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Improving Self-Esteem: Practical Ways

By Joseph W., Licensed & Registered Counsellor

Date: 25 Feb 2023

Self-esteem refers to the overall evaluation or appraisal of one's own worth or value as a person. It is the way we perceive and think about ourselves and can be influenced by a variety of factors such as our experiences, relationships, and cultural background.

Self-esteem can be broken down into two components:

  • Self-worth: This refers to the overall sense of self-worth or value that an individual holds. It is the belief in one's own abilities and characteristics and the sense of being worthy of respect and acceptance.

  • Self-competence: This refers to the belief in one's ability to meet the demands and challenges of life. It is the sense of being capable of handling the demands of daily life, including work, relationships, and personal goals.

Self-esteem can vary from person to person, and it can also fluctuate in an individual over time. High self-esteem is associated with greater self-confidence, resilience, and better mental and physical health. On the other hand, low self-esteem can lead to negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy.

It's important to mention that, self-esteem is not a fixed trait, and it's something that can be improved and developed over time. There are several ways to improve self-esteem, including:

Practicing self-compassion and positive self-talk

Research has shown that self-compassion and individuals who engage in positive self-talk is positively associated with self-esteem (Neff, 2003; Morris & Summer, 2004). Here are a few examples of ways to practice self-compassion:

  1. Self-compassionate self-talk: Instead of criticizing yourself for a mistake or failure, talk to yourself in a kind and understanding manner, as you would to a friend. For example, instead of saying "I'm so stupid for not getting that promotion," try saying "I did my best and it didn't work out this time, but that doesn't define me as a person."

  2. Mindful self-compassion: Take a few minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breath. Bring to mind a difficult or stressful situation and imagine yourself holding yourself in a warm and caring embrace. Repeat a self-compassionate phrase such as "May I be kind to myself" or "May I be at peace."

  3. Self-compassionate letter writing: Write a letter to yourself from a compassionate friend or loved one. Imagine what they would say to you to comfort and support you. Then, take a moment to read the letter and let the words sink in.

  4. Self-compassionate visualization: Close your eyes and imagine a scene in which you are being comforted and supported by a loving and understanding figure, such as a parent, friend, or spiritual guide. Allow yourself to fully feel the comfort and support you receive.

  5. Compassionate self-care: Engage in activities that nourish and support you, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in regular exercise.

Setting and achieving goals

Accomplishing tasks and achieving goals can boost self-esteem (Bandura, 1997). Here are a few examples of setting and achieving goals that could help boost self-esteem:

  1. Identify a specific and measurable goal: For example, instead of saying "I want to be healthier," set a specific goal such as "I want to lose 10 pounds in the next three months."

  2. Break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps: For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in three months, you could break it down into smaller steps such as "I will walk for 30 minutes, five days a week" or "I will eat one serving of vegetables with every meal."

  3. Create a plan of action: Write down the specific steps you will take to achieve your goal, and when you will take them. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you might create a plan that includes walking for 30 minutes five days a week, and eating one serving of vegetables with every meal.

  4. Track your progress: Keep a journal or use a tracking app to monitor your progress towards your goal. This will help you stay motivated and see how far you have come.

  5. Celebrate your achievements: When you reach a milestone or achieve your goal, take time to celebrate your accomplishment. Recognize the effort and dedication you put towards reaching your goal, and reward yourself for your hard work.

Surrounding oneself with supportive people

Having a supportive social network is associated with higher levels of self-esteem (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). A supportive social network is a group of individuals who provide emotional support, encouragement, and validation. Here are a few ways to find a supportive social network:

  1. Join a club or organization: Joining a club or organization that aligns with your interests or hobbies is a great way to meet like-minded individuals who share similar values and interests.

  2. Volunteer: Volunteer opportunities are a great way to meet people who are passionate about similar causes or issues.

  3. Take a class or workshop: Signing up for a class or workshop can help you meet people with similar goals and interests.

  4. Attend networking events: Networking events are a great way to meet professionals in your field and expand your professional network.

  5. Use social media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be a great way to connect with people who share similar interests and values.

It's important to note that, not all social network are supportive, and not all people in your network will be supportive either. It's important to identify the people who are genuinely supportive, and have a positive impact on your life.

Engaging in physical activity

Regular exercise has been linked to increased self-esteem (Biddle, Nettlefold, & Trenell, 2010).


  1. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman.

  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.

  3. Biddle, S. J., Nettlefold, L., & Trenell, M. I. (2010). The psychology of physical activity: Determinants, well-being and interventions. New York: Routledge.

  4. Germer, C. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion. New York: Guilford Press.

  5. Morris, J. A., & Summer, M. A. (2004). The role of self-talk in the regulation of physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1(1), 1–9.

  6. Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223–250.

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