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Positive Thinking

4 Steps to Building Self-Esteem Effectively

Written by Undre Griggs
Coaching To Help Professionals And Organizations Change Their Beliefs So They Can Get Results.
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How you see yourself plays a pivotal role in the type of life you create. When you have positive self-esteem and feel good about yourself, you are more willing to try new things. More importantly, when you experience failure, you are less likely to blame yourself. You will see failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and perform better the next time. This makes building your self-esteem an important part of living your life to the fullest.

Conversely, those with low self-esteem tend to avoid change because they believe failure displays their shortcomings. Self-esteem is often considered a fundamental human need and something we all seek.

If you want to build your self-esteem quickly and efficiently, below are four steps you can follow.

1. Recognize Your Triggers

There are days when you feel like a million bucks, and there are days when you feel like five bucks. On the days you feel off your game, what events took place that made you feel that way?

Oftentimes, you will recognize some similarities in the days where your self-esteem is lacking. Did you fight with a loved one? Maybe you committed to doing something, but the circumstances changed and you couldn’t keep your promise.

Unexpected life changes can also negatively impact your self-esteem. Did you lose a job, move to a new area, lose a loved one, or are dealing with a crisis at work? Each of these events can cause you to doubt your abilities or worry about how the change will impact your life. While the frequency of the event differs, it is important to recognize what creates a “bad” day.

2. Shift the Momentum

Once you know the commonalities in days you suffer from low self-esteem, you need to come up with a plan to overcome it. One of the most common mistakes people make is that they live their life reacting.


When they have a good day, it can get no better. On the not so good days, nothing seems to go right. To build self-esteem that endures every situation, you need to build consistency in your process. How you perceive yourself in times of turmoil is key. When things are going well, you see yourself as successful and fulfilling your purpose. In times of trouble, you see yourself as a failure and wonder if things will ever get better.

Instead of focusing on what is going wrong in your life in times of misfortune, look for the things that are going right. It’s easier said than done, I know. But you must adjust your self-talk on the “bad” days. The good news is this process happens naturally over time. However, you want to stop reacting and start taking control of your life.[1]

Consider when you lose a loved one. It hurts especially at the beginning because your focus is on everything you lost. You lost your friend, partner, and confidant. You lost the opportunity to tell someone how much you appreciate or love them. However, after some time has passed, you find yourself appreciating the good times you had together. You smile at the thought of their laugh and you slowly realize you are going to be alright.

So, what’s changed? The key change is your self-talk. You are no longer thinking about what you have lost but about what you gained—all the wonderful experiences that can never be taken away. For you to build self-esteem in times of misfortune, you need productive self-talk.[2]

When you are speaking to yourself negatively, you are magnifying all that is wrong in your life. It is unreasonable to expect yourself to constantly have positive self-talk, but you should aim to bounce back as quickly as possible.

Don’t continue the negative self-talk until things are better around you. Look to take control and increase your positive self-talk on your own.


3. What You Say Matters

As mentioned in the previous step, how you talk to yourself matters. When things are not going well, it becomes difficult to remember things for which to be grateful. Your brain goes into flight or fight mode, and this causes you to focus on the problem in an over-simplistic manner.

As your ability to think rationally decreases, you may find it challenging to change your self-talk and reflect reasonably. A quick way to build self-esteem efficiently and effectively is to create a positive mindset journal. If you are not a big fan of the journal, then you can instead fill a shoebox or a scrapbook with pictures of things that make you smile.

The goal is for you to quickly reset your mindset when momentum is pulling your self-esteem in a negative direction. In your journal, write down any and everything you have done successfully. Make a note of any goal you have set for yourself and accomplished.

If your preference is images, include pictures of your loved ones and things you want to accomplish in your life. For images of things you want to accomplish in your life, think vision board.

Do you want to be debt-free, take trips with your family, purchase a home, or learn a new language? Whatever the goal, look for an image that encapsulates your goal. Then, whenever your self-esteem is suffering, take a look in your positive mindset journal and remember all that is right in your life. This will help you leave flight or fight mode and reestablish the proper perspective and mindset.

4. Create Positive Relationships

Another efficient way to build self-esteem is to establish quality friendships. There is a reciprocal link between self-esteem and the social relationships in your life.[3] Think of it as the positive impact a parent can have on their children’s self-esteem.


Parents who have a positive relationship with their children influence them into adulthood. Your relationship with your friends can have a similar impact. Friends that encourage and support you will help build your self-esteem.

By finding friends who have similar goals and aspirations, you can hold each other accountable—much in the way that friends who workout together are more likely to continue working out than someone working out by themselves. You are not always going to be in the mood to go to the gym, but you tend to go to the gym when someone is expecting you. As you accomplish your goals and keep your promises to yourself and others, your self-esteem will continue to rise.

You can also create positive relationships with the actions you want to take through a reward system. Think of it as training a child or a pet with positive reinforcement. If you are a teacher, can you increase your class engagement if you promise extra credit for answering your questions? Of course. The same holds if you give a dog a treat every time they obey your command.

By creating positive relationships with your desired results and actions, you train yourself to behave the right way. When I face a difficult situation, I reward myself with a Slurpee once completed. You may not be excited by a Slurpee, but you may enjoy some alone time with a new book or taking a half-day at work so you can go to the park. Whatever your motivation, you want to create a positive relationship with a difficult situation.

Final Thoughts

Low self-esteem can negatively impact almost every aspect of your life. For you to improve your personal and professional life, you need to build self-esteem in a manner that will hold you up during the tough times and flourish during prosperous times.

By following the four steps outlined in this article, you will be sure to feel good about yourself and your ability to accomplish your goals.


Remember, building your self-esteem is a lifelong commitment. You will have plenty of great days, with a few less-than-great days mixed in. The goal should be to reset yourself as quickly as possible whenever you feel down and unmotivated.

Do not expect yourself to always maintain high self-esteem. Instead, work to recognize your triggers and take the steps to shift your self-esteem in a positive direction.

More Tips on Building Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Ashley Light via unsplash.com


[1]Psychology Today: 8 Steps to Improving Your Self-Esteem
[2]Journal of the National Medical Center: The Foundation of Self-Esteem
[3]American Psychological Association: Positive Relationships Boost Self-Esteem, and Vice Versa
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