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Explains what self-esteem is, with tips for improving your self-esteem and ways to get further support.

How can I improve my self-esteem?

This page has some tips and suggestions for improving your self-esteem, or self-confidence.

Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with.

Under 18? We have resources for you on wellbeing, self-esteem and looking after yourself

Be kind to yourself

  • Get to know yourself. For example, what makes you happy and what you value in life. You might find it helpful to write this in a journal.
  • Try to challenge unkind thoughts about yourself. You might automatically put yourself down. If you find yourself doing this, it can help to ask: "Would I talk to a friend in this way?"
  • Say positive things to yourself. Some people like to do this in front of a mirror. It can feel strange at first, but you may feel more comfortable the more you do it.
  • Practise saying no. Being assertive can be difficult if you're not used to it. But agreeing to too many things to please others can be draining. It could help to pause, take a breath and think about how you feel before agreeing to do something you don't want to.
  • Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. For example, it might help to limit how much time you spend on social media or online communities. What other people often choose to share about their lives isn't always the full picture.
  • Do something nice for yourself. For example, making your favourite meal or playing a game you enjoy.

I've come to realise that people get to choose what they present about themselves online. In reality, no one's life is perfect and everyone has insecurities.

Try to recognise positives

  • Celebrate your successes. No matter how small they may seem, take time to praise yourself. For example, this could be getting outside for a walk or doing some tidying. 
  • Accept compliments. You could save them up to look over when you're feeling low or doubting yourself.
  • Ask people what they like about you, if you feel comfortable. They may recognise things that you don't think about yourself.
  • Write a list of things you like about yourself. For example, this could be a skill that you've learnt, or something you do to help other people. 

I use a gratitude diary, which directly challenges things before I get to a point of feeling overwhelmed and catastrophising everything.

Build a support network

  • Talk to someone you trust. Having someone listen to you and show they care can help. If you aren't able to open up to someone close to you, you could call a helpline to speak to someone anonymously. For example, you could call Samaritans on 116 123.
  • Focus on positive relationships. It might feel difficult to control who you spend time with. But where possible, it can help to spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Try peer support. Making connections with people who have similar or shared experiences can help. For example, online communities like Mind's Side by Side can be a good source of support. See our pages on peer support to find out more.

For the first time I thought there is no way that all these negative things can be true with so many people in my life who love me for who I am.

Try talking therapy

Talking therapies can help with building self-esteem. They can also help you find ways to cope with experiences that affect how you feel about yourself.

See our pages on talking therapies and counselling for more information.

Martial arts has really boosted my self-esteem, I was awful when I started, but I've been doing it for a year now. Even though I have miles to go until I am advanced I still feel like I have really accomplished something.

Set yourself a challenge

  • Try volunteering. You might decide to volunteer your time for something you feel passionate about. For more information on volunteering, see the Volunteer by Do-IT website.
  • Set small goals. This could help things feel more manageable, and give you a greater sense of achievement. 
  • Learn something new. For example, this could be trying a new hobby or creative activity. Or taking time to read a book about a new subject.

Look after yourself

  • Try to get enough sleep. Getting too little or too much sleep can have a negative impact on how you feel. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more information.
  • Try to do some physical activity. Being active can help your mental wellbeing. This may include helping to improve your self-esteem. See our pages on physical activity for more information.
  • Spend time outside. Being in green space can often help how you feel. See our pages on nature and mental health for more information.
  • Practise mindfulness and meditation. For example, you could try Headspace's meditation course for self-esteem
  • Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. You might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself. But in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems. See our pages on recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.
  • Sign up to a self-help programme. For example, you could try our supported self-help programme if you are in Wales. Or you could use the Reading Well books scheme to find books to help with your self-esteem. 

See our page on improving your wellbeing for more tips to help look after yourself. 

This information was published in August 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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