How do you raise self-esteem?
To answer this question, you first need to know what self-esteem is and why it’s worth the effort to boost it.
While it often gets confused with self-confidence, self-esteem isn’t about what you do but rather who and what you are. It’s about your value as a person, which doesn’t depend on what you do or how well you do it.
It makes sense to get well acquainted with the truth of who and what you are.
Sounds easy, right? But what you believe about your identity and your worth has a lot to do with the beliefs you grow up with.
For example, if you grow up hearing “you are not worthy,” it’s a fair bet you’ll reach adulthood thinking you deserve only humiliation and punishment. And your value is nil unless you please the right people and stay in their good graces.
If someone tells you that you are worthy – just as you are – your mind, unfamiliar with messages like that, rejects it and holds onto what’s familiar.
The good news? You can change what’s familiar. You can change the way you think about yourself — which will change everything else.
Building self-esteem is a game-changer, and the positive self-esteem activities described in this article can help you become your all-time favorite version of yourself.
And you are so worth the effort.
Why Self-Esteem is So Important
You take your self-esteem with you wherever you go, and it’s often the first thing anyone else sees when you enter the room.
Make it your best feature and you never have to worry about what other people think of you. And since you won’t be wasting energy and brain space on that, you’ll likely devote more of it to compassion and helping others see the good in themselves.
Healthy self-esteem benefits you in the following ways:
- You don’t need to be liked by others to think well of yourself.
- You don’t fear criticism or negativity from others, because it doesn’t reflect on you.
- You feel free to be your favorite version of yourself.
- You know your value and no one else’s opinion of it matters.
- You don’t fear failure, because you know it doesn’t define you.
- You feel free to take risks, try new things, and move boldly forward.
Ready to build the self-esteem you were born to have?
Or do you want to help your kids build theirs?
Let's get started.
9 Self-Esteem Building Activities
Self-Esteem Activities for Kids
Encourage the kids in your life to build themselves up with these self-esteem exercises.
1. Eat healthier to give your body what it needs.
Honor your body’s nutritional hunger and “water hunger” (stay hydrated), and you won’t crave the junk food that might taste good but isn't good for you.
The human body has its own diet. To be healthy and live longer, you need to honor that diet and eat the foods best for your digestive system.
You may enjoy fresh fruit, but you can also make veggies tastier and more fun to eat with some clever ideas. That way, you won’t need junk food as a reward for eating healthy stuff.
The healthier you eat, the better you’ll feel, the smarter you’ll get, and the happier you’ll become with who you are.
It’s not about how much you weigh or what size clothes you wear. It’s about feeling healthy and full of energy, knowing your body is a miracle and that you take good care of it.
2. Create a self-esteem collage or scrapbook.
Collect pictures (from magazines) that represent things you can do, things you like about yourself, or things you want to do. See yourself in the pictures doing things that excite you or make you smile.
Make this an opportunity to feel and express gratitude for what you have now, for who you are, and for what you know you can do. You’ll learn new things as you go and can add to your collage or build a new one.
This project is all about the person you are and the things you most love about yourself.
Keep this collage or scrapbook somewhere you’ll see it every day. A collage can go on your bedroom wall, for instance. And if you create a scrapbook, keep it on a surface you can reach from your bed or comfy chair.
3. Practice praising yourself.
Get familiar with praising yourself (hearing praise from your own mouth). Tell yourself the things you wish others would say to you, and maybe even say them in front of the mirror, even if you feel silly! Say things like:
- I love you.
- I’m so proud of you!
- You are so interesting / fascinating / funny / smart!
- I know you can do this.
- You are enough — just as you are.
Self-praise is better than waiting for others to praise you. You know you’re not just saying nice things to get yourself to do something (as others might). And you need to hear those words from someone you know you can trust. Why not you?
Don’t wait for someone else to say the words you want to hear. After all, even if someone else says them, if you’re not used to hearing words of praise, your mind is more likely to reject them.
Keep it simple, but try to remember to praise yourself at least three times a day. Don’t worry if it sounds strange at first. You’ll probably have to get used to hearing those words before it gets easier to believe them.
Self-Esteem Activities for Teens
Being a teenager is hard enough without low self-esteem. Anyone between the ages of eleven and twenty can benefit from making the following activities part of their normal daily routine.
4. Find a hobby to pursue independently.
A personal hobby can help you learn more about yourself and your unique tastes and abilities. Find something you enjoy doing — whether you do it for stress relief, to help someone else, or to create something (for yourself or to give as a gift).
Invest time in learning this hobby and improving your skills — because you can and because it brings you joy. Who knows what this hobby or a related one could lead to?
Whatever hobby you choose, this isn’t about proving anything to anyone. You’re doing this as an expression of your unique, resourceful, and creative self.
5. Feed your growing brain and nourish your soul.
Your mind, like the rest of you, needs the right food and refreshment. Like your appetite, it also craves variety. Consider the following for your weekly menu:
- Practicing daily meditation to make the most of your mental/creative energy
- Reading good books
- Listening to educational audiobooks, podcasts, etc.
- Exploring new places and trying new things
- Writing down your ideas and exploring one of them
- Learning new languages and cultures
- Asking questions and looking for the answers
Don’t be afraid to ask “Why?” and don’t be satisfied with variations on “Because [this or that authority figure] says so.” The threat of dire consequences might give you pause, but a pause doesn’t have to become a full stop.
Related: Ways to Build Self-Esteem
Don’t be ashamed of your curiosity. And never stop learning.
6. Practice reasonable and responsible self-care.
Part of esteeming yourself as you should is honoring your need for self-care:
- Proper hygiene (brushing your teeth, bathing, etc.)
- Nutrition and hydration
- Exercise and other movement
- Quiet time for meditation and relaxation
- Opportunities to connect with friends and family
Don’t let others decide how you HAVE TO spend your (free) time. Their ideas of what you need might not agree with what your own body or soul is crying out for.
Someone else’s one-size-fits-all approach to mental health or spirituality doesn’t have to be yours. And a daily habit of meditation can help you discern how best to spend your time and energy.
The key here is paying attention to the needs of your whole self and honoring them.
Remember that spending too much time on social media to relax can have a negative impact on your self-esteem. You might find you compare yourself to others or feel jealous or wounded by someone online. Minimize your online time to maximize your confidence.
Self-Esteem Activities for Adults
You have a lot on your shoulders, and your self-esteem is under attack just about every day. So nourish and restore it with the following activities.
7. Pay yourself three compliments every morning.
You can write these compliments in a journal or say them out loud while standing in front of your bathroom mirror (or in the shower, etc.). Do both, if you can; there’s magic in writing those words down and in saying them out loud.
You can also write these compliments on sticky notes and put them where you’ll see them throughout the day. Or you could write the words “I am enough” on your bathroom mirror in lipstick or dry-erase marker.
The more often you hear and see those true compliments to yourself, the more familiar they’ll become.
8. Be to others what you want to see (more of) in yourself.
Make a list of things you can do to respect your connectedness to other living beings:
- Call or write to a friend or family member.
- Help out a member of the community who needs work done.
- Contribute to a community food bank or volunteer (or both).
- Plant a garden and donate its produce to a community harvest table.
- Become a foster parent or – if that’s not possible – foster a rescued dog or cat
- Write encouraging notes to others to remind them of their importance to you.
Though this exercise does involve doing things, what builds your self-esteem is what you’re being for others. Just doing things isn’t enough; the real impact lies in what you are to them in that moment and what that communicates.
And the more you show others their value, the more clearly you see your own.
9. Create a vision board.
Your thoughts are more powerful than you think. Allow yourself to feel grateful for what you have and excited about the life you can build. In so doing, you bring more good things into your life to enjoy in the present moment.
You have what it takes to grow into your favorite version of yourself. Believe that, and collect images that represent that person. You don't have to become someone else’s idea of who you should be.
Make this vision board about what you love about you. Make it also about the experiences you want to have, the growth you want to see, and the contributions you want to make.
Don’t self-edit your board with thoughts like “This would never happen,” or “I’ll never be able to afford this.” If others have transformed their lives and finances for the better, why couldn't you?
And remember this is your vision board — no one else’s. You choose what belongs there.
Let this vision board also remind you to be more aware of the good in you and in your life and to focus on the good in others, too.
You are a miracle.
Don’t forget to feel awe and admiration for the person you are and were born to be. Take the time to think about what you love about yourself.
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There’s always something to be grateful for. Focus on that and build on it. Forgive the past and spend more time enjoying the present moment. It’s where you live, after all, and there’s plenty to love about it.
And don’t forget you’re here for a reason. You may not know yet what that reason is, but no one is insignificant. Every life has meaning.
Think about the people you’ll encounter today. Some you’ll expect and others you won’t, but every word you speak to them matters. So, why wouldn’t every word you speak to yourself today have an impact?
Make those words count for something good. Because you do.
And may your creative vision and gratitude influence everything you do today.