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Learn about self-esteem and how to improve the way you feel about your value and self-worth.

Key points

  • Self-esteem is how we feel about our abilities and strengths, including our ability to overcome challenges.
  • When people have positive or high self-esteem, they feel good about themselves. When people have low self-esteem, they feel bad about themselves.
  • Many things can influence your self-esteem including your body-image, major life changes, environmental stressors, and mental health.
  • There are several tips for boosting your self-esteem if you are feeling low.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we feel about our abilities and strengths, including our ability to overcome challenges. People can be influenced by their own feelings, their achievements and difficulties, and by the reactions of those around them.

When people have high self-esteem, they feel good about themselves:

  • They believe in their own abilities
  • They are proud of their accomplishments
  • They feel liked and respected by the people around them

When people have low self-esteem, they feel bad about themselves:

  • They don’t have confidence in their abilities
  • They downplay their accomplishments or see them as failures
  • They feel like no one likes or respects them

Why self-esteem matters

When you have a positive/high self-esteem, you will be more likely to:

  • Believe you can take on challenges and try new things
  • Take pride in your accomplishments
  • Take healthy risks and take responsibility for the outcomes
  • Be independent and mature
  • Be approachable and helpful to others

When you have a negative/low self-esteem, you will be more likely to:

  • Have very little motivation
  • Feel sad, angry and anxious
  • Blame others for the consequences or your actions or things out of your control
  • Engage in risky behaviours, including sexual activity and using substances like drugs and alcohol
  • Have a negative body image
  • Have trouble making and keeping friends

What can influence my self-esteem?

There are many things that can influence your self-esteem. It can be difficult to feel great about yourself all the time, especially during puberty when your body is rapidly growing and changing. This might affect your body image and how you feel about your appearance. It is normal to have moments when you feel less confident.

You may also be going through some big changes at school. Moving onto high school or college/university, changing schools, struggling with schoolwork, struggling with friendships or bullying can all impact your confidence and self-image.

Changes or stresses at home can also have an effect on your self-esteem, whether that is struggling with a difficult life event (like a divorce, a move or a health diagnosis) or a stressful family environment or dynamic (like abuse or food instability). Sometimes, you may have people around you who say negative things or make you feel less good about yourself.

Sometimes, simply your own expectations for yourself can get in the way of having high self-esteem. Or, it could be something more serious like an undiagnosed mental health condition.

What can I do about low self-esteem?

If you are feeling low about your self-esteem, here are a few tips to feel better about your self:

  • Make a list of all of your strengths and abilities to remind yourself of your value.
  • Keep your body healthy by eating well, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t say anything about yourself that you wouldn’t say to a good friend or family member.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself, even if they are small, and plan out how you are going to achieve them. It helps to track your progress to see how far you’ve come.
  • Accept the things you cannot change and focus on the good.
  • Spend time with people who love and respect you to build a support system.
  • Help others by volunteering or doing small acts of kindness.
Last updated: November 23rd 2023