.
  • Engage in pleasurable activities you are good at: Watching as your skills develop in something you naturally enjoy, such as writing, playing an instrument, or painting, can produce a positive state known as flow, which is discussed more fully in Chapter 4. Even if you don’t attain the Holy Grail of flow, doing things you’re good at is a good confidence booster.
  • Get help if you need it: Many people with chronic low self-worth or self-esteem are suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. These can be difficult to cope with on your own. If you have poor self-worth, you may feel like you don’t deserve to feel any better than you do. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do. Help is out there. Talk to your doctor.

For more information about building self-esteem, purchase Positive Thinking at

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Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

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