How to increase your self-esteem

Explains how to increase your self-esteem, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Your stories

When low self-esteem sneaks up on you

Beth blogs about her sudden experience of intensely low self-esteem and how she managed to cope.

Posted on 22/09/2014

Peace, prejudice and pugilism

Kate blogs on how joining a women’s boxing club increased her confidence and helped her tackle prejudice.

Kate Lee
Posted on 16/10/2015

How to improve your self-esteem

Our self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. If you have low self-esteem you may feel:

  • like you hate or dislike yourself
  • worthless or not good enough
  • unable to make decisions or assert yourself
  • like no one likes you
  • you blame yourself for things that aren't your fault
  • guilt for spending time or money on yourself
  • unable to recognise your strengths
  • undeserving of happiness
  • low in confidence.

Having little self-belief can stop you from living the life you want to live. If you think your low self-esteem is impacting on your life, take a look at our tips on improving your self-esteem:

Is low self-esteem a mental health problem?

Having low self-esteem isn't a mental health problem in itself, but the two are closely linked. 

Some of the experiences of low self-esteem can also be symptoms of mental health problems, such as:

  • feeling hopeless
  • blaming yourself unfairly
  • hating yourself
  • worrying about being unable to do things.

If lots of things are affecting your self-esteem for a long time, this may lead to a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety.

Having a mental health problem can cause you to have low self-esteem, which can make it more difficult to cope or take steps to increase your self-esteem.

It's that critical voice inside my head that makes me second-guess everything; what I've said, what I've done, how capable I am.

Think about what is affecting your self-esteem

What affects our self-esteem differs for everyone.

Your confidence may have been lowered after a difficult experience or series of negative life event, such as:

  • being bullied or abused
  • losing your job or difficulty finding employment
  • ongoing stress
  • physical illness
  • mental health problems
  • a difficult relationship, separation or divorce

Or you may have had low self-esteem for as long as you can remember. If this is the case, it can be hard to recognise how you feel and make changes to challenge your low self-belief.

My self esteem has almost disappeared.... I don't know how to interact with people anymore and find it hard to enjoy the things that I like.

But whatever the cause, it can be helpful to remind yourself that you have the right to feel good about who you are. It can be difficult to break habits but there are steps you can take to feel better about yourself, bit by bit.


Watch Nathan, Hannah, Helen, Rishi and Georgina talk about their experiences of low self-esteem, including how it feels, what's helped them and how their friends and family can help.

Avoid negative self-talk

You might automatically put yourself down.

But learning to identify and challenge your negative self-beliefs can have a positive impact on your self-esteem. It can helpful to ask yourself: "would I talk to, or think about a loved one in such a negative way?"

I criticise myself in a way I wouldn't dream of doing to others.

Self-help resources like Mood Gym can help you to think about the way you view yourself and get you into the habit of thinking and saying positive things about yourself.

I find social media can be a bit of a minefield.

It can be difficult to avoid comparing ourselves unfavourably to others, especially when we're surrounded by images of celebrities and people on social media.

But try to remember that what people choose to share about their life isn't the full picture and comparing ourselves isn't realistic.

Connect with people who love you

It's easy to feel bad about yourself if you spend time with people who treat you badly or don't appreciate you.

Make a conscious effort to spend more time with people who love you and treat you like you expect to be treated. This can help you to feel good about yourself and challenge your negative thinking.

Talking to loved ones about how you feel can help you to reassess how you view yourself. Ask them what they like about you - it's likely that they see you differently to how you see yourself.

​I try to remind myself it's ok not to be perfect. My family remind me of the things I've done right - this really helps.

Learn to be assertive

When you don't like yourself, it's easy to assume others won't like you either. You may find you go out of your way to help others as you feel it's the only way they'll like you. It can make you feel even worse if this help isn't reciprocated.

A good deed is great but over stretching yourself to please others can leave you with less energy to focus on yourself and can affect your mental health.

You could try the following to increase your confidence:

  • learn to say "no" - take a breath before automatically agreeing to do something you don't want to
  • set boundaries around how much you do for other people
  • take control of your own decisions

At first you might find it difficult to break these habits but making small changes to be more assertive can feel liberating and gets easier the more you do it.

The organisation Mind Tools provide further tips on assertiveness on their website.



Read Kate's blog on how joining a women’s boxing club has increased her confidence and helped her to fight prejudice.

Set yourself a challenge

Find something you like doing and do more of it.

You could take up a hobby, join a class or volunteer your time for something you feel passionate about.

At times it can be hard to find the motivation to set goals for yourself, especially when you don't feel confident or worry about what other people may think. But it doesn't have to be something big.

Making small goals such as trying a recipe or learning the days of the week in a new language can help you to feel more positive about yourself.

Focus on 'small wins' - don't chase big achievements. Do the little things and use it as a springboard. Whatever you can do be proud of it!

And try to remind yourself you don't have to be perfect at it to enjoy yourself.

Joining a new group is also a great way of meeting people you have something in common with. See our page on loneliness for tips on connecting with others.

Watch Louise's video on how she took on the couch to 5k challenge and how it's boosted her mind and body.

Focus on your positives

You may automatically think you're not good at something. This may stop you from doing the things you enjoy or trying new things, which can make you feel worse about yourself.

Why not try to:

  • celebrate your successes without belittling them. No matter how small they may seem to you, take time to praise yourself and reflect on what you did well.
  • accept compliments. Make a note of them to look over when you're doubting yourself.
  • write a list of what you like about yourself. You could include aspects of your personality, your appearance and what you like doing. If you're finding it difficult, ask a friend or loved one to help you.

Focusing on my favourite parts of myself really helped me to have a more positive view on myself and improve my self esteem.

Take care of yourself

If you have low self-worth it can be difficult to find the motivation to take care of your physical health. You may even feel guilty about spending time on yourself, but it's important for your mental wellbeing.

Think about how some of the following are affecting how you feel and what you could do to change them for the better:


Having low self-esteem can be stressful, especially if you put lots of pressure on yourself to be a certain way.


> See our info on managing stress or tips on how to relax



Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel.


> See our info on sleep problems


Our mental and physical health are closely linked. Taking up sport or exercise can help you feel better in lots of different ways.

> See our info on physical activity, sport and exercise




Exploring how what you eat affects how you view yourself might help you to feel better.

> See our info on food and mood

Drugs and alcohol

You may think that drinking and taking drugs boosts your confidence. But these can have a negative effect on your mental wellbeing.

> See our info on street drugs

After receiving help it's encouraging me to challenge my views of myself [...] I'm learning to ignore that voice that tells me all the bad things about myself.

Get support if things get too much

You don't have to do it all by yourself. If you feel things are getting too much you might find the following support helpful:

  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness can help you to focus on the present and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Take a look at our pages on mindfulness.
  • Peer support. Talking to others with similar feelings and experiences can help you to accept yourself. Online communities, such as Mind's Elefriends can also be a good source of support. See our pages on peer support.
  • Telephone support service. If you're struggling to cope with difficulties in your life, it can be helpful to get emotional and practical support over the telephone. See our page on telephone support.
  • Talking treatments. Talking about your feelings and experiences with a trained professional can help you to work through these and build your self-esteem. See our pages on talking treatments.

For further information on support, see our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.

Read others' stories

Read Beth's story about her sudden experience of intensely low self-esteem and how she managed to cope.


Want to add your story? Find out more about blogging for us.

This information was published in June 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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