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Self-esteem building

Self-esteem is strongly related to how you view and react to the things that happen in your life. Suggestions for building self-esteem include: girl in field x small

Talk to yourself positively – treat yourself as you would your best friend. Be supportive, kind and understanding. Don’t be hard on yourself when you make a mistake (1). Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to your friend if they came to you upset about something - you would try to convince them that they were OK, even through they may not feel good about themselves at that moment (2)

Challenge negative ‘self-talk’ – every time you criticise yourself, stop and look for objective evidence that the criticism is true. (If you feel you can’t be objective, then ask a trusted friend for their opinion.) You’ll realise that most of your negative self-talk is unfounded (1).  

Don’t compare yourself to others – some people are in the habit of comparing themselves to others, from the way they look, their marks on assigments, their friends, achievements and even personality (2). You need to recognise that everyone is different and that every human life has value in its own right. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Make an effort to accept yourself, warts and all (1).

Acknowledge the positive – don’t brush off compliments, dismiss your achievements as ‘dumb luck’ or ignore your positive traits. Allow yourself to feel good about yourself. Be aware of your strengths, rather than focusing on negatives (2)

Appreciate your special qualities – remind yourself of your good points every day. Write a list and refer to it often. (If you feel you can’t think of anything good about yourself, ask a trusted friend to help you write the list.)

Forget the past – concentrate on living in the here-and-now rather than reliving old hurts and disappointments.

Communicate assertively - the way you communicate with others gives them information on how you feel about yourself. Assertive communication encourages other people to treat you with respect, and helps you to feel good about yourself (2)

Tell yourself a positive message everyday – buy a set of ‘inspirational cards’ and start each day reading out a new card and carrying the card’s message with you all day.

Stop worrying – ‘worry’ is simply fretting about the future. Accept that you can’t see or change the future and try to keep your thoughts in the here-and-now.


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Have fun – schedule enjoyable events and activities into every week.

Exerciseit is such a good boost to the brain for all kinds of things but especially in combatting depression and helping you to feel good. Targets need to be step by step, such as starting with a walk round the block once a day, enrolling at a local gym class or going for a swim.

Be assertive – communicate your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to others in a direct and honest manner.

Practise the above suggestions every day – it takes effort and vigilance to replace unhelpful thoughts and behaviours with healthier versions. Give yourself time to establish the new habits. Keep a diary or journal to chart your progress (1).

Seek out support to build self-esteem

Further ways to build self-esteem include:

  • Talk to a trusted friend or loved one about your self-esteem issues.
  • Browse the Better Health Channel for information.
  • See your doctor for information, advice and possible referral.
  • Read books on self-development.
  • Take a course in personal development.
  • Discuss your issues and get advice from a trained therapist.

If you would like to work on your self-esteem visit the Centre for Clinical Interventions who have an overcoming low self esteem information package and workbook to guide you through the process of building positive self esteem.  

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Your local community health centre
  • School counsellor
  • Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline Tel. 1800 55 1800
  • Suicide Helpline Victoria Tel. 1300 651 251
  • Mental Health Foundation Tel. (03) 9427 0407, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
  • Relationships Australia (Victoria) Tel. 1300 364 277

Things to remember

  • Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself.
  • Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
  • It takes attention and daily practice to boost a low self-esteem.

For more information about positive self-esteem go to ReachOut website


1. Better Health Channel (2012)

2. Reach Out (2012)

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