100 Tips for Improving Self Esteem
by Natalie Lue
1. If you can’t date with self-esteem, boundaries, and values, don’t date until you can because not only will you feel fleeting highs and plenty of lows, but the absence of these things makes for damaging relationships. Give yourself a dating and sex hiatus and deal with these issues as you will be far more relationship ready when you do. You cannot short-cut to healthy relationships and self-esteem by just ‘bagging’ someone to do the job for you – you’ll find yourself with someone and still being unhappy.
2. There is no instant fix for your self-esteem. It’s doing lots of small stuff every day that builds your confidence. All of those little things add up and just like in relationships where we often treasure the small stuff that they do, it’s doing small, simple, sometimes hard to quantify stuff that makes a difference.
3. If you’ve been doing stuff in a similar way and generating limited results, it’s time to accept that for you to feel good, you’re going to have to make some changes. To continue the relationship or life insanity (doing the same things and expecting different results) will only diminish your self-esteem further.
4. You will build your self-esteem and confidence by acting with love, care, trust, and respect to yourself first and foremost. When you do this, you will recognise when others don’t and opt out.
5. If loving someone means that you can’t love you, always, without a doubt, choose you.
6. Don’t get into bargaining with yourself which is where you let fundamental stuff like boundaries and values slide in the name of getting the relationship you want. It’s a deal that will go sour and potentially leave you in ‘negative equity’.
7. If you don’t know how to make you feel good, how can you expect to find happiness in others? If you don’t know what makes you feel good outside of another person, it is time to start discovering this.
8. You have to take care of yourself every single day. Looking out for you is a job that you should not offload the responsibility of to someone else.
9. If you make someone or something the sole source of your happiness, you will feel unhappy if you don’t have that someone or something and feel dependent on them when you do.
10. We often think that out happiness lies in something external yet we don’t realise that we cannot enjoy these external things until we feel happy internally.
11. You are the only common denominator to your relationships and anything else where there is a pattern that you don’t like. People taking advantage of you? Stop giving so much and put some boundaries in. Involved with emotionally unavailable people? Address your own emotional unavailability. Keep getting with people who disappear and cater to your fear of being abandoned? Address your fears and beliefs about being abandoned so you don’t seek out fear reflections.
12. Address your beliefs about love, sex, and relationships one by one because if these are negative, they affect your mentality and the reflecting behaviour. What do you believe and why do you believe it? Is it an absolute truth? If it’s not the truth, this in itself makes it questionable and gives you room to believe something else. How is this belief playing out in your personal life? What can you do to change that belief?
13. Understand what’s really bugging you. It’s very easy to say ‘I’m very pissed off’ or ‘I’m very unhappy because he won’t commit’ but dig deeper and ask yourself what it is about the situation that is angering/frustrating/disappointing you and tackle it at that level because the top level is too broad.
14. Break down your frustration: ‘I’m really unhappy because he won’t commit. This makes me so angry because I have been trying so hard in this relationship and he doesn’t appreciate my efforts and I feel unlovable and unworthy.’ This person then learns that she is directly correlating his lack of commitment to her worth as a person but also learns that another reason she is getting angry is that she keeps doing the same thing and getting the same result and that to get to a happier her, she needs to accept that he is not going to commit in this way. This means she either needs to step back and validate her own sense of self-worth and have her own personal security that is not shaken by his actions. In doing this, he may become more receptive or by her being more secure, she may realise that she actually doesn’t want him.
15. A life lived in fear is a half life. While having a little fear about stuff is healthy and can motivate us, doing stuff primarily out of fear creates drama for ourselves and within our relationships and invites negative reflections of our fear into lives. Fear, as a Baggage Reclaim reader said many moons ago, is just a feeling.
16. One great way to improve your self-esteem is resisting the urge to take things that happen to Dynasty level with lots of drama and instead realising that we have a lot of control over how much we let stuff impact us. You can make, for example, the fact that your ex attempted to get in touch with you, as big or as small as you want it to be. If you opt for the former, you’ll let it derail you. If you opt for the latter, you’ll see it for what it is – a test to see if the door is open.
17. Break your routine. You don’t get happier doing the same thing over and over again.
18. Keep trying new things. Fear of change or meeting people can make this a little scary but staying at home wallowing or working yourself into the ground is a comfortable scary too. If you try something and you don’t like it try something else!
19. Immediate self-esteem comes from knowing not only what your boundaries are but by living them. Don’t make exceptions for boundary crossing behaviour. You’ll thank me for it when you have better self-esteem and improved relationships based on healthy, respectful common ground.
20. If you don’t know what your boundaries are, you shouldn’t be dating. Some is obvious and some in subtle but if you have no limits and you haven’t the vaguest idea, start with the stuff that in hindsight you recognise was unacceptable and inappropriate for a healthy relationship.
21. Listen to yourself as your body and your reactions tell you how you feel about the situation. Recognise when you feel anxious, afraid, wary, cautious, disappointed, quietly angry, reserved, happy, sad. If you ignore how you feel, you’re ignoring your self.
22. Listen to your gut. You 100% need this because it is a combination of your sense of self, boundaries and values at work. If you ignore it, it’s like saying ‘I don’t like and love myself enough to trust myself.
23. Learn to trust others. Don’t trust blindly but learn to have faith in other peoples actions by having a healthy level of trust as a base and adjusting your trust levels based on how they behave. If you refuse to trust others, what you’re really saying is that you don’t trust yourself to act in your best interests.
24. If you say YES all or most of the time, start injecting a few NO’s. You’ll soon learn that the sky doesn’t fall down and that when you do say yes, you feel good. Remember we teach people how to treat us and what to expect from us with boundaries, our personal electric fence. If they get used to expecting YES, they will expect a YES. If they learn that sometimes you will say NO, they’ll learn you are not a mug to be taken advantage of.
25. Give and do wholeheartedly. If you give with a view to receiving, there is an intrinsic value and expectation attached to the deed. It’s not wholehearted and you may have great expectations that you’re going to get disappointed about.
26. Sometimes it’s just good to do something, because. It’s nice to be charitable and generous although maybe leave out playing Florence Nightingale to the waifs and strays of the dating world. But doing small, kind deeds does help us feel good. I know that helping someone out on the street, or on this blog can bring a smile to my face.
27. Learn to validate yourself. While it’s natural to court some opinion in life, if you mainly rely on other people to help you make decisions or to tell you your value, or to derive your value from, you have a self-esteem that is at the mercy of other people’s opinions. You are more than capable of confirming your own value. If you know that something is wrong and that it has hurt you, you don’t need to devote your life’s energy to getting someone else to see it.
28. Recognise that you cannot truly love someone until you can love yourself unconditionally. This means that irrespective of what is taking place around you, that you like and love you regardless instead of internalising everything and allowing it to change how you see yourself.
29. Take care of your body and realise that you need to embrace you. If you don’t love your body you will abuse it and this affects you in your entirety. Do you have unrealistic expectations of you and your body? What can you find to like about you when you look in the mirror? If you said ‘Screw it! I’m gonna stop fighting me and take me as I am’, would it be so bad?
30. Stop being so hard on yourself. If we were half as hard on others as we are on ourselves we’d have more boundaries. You are human, you make mistakes and the best thing you can do instead of indulging in blame and shame is to learn and grow out of the experience.
31. Look at what you deem to be the markers of your success. Are they all rooted in one person or one thing? Is there room to include some other stuff? What can you do to make these things happen? What do you think is going to happen if you don’t achieve these goals? What about some other short and medium stuff in the meantime?
32. Sometimes the first time people realise they love themselves is when they opt out of a negative situation which although they hurt, it’s not as much as they would’ve hurt if they had continued.
33. Take a leap of faith on yourself and believe that it gets better than this.
34. Remember, you already know what can lie ahead of you by looking at your past and your pattern. This means that you have nothing to lose other than pride and holding onto the past if you determine to do things differently.
35. Take something deep rooted that affects your self-esteem and look at it in the present day with today’s eyes and perspective. What can you learn now? Can you see things differently and find a way to put it to rest or at least not to give it as much power or weight?
36. Write an unsent letter.
37. Arrest your thoughts. One of my major self-esteem builders was interrupting my thoughts. Until I took the time to listen to myself, I had no idea how much negative garbage was going around in my head. Me imagining bad situations, another voice telling me something was my fault or that it was bound to go wrong for me – jaysus, no wonder I was quietly miserable! I started interrupting my thought process and challenging it, literally saying something else out loud. Annoying initially, it doesn’t last long because your confidence builds and you naturally develop a more positive voice as you train your mind that if it thinks negative stuff, you’re going to jump in there. I no longer have a negative voice as a constant companion dragging me down on my life journey.
38. Keep a feelings diary. Jot down how you feel using key adjectives and phrases to detect shifts in your moods and what causes them. Brilliantly useful, especially for understanding what sets you off or assessing how you feel about someone you’re dating. You can easily answer the questions of ‘Am I really that happy?’ or ‘Do I really feel good around this person or in this situation?’
39. Keep a note of what makes you feel uncomfortable and why. This will ensure that you don’t get selective memory about red flags that you may be tempted to tune out to have a happy illusion.
40. Do regular exercise. I admit that I can be dead lazy about this, but it will come as a surprise to many that at the time when I changed my life, I was pounding the treadmill for a few hours a week – I had previously only been in a gym a couple of times.
41. Dance around and sing on your own. Something else I did that is very funny but surprisingly therapeutic. Proud Mary is an instant mood lifter and shaking it out and singing like crazy.
42. Stay in on a ‘date night’ not because you have no date but because you can. Something else I did regularly, it taught me to love my own company after being scared of ‘missing out’. I almost started to love my alone time ‘too much’. It’s very empowering to say ‘Actually, I’ll pass on going out tonight’ and then putting your feet up and chilling out.
43. Tell people when you’re annoyed (if you tend to keep it to yourself). Simmering away may cause you to internalise the anger and direct it at yourself which can cause depression. You don’t have to tell them immediately if you feel you may erupt, but if you’re still brooding on it, rather than having an ongoing private dialogue where you’re essentially arguing with yourself and getting all righteous etc, just tell them you’re annoyed. Trust me, the sky will not fall down. Try not to be finger pointing and accusatory, and I have found that being specific really helps. ‘When I spoke to you on Tuesday, you said XYZ and I must admit that I was really taken aback that you would say something like that to me.’
44. Many people who have low self-esteem are often privately wondering what someone meant by something that was said or done. The reason why they’re wondering – because they didn’t ask. ‘What did you mean when you X?’ (be specific) can push the question over to them instead of trapping yourself in doubt. The other reason – because they didn’t like the answer that they got. Of course, you can always validate your own perception of things by using your values and knowledge of your boundaries.
45. It takes a lot more energy to resist something than it does to accept. Much of the angst in relationships and with ourselves is refusal to accept and when this happens but the truth remains the same, we become very unhappy. Accept the reality so that you’re in a position to do something instead of being trapped in the frustration of illusions and expectations.
46. You will be perpetually disappointed and frustrated with yourself and others if you don’t sanity check your expectations. Are you expecting in a vacuum? Make sure that what you expect from people is what they’re actually capable of being based on their consistent actions, not who you’d like them to be. Equally, communicate your expectations because you’ll know where you stand.
47. Making assumptions really will make an ass out of you. While you have to make some level of assumptions in life, you will find your self-esteem plummeting if you blindly assume and don’t adjust your assumptions to the actual person and situation.
48. Be accountable for your part in the problem. The most unhappy of people think everything is someone else’s fault. To assume that all of your unhappiness is the creation of ‘others’ is to assume that you have no part in creating your own happiness either.
49. What do you want to do, be, and achieve in the short, medium, and long-term. Our life is a work in progress. Having dreams as well as things to knock off the todo list and some challenging but obtainable stuff can be very empowering especially when you realise not only are you a person with plans but that you’ve got a focus. Writing mine down five years ago was an eye-opener – I realised I had things I wanted to do that had gone on the backburner while I pursued painful relationships!
50. Learn how to relax. Set aside time in your day and week to just relax. If you don’t know how to relax, it may be an idea to check out books or a class on meditation. For me, I know a quiet soak in the bath, losing myself in a book, sewing, or even getting out for a walk clears my head and winds me down.
51. If you have big goals, break them down into smaller chunks so that you know what you need to do to get there. This is confidence building because it can be daunting knowing what you want to do but not necessarily stating how.
52. Who can you be yourself with? It’s good to have at least one friend who accepts you as you are and who you can be honest with and not pretend that you’re fine when you’re not.
53. Assess your non-romantic relationships. I often find when speaking to people who are learning to love themselves and who have little or no boundaries in their relationships that they often have little boundaries with friends and find themselves experiencing conflict because of their own personal growth. It takes a while for people to adjust to the newly evolved you with boundaries. Keep loving yourself. Your genuine friends will gradually adjust and respect you, family with your best interests at heart that see that you still love them will also stop being threatened by it. Don’t expect everyone to move at your pace, but move nonetheless.
54. Be careful of seeing unattached events as being some sort of reflection on you as a person, a sign of unrealistic expectations. For example, someone said to me that she was unhappy because when her partner drinks and she’s not there and then she sees him, she feels he’s not being considerate of the relationship. It’s good to be conscientious of the relationship but it’s for instance, unrealistic to expect partners to spend their every waking moment thinking of what you would like. Someone else said she felt hurt that her partner went somewhere without her and questioned how much she was loved and loveable – again, giving too much attribution to external events.
55. Consider an alternative to your perception of things. While it’s understandable to take someone’s treatment of you personally and think ‘I’m not loveable otherwise he wouldn’t behave like that’ ask yourself ‘What is it about this person or what is happening in their lives that they feel the need to behave in this way?’
56. Harsh as it may sound, people who are genuine assclowns don’t choose just one person in the universe to be an assclown to. This means that while they’re still out of order for treating you poorly, instead of taking it to a micro level of there having to be something wrong with you, recognise that they are this person anyway.
57. If you know that the sky is blue and someone tells you that it’s purple, rather than lose your mind over the fact that they’re saying it’s people and turning it into a vocation to prove it to them, recognise that the fact they don’t know the difference between right and wrong or can’t empathise or whatever it is, is a red flag.
58. Ask yourself: what can I personally do next time to help me handle this situation differently? when confronted with situations that cause you to feel unhappy and stressed out. This empowers you to know that you can do something differently next time rather than feel incompetent to deal with the person or situation. If you experience something several times, don’t render yourself hopeless – compose a different response for next time to bring about a different outcome and experience for yourself.
59. Limit phonecalls with people who are an emotional drain. Something I had to learn when I was in recovery from my illness and used to feel ill sometimes listening to people in my life who thought I was just there for them to say whatever the hell they felt like saying, was to keep phonecalls short. Of course I was going to feel like shit if I listened to diatribe for 25 minutes or even an hour! Suddenly, I was getting out of conversations in 15 minutes, then 10 minutes and under.
60. Don’t allow yourself to be a garbage receptacle for other people’s problems. While you can listen and empathise to a point, playing armchair psychologist to the detriment of yourself will wound your soul and deplete your own resources, especially if you have your own problems that have no voice. You are not there for people to empty their verbal diarrhea on!
61. Recognise when you have irrational ideas and beliefs about yourself and others because these will steal your wind and cause you to feel that the world let’s you down. What ‘must’ you or others be or do? It’s likely that some of these ideas are misplaced.
62. Do not belittle yourself, consciously or subconsciously. Vow that from here on in, it stops today. Find positive things to say no matter how small. It’s not about being happy sappy all the time, but belittling yourself is extremely destructive and you’re stealing your own power.
63. Accept that you cannot control everything especially people and things that are outside of your control. If you try to control everything, you don’t give others a chance to succeed or fail at stuff plus you make yourself at the centre of everything while at the same time feeling frustrated that others won’t do stuff. You may not realise it, but other people feel incompetent around people who have a tendency to want to control everything and they eventually give up. Let go. Tackle what is at the heart of your need to control – your beliefs – and adjust your perspective.
64. Sounds obvious but be yourself, as in your own authentic self. Copy others or trying to adapt, twist, bend, and shape shift to other people’s ways will have you becoming distanced from your values and being out of sync. That, and you’ll be lost.
65. Remember that there will be some values that you are striving towards so don’t bust your own proverbial balls if you fall short of your own expectations. Keep working towards them because the acts will ensure that you are being congruent with who you profess to be and where you want to be.
66. Accept that no matter how well you ‘get on’ with someone, a difference in values can make friendships and romantic difficult when you hit differences and rocky patches. It helps to write down the specifics of why you are frustrated because you can see the difference in your beliefs and attitudes, which is your value system.
67. Recognise that some people are negative people and that they see the worst in things. This doesn’t mean that you have to see what they do and if they persist in being negative, avoid them or keep them at a distance as you don’t need their negativity clouding up your emotional space.
68. I cannot bang on enough about adapting your beliefs to positive ones because you will create your own self-fulfilling prophecy. We gravitate to situations and people that reflect what we believe – best you make it positive!
69. Understand that sexual communication is not emotional communication so don’t use sex as a way of creating intimacy and a connection with people who you don’t already have intimacy and a connection with. Sex is not love. Your self-esteem will get battered if you rely on sexual attention or dating attention to ‘top you up’, especially since often the people that will give this to you are fleeting.
70. Your self-confidence and self-esteem will improve when you act on your boundaries. This in turn actually validates your own baseline of appropriate behaviour, which validates your judgement and when you trust in the decision and realise that it was the right one, it feels good to have backed away from a ‘bad deal’.
71. Volunteer. Seriously. I would especially advise this if you have a tendency to use dating and friendships to flex your healing, helping, and fixing muscle. There is a more appropriate and rewarding outlet for this energy.
72. Everyone has strength’s and weaknesses. While you can work on ways to improve weaker areas, you also need to celebrate and embrace your strengths.
73. Discover your backbone or grow a fresh one. We all have inner strength, we just don’t always use it and assume helplessness which removes power, which makes us feel unhappy and incompetent at coping or making ourselves find a solution. Saying NO and opting out of situations while it will hurt short term, will pay off in the medium and long-term.
74. Having self-esteem means knowing that sometimes you’ll have to make difficult decisions in your own best interests, even when your heart and libido are telling you otherwise.
75. With self-esteem and unconditional love, you can have logic and a heart and won’t engage in doing illogical things that while they seem logical at the time, are not actually logical in the wider sense.
76. Don’t be a short-term thinker because you will do reactionary things that have far wider reaching consequences while if you are look at the big picture and have a more considered, conscious approach, you won’t do impulsive things that end up undermining your sense of self. You’ll know in the grander scheme of things, the act is not worth it.
77. Acknowledge that every thing in life is about choices and you’re making them even when you don’t always realise. Sometimes you will make the wrong choice but that’s OK, but accept that you are accountable for your good and bad choices and that you and only you are responsible for your decisions.
78. Don’t love and trust blindly as you have a responsibility to assess the risk of loving and trusting. If you do go through life with your eyes and ears open with your feet on the ground, you won’t gamble on people who have little or no hope of you realising a return on your emotional investment.
79. Make decisions. It’s shying away from them that will render you helpless.
80. Take action. Talking and thinking about stuff but not actually doing it is frustrating.
81. Keep it real and strip your life of illusions and denial because the existence of the latter don’t change the truth of things but they do open you up to more pain.
82. Be careful of taking on too much, in fact, internalising societal noise. Much of this noise is generated by people that don’t know you. Society whether that’s your peers or media loves telling you how to live your life, what you should look like, or who and what you should be. Filter and live your own life and make your own decisions based on your values.
83. Treat yourself well. My life turned around when I stopped putting my energies into maintaining men and barely there relationships and focused on maintaining myself.
84. Forgive yourself. I did it. Look, this isn’t Back To The Future or Quantum Leap, or a Cher song. We can’t turn back time or find a way! Yes I’ve gone out with my share of assclowns, made some horrible choices and put myself through some awful situations where I should have exercised judgement. You may have too. That doesn’t make you a bad person – it makes you human. If you don’t forgive yourself, you will not love or trust again, whether that is you or others. Give yourself permission to move on and live.
85. Go with your gut instinct even if it goes against your heart or libido. You’ll be right every time. The heart and vagina (or penis for that matter) don’t always know what is best for them.
86. Don’t make decisions based out of fear because they’ll be distorted decisions. What’s the alternative? Try that.
87. Understand whether a fear is an external or internal fear. Is what you’re feeling based on real external things that are happening, such as someone behaving in a way that exacerbates your fear? Or is it internal noise and you seeing your fear in everything? Or do both exist? This helps you to get perspective.
88. Sometimes it’s good to consider your proportional response. If you knew someone for a week or even a few weeks and it takes you months to get over them, this is a disproportionate response and you know you invested too much. When you know that something has dragged on, sometimes you need to grab you and give yourself a shake and force yourself to stop wallowing and to start being a part of life again.
89. Don’t place people on a pedestal – the only place to look at you from is above, which places you below and creates an uncomfortable balance that is difficult to recover from if it is not addressed very quickly. Nobody is ‘better’ than you. You bring as much to the table as they do. Don’t blow smoke up people’s bums.
90. Never allow yourself to believe that someone has all or most of the power because it immediately tells you that you have little or none of the power and you will feel helpless.
91. Someone can only have power over you that you’ve given away so snatch the power back to where it belongs.
92. Stop with the ‘Coulda, woulda, shoulda’ – it is what it is. You’re getting yourself trapped in the past. Let it go as you have a present and future to live and if you live in a what if mode, your present and future will become coulda, woulda, territory. What could you, or would you, or should you have done? Do it now! Apply your knowledge in the future.
93. Don’t pretend. You’ll get get trapped in your own very bad movie where you forget who the hell you are. What are you pretending about? Why? What do you think is going to happen? Is it happening? Do you feel good? How exactly are you going to keep up this pretence? Recognise that if you have to pretend, something isn’t right. Breathe out and be real and get into your own reality. I stopped pretending that dates were more wonderful than they were and saw them for who they were, but it also forced me to remember all of the times I had secretly heard the words ‘assclown’; ‘tosser’ or ‘jackass’ in my mind and then smiled sweetly at various boyfriends and reminded myself how lucky I was to be with them…
94. Since I became a mother and discovered some painful side effects of motherhood, I live by the IDGAF principle (I Don’t Give a F***) – I know I’m very naughty. But seriously, becoming a mum opened me up to people giving me unsolicited advice, the media telling me how to raise my child, what’s best for me, wrong for me, and some weird incidences with fellow mothers. After getting myself into a real tizz over a couple of situations I remembered who I am and what I value and who is most important to me, and I don’t court the opinions of those who I don’t value and I don’t internalise other people’s bullsh*t. A lot of stuff goes right over my head and I don’t take a hell of a lot of stuff personally. I suggest you don’t either otherwise you’ll be fighting the world.
95. Don’t bury stuff. If you do, you’ll become numb. Now if I want to cry, I cry. If I want to be angry, I’m angry but the key thing is that I recognise that my feelings have validity and importance. I’m not pretending for anyone and as a result, I know who I am instead of being a muddled up woman who isn’t sure how she feels about something or someone. If you want to cry, cry, if you are angry, be angry, but assign your own feelings validity and importance.
96. Loving and liking you will give you personal security that you cannot put a price on. Being personally secure is also very attractive to those who aspire to have a healthy relationship with you, plus when you are personally secure, it will not be in your best interests to chase after people who don’t reciprocate your commitment or interest.
97. Tune out the noise of what other people have told you who you are and you work out who you are. Some people are stuck in the past – don’t get stuck there with them. It can be convenient for people to see us in a particular way, even if it’s not the truth. It makes us more manageable. Live your life authentically and determine who you are – it’s not up to them.
98. Have an honest conversation with yourself and drag yourself into reality. Who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you need to do to get there? What can you learn from your previous experiences?
99. Let go of and grow up the child within you, otherwise you will approach emotional situations as if you are a child of a certain age that is likely tied to a specific period in your life. Nurture that child but get a rational adult perspective and give yourself some love and step into adulthood where you get to be in control of your own life.
100. Exhale, embrace, enjoy. Seriously, I stopped holding my breath a few years ago and I haven’t looked back. Don’t put yourself in limbo letting people and situations drag you down and getting your life stuck in the wrong gear. Breathe out, embrace who you are, warts and all, and enjoy you and life. You only get one and it’s too short for holding in your breath, living in fear, and waiting on other people to do the right thing. Do the right thing by you and let everything else follow.