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It’s normal to have down days where you feel you can’t seem to do anything right. But feeling insecure about yourself all the time can take a toll on every aspect of your life, from your physical health and emotional well-being to how you perform at your job.
Not feeling good enough can be especially hazardous when it comes to your romantic relationships by making your more prone to feelings of anxiety and jealous. And it doesn’t just affect you. Research shows that self-esteem impacts both you and your partner’s relationship satisfaction.
The good news is there are ways to build up your self-esteem. While it won’t happen overnight, with the right strategies and mindset, you can take steps toward changing the way you feel about yourself.
Take inventory of everything you’re doing right. Chances are, your thoughts about yourself aren’t taking into account the hundreds of positive micro-decisions we make on a daily basis.
Remembering how you helped your neighbor with their groceries or assisted your boss during an important meeting, can help you focus on your contributions rather than shortcomings.
If you’re always looking after everyone else’s needs and forgetting your own, you’re not valuing yourself enough. Adding in more self-care to your daily routine can help you counter negative thoughts and build up your self-worth.
Here are some ways you can show yourself some love:
- Nurture your body by getting a massage or facial.
- Do your favorite workout at least 30 minutes each day.
- Unplug from your phone or take a social media detox.
- Treat yourself to a nourishing meal.
- Practice self-compassion; talk nicely to yourself.
Even just making sure you’re eating regularly and prioritizing sleep can give your self-worth a boost.
There are going to me moments when you fumble — it’s just part of life. But accepting this fact can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
The next time you find yourself feeling embarrassed or self-conscious, try to laugh it off.
It’s easy to be hard on ourselves after stumbling or making a mistake. But beating yourself up because you didn’t score that big promotion or forgot to make an important phone call keeps you stuck in a negative cycle of shame and self-loathing.
Try to practice countering your negative thoughts as they come up:
- Forgive yourself and understand these are isolated instances that don’t define you as a person.
- Write down your negative thoughts so that you can step back and simply observe them.
- Consider what you’ve learned from the experience and re-focus on the positive. How has this taught you to create a better outcome in the future?
There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with loving, supportive people to build up your confidence and make you feel accepted for who you are.
Make a plan to set up more coffee dates and get-togethers with your nearest and dearest. Seeing yourself through the eyes of those who care about you will help you appreciate your own unique qualities and perspectives.
Think about the times you’ve felt especially insecure. Who were you with? What were you doing?
Noticing the people and situations that deflate your self-esteem can help you pinpoint what to avoid. If you’re surrounding yourself with so-called “friends” who make it a habit of pointing out your flaws, it’s a clear sign to find better company.
Celebrate your successes and talk yourself up when you’ve had a big win at work. Being proud of what you do, even if it seems awkward at first, can have a powerful effect on your self-esteem.
Keep a reminder on hand to help boost your confidence throughout the day by:
- saving compliments people have given you on your desktop or notes app
- writing out all of your accomplishments to review them when you’re feeling insecure
- taking a few minutes each day to list three things you appreciate about yourself
Prioritize spending free time doing things that bring you joy and happiness, whether it’s curling up with a book or cooking a good meal from scratch.
Even better, consider learning a new skill or taking up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Aside from making you happy, mastering a new skill is a good reminder of your talents and interests.
Overcoming insecurity and building up your self-esteem don’t happen overnight. Try to be kind to yourself during this process and don’t get discouraged if things aren’t improving as fast as you’d like them too.
Even if you don’t feel confident today, the small baby steps you are taking now will eventually grow into bigger steps and keep you moving forward.
Speaking with a qualified therapist can help you explore your fears and insecurities by understanding where they come from. They can also help you develop new tools for navigating situations that zap your confidence.
Not sure where to start? Our guide to affordable therapy can help.
Books about the nature of insecurity and ways to work through it can not only offer good advice, but also help you feel less alone in what you’re going through.
There are countless books the subject, but these titles are a good starting point.
What to Say When You Talk to Your Self
Through his profound technique, Shad Helmstetter, PhD, teaches you how to let go of nagging, counterproductive self-talk in favor of embracing a more positive outlook on life.
What’s Right with Me
This book on celebrating your strengths and qualities will help you gain new perspective about your positive traits. Carlene DeRoo, PhD, also offers engaging activities to help you identify what’s going right in your life.
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
If you’re struggling to recognize your value and worth, Kristen Neff, PhD, provides a road map for being gentle with yourself. Her book includes exercises and action plans for dealing with all kinds of emotional obstacles.
Healing Your Emotional Self
This book by Beverly Engel is a particularly useful read if you think your self-esteem issues may be rooted in childhood experiences. She documents the many types of psychological abuses children experience while growing up and offers a powerful guide for overcoming low self-esteem.
By recognizing defense mechanisms carried from childhood, you can learn from your past to create a more positive self-image.
Everyone deals with insecurity on some level, but left unchecked, it can have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Building self-esteem isn’t always easy, and it can take some time, but the end result is worth it. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you feel like you could use some extra support.
Cindy Lamothe is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala. She writes often about the intersections between health, wellness, and the science of human behavior. She’s written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Quartz, The Washington Post, and many more. Find her at cindylamothe.com.