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Did you know that over 85% of us suffer from some sort of diminished self-esteem?

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to have rock-solid self-esteem.

To help with this post, I interviewed Francine Ward. Francine is a powerhouse motivator, lawyer, and author of Esteemable Acts. Watch our fascinating interview below:

What is Self-Esteem? (Definition)

Self-esteem is a measure of a person’s own self-worth or self-value. Whether a person respects, values, and appreciates themselves all determine their self-esteem.

  • People with high self-esteem generally feel good about themselves and like their personality and how others view them. They have an easy time making decisions and building relationships.
  • People with low self-esteem might often feel self-critical, negative, or even depressed. They might struggle to make decisions or build fulfilling relationships.
A woman asks her self-esteem to "Please get bigger."

What Affects Self-Esteem?

There are MANY factors that affect self-esteem like:

  • Your life experience. Research shows the number of successes and failures you’ve had contributes to your self-esteem.
  • Your social status. Having a higher or lower social status in your environment can affect your self-esteem.
  • Your age. Generally, older folks (65+) have higher self-esteem than their younger counterparts.
  • Your genetics. Studies show that your personality and levels of self-esteem are generally stable over time.
  • Your diet. Foods high in processed meat, chocolates, sweet desserts, fried foods, refined cereals, and high-fat dairy products have been linked to higher reports of depression.

And these are only some of the factors. But the important thing to remember is that your self-esteem is changeable!

Although some people may have lower self-esteem than normal, you CAN improve it just like any other skill.

The best way is through esteemable acts.

What is an Esteemable Act?

Esteemable acts are things that we do that generally help us feel better about ourselves. Think of actions like treating yourself to a spa day or working hard to accomplish your top goals. They’re NOT superficial things, like standing in front of a mirror and saying how amazing you are or getting social validation from social media.

Esteemable acts are the BEST way to increase your self-esteem. Remember: when we take action, we feel good about ourselves.

So let’s get to action taking!

How to Build Self-Esteem

If someone tries to give you a “get self-esteem quick” formula, they’re probably selling you a quick fix.

The truth is: There is NO quick fix for rock-solid self-esteem.

Building self-esteem takes time, so don’t be hard on yourself about getting it all done fast. Let’s take it week by week. Follow this framework, and you’ll be on your way to a lifetime of high self-esteem:

Now let’s take a look at one of the biggest influences on self-esteem nowadays…

Week 1: Do a Social Media Cleanse

Many people who use social media will tell you it’s the bee’s knees.

They’ll say it’s great to connect with friends, stay up to date on trends, the whole nine yards.

This isn’t the problem with social media.

The problem with social media is it’s really hard to shelter yourself from the bad effects social media can have on your self-esteem.

Like, SUPER hard. We humans are terrible at it.

According to over 120 studies on social media and self-esteem: The consensus is social media does in fact lead to lower levels of self-esteem. And the more social media consumed, the lower the self-esteem!

Now I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s about to get even worse.

We’re also terrible at measuring time. This means we don’t realize how much time we actually spend scrolling through endless Facebook posts.

Can you guess how much time the average person spends on social media? Is it:

  1. 15 minutes
  2. 30 minutes
  3. 2 hours
  4. 5 hours

The answer is C. The average person spends 2 hours on social media every day. TWO WHOLE HOURS!

Oh, and when a person receives a thumbs-down when they expect a thumbs-up? Their brain lights up in areas that affect self-esteem!

So I want to tell you a personal story: I used to tell myself that I could be on social media and not let it affect my self-esteem. I unfollowed people I didn’t care about, set timers for myself, and tried to only post positive things. That helped, but I found it wasn’t enough.

  • Action Step: Determine who you can unfollow. Unfollow them.
  • Action Step: Get rid of accounts that don’t make you feel good or that don’t “feed” you what you want.

A few weeks later, I went even deeper. I decided to uninstall all social media from my phone. I couldn’t help myself when it was installed. So now, I reserve one hour to check, once a week on my computer. This way, I check purposefully.

  • Action Step: Try going on a social media diet to see how it feels… and be sure to uninstall or block yourself. Set timers. Decide when you want to purposefully check social media.

If you need more encouragement, check out why you should limit your social media with this infographic we created:

Social media and your self-esteem infographic

Week 2: Cut Out Toxic Friends

Toxic friends are what happen when friendships go bad.

You know, those kinds of friends we don’t actually like to hang around because they constantly talk behind our backs, attack our dreams, and generally affect our self-esteem. Toxic friends can be:

  • a colleague who you’re nice to only at work
  • that annoying neighbor you avoid making eye contact with because his dog always poops in your yard
  • your roommate who snores loudly and always blasts ’90s hair metal
  • an overly attached friend

Prioritize great friendships over toxic ones.

One study even found that people with high self-esteem have higher-quality friends, and having higher-quality friends even gives people higher self-esteem!

It’s a win-win situation!

But how do we get to that place where we’re surrounded by high-quality people?

Let’s start by cutting.

Action Step: Remember that phrase “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”? First, I want you to make a list of these 5 closest people. They can be your family, colleagues, or close friends:

  1. __________________
  2. __________________
  3. __________________
  4. __________________
  5. __________________

Now, to build rock-solid self-esteem, you’ve got to make sure these people are NOT toxic. If they are, try slowly weaning them from your life and replacing them with higher-quality friends through networking or meeting people online.

Or if you can’t because you’re stuck with a toxic family member or boss, then try one of our cornerstone managing up approaches. This means remaining neutral or creating boundaries.

Week 3: Clean Your Environment

Right now, I’m going to take a wild guess and say your environment could be a bit… cleaner.

And that’s not to say it’s dirty, but we could all use some spring cleaning now and then.

Here’s why:

  • Living spaces with too much clutter or unfinished projects can lead to fatigue and depression.
  • Just looking at clutter in your environment can make it harder to focus.
  • The physical act of housekeeping and a cleaner home can result in less stress, anxiety, and depression.

All of this leads to a happier, healthier YOU with higher self-esteem.

Your environment is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.

To start cleaning, get rid of the messy/toxic/distracting things in your environment:

  • Use time blocking. If you’re really struggling to clean, set a timer for 10 minutes and do whatever you can. Clean the dishes. Organize your wardrobe. You get the idea. It might be hard to start, but when you give yourself 10 minutes of strict cleaning here and there, you’ll start racking up the cleaning hours in no time.
  • Start with your bed. Making the bed is a great way to start cleaning. Even Navy SEAL commanders do it. Once you’ve done the bed, you can start with your workspace. Do you have scraps of paper lying around? Are your laptop charger and phone charger tangled together? The key here is to start small and add on just a little bit more cleaning each day. I like to start with just a corner of my room per day. This helps me compartmentalize and not get overwhelmed.
  • Try on everything in your closet. If it doesn’t fit, donate it. If you don’t feel good in it, donate it. If you haven’t worn it in 1 year, try to wear it in the next 7 days or donate it.
  • Can’t ditch the home environment? Spending just five minutes a day in nature has been shown to increase self-esteem. You can go on a short walk, plan a day hike, walk your dog, start a small garden, go cycling—nature is literally everywhere! And the cool thing is all green areas seem to be effective, including parks in cities, though green areas with water seem to be a bit more effective. I wondered why people at the beach always seemed so calm! 🙂

If you’ve been cleaning for a while, you might notice you feel much better about yourself too! It’s like magic, and it works—just ask Marie.

Week 4: Create Micro Wins

In order to build up rock-solid self-esteem, we’ve got to find a way to build up small wins every day. I call these micro wins.

Micro Win: Doing something that creates a small burst of confidence, capability, or pride.

Think of these small wins as a light at the end of the tunnel. The more small wins you rack up, the brighter the light gets. Nice!

Now, since we’ve already talked about cleaning, let’s go one step deeper. Let’s clean up the trifecta—your health, wealth, and mindset:

  • Health Micro Win: Do 10 sit-ups, 10 squats, or a 10-minute walk. Find a way to do SOME sort of exercise, preferably every day. These don’t have to be big—in fact, it’s better to start small… even micro.
  • Wealth: According to a 2018 Federal Reserve report, almost 40% of Americans wouldn’t be able to afford a $400 emergency charge. Are you one of them? If you’re struggling with debt or other finances, take control by paying off debt, asking for a raise, or starting a side hustle. You can even start a “savings jar” and add a few dollars a day to accumulate those small wins! Again, let’s try the rule of 10. Pay off $10 of debt every day. Put $10 into a savings account each month. Donate $10 to a cause you care about. Nothing is too small.
  • Mindset: What are you constantly telling yourself? If your mind is filled with negative thoughts (or even worse, toxic positivity), try finding one positive affirmation you can tell yourself or write down daily. Or you can try bullet journaling 3 things you’re grateful for every day—even the small things, like waking up in the morning, are things to be grateful for! Doing a quick gratitude exercise is one of the fastest micro wins there is!

And most importantly, add these micro win tasks to your calendar! Make them actionable:

  • “Go for a 30-minute jog at 10 a.m.”
  • “Create a budget spreadsheet by Friday.”
  • “Write down 3 things I’m grateful for tonight.”

Schedule at least 3 micro goals before moving on. You got this!

Remember, when you’re feeling left behind, think of that light at the end of the tunnel. Grow your daily small wins and you’ll feel better—slowly but steadily.

Week 5: Develop Your Mission Statement

I want to introduce you to Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk.

Not only is Jay a former monk but he also knows quite a bit about finding your true purpose. And it’s not just about finding what you’re skillful at or what you’re passionate about: it’s about finding the perfect blend of BOTH.

Here’s another way to visualize your purpose:

This infographic demonstrates the 2 attributes of skill and passion and why it's necessary to have both

The quadrant is made of 4 sections:

  1. skill but no passion
  2. skill and passion
  3. no skill but passion
  4. no skill and no passion

Where do most of your daily activities fall?

I’ve met countless people who have chased either the money or their passions but haven’t combined the two. BUT when they DO manage to combine the two?

It results in some serious awesomeness.

And you don’t have to do a drastic career switch or pick up a different hobby (although you can!).

Start by asking yourself these 2 questions:

  • What did you used to value but now don’t?
  • What did you not value but now do?

You might be amazed to see how you’ve changed as a person over the years. And once you’ve gotten an idea of some of your values, I want you to do a fun exercise.

Here’s a simple exercise: Grab a piece of paper and pen, then sit still and quiet.

Literally just sit there for a while and let your mind empty.

Because here’s the thing: when you force yourself to get rid of the noise, you’ll be able to dig up what’s left underneath. Open your mind for 10 or 20 minutes and see what happens.

Now, when all’s quiet and still, here’s where the magic happens.

Start jotting down words that apply to you, words you think you want to apply to you, and words that might apply to you. Jot down words in a stream of consciousness. Don’t be afraid to write what pops up in your head. Continue writing down words until you can’t think anymore.

Then after you’re done, put your note away. Don’t even look at it (this may be tempting, but it’s better if you wait). Come back in a day or two and revisit your list.

You’ll be surprised at the same words that repeat over and over or the themes that seem to reappear.

For me, community, family, and creating an impact were the dominant themes.

Now, once you have your values, write down your personal mission statement.

Your personal mission statement is a combination of your values, what you’re good at doing, and what you’re passionate about.

For example, here’s my personal mission statement:

I want to help people become the best version of themselves. Whether it’s through my videos, my blog, or my courses, I feel the most creative, happiest, and freest when I help others!

The italicized part is my passion, the underlined part is what I’m good at, and the bold part is what I value.

What’s your personal mission statement?

So now that you have your mission statement, pick ONE skill you can work on right now that will help you get there. Ask yourself:

“What is the ONE skill holding me back from obtaining my goals?”

  • Do you want to be a motivational speaker? Practice your public speaking.
  • Dream of being a software engineer? Head on over to Codecademy.
  • Want to become more likable? Learn to read body language.

The goal is to consistently work toward bettering yourself in this one key area. We don’t necessarily need 10,000 hours (maybe more, maybe less); we just need however much time it takes to really master the skill.

And this is likely going to take a LOT of time.

So be patient—this isn’t your quick “5 minutes to fame” tip.

But it’ll get you one step closer to success and high self-esteem.

Week 6: Do Something Uncomfortable

Maybe your self-esteem needs a new danger to tackle.

Really, your self-esteem LOVES conquering challenges.

You’ve focused; now it’s time to do something big. Do the BIG thing, like take a course. Or go to a new place. Or give a public speech.

Or try one of these slightly scary yet amazingly rewarding actions:

  • give your intimidating manager a compliment
  • jump in an ice-cold lake or bath
  • go to a random networking event
  • go out to lunch by yourself
  • call up a random person in your contacts list
  • blindfold yourself, go to your wardrobe, and randomly pick out an outfit to wear for the day
  • go bungee jumping or skydiving
  • compliment a stranger (or two, or three…)
  • go on a digital detox for 48 hours
  • throw a dart at a world map and travel there
  • volunteer for a random cause

Get the idea?

There are literally thousands of uncomfortable things you can do. Pick one, go out there, and conquer the world!

Week 7: Build Your Social System

There’s only ONE big rule when it comes to making lasting friendships:

Make high-quality friends.

(OK, there are more. But this is one of the MOST important.)

Since we’ve cut out our toxic friends (you didn’t skip that step, did you?), we can now move on to build mode.

Study after study shows how important friends are to our self-esteem.

I want you to think of your social skills as a muscle. If you don’t socialize with high-quality people, that muscle shrinks every single day. And due to recent global events, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to socialize much.

In other words, we need to exercise our social muscles pronto!

Captivate Cover National Bestseller
  • Reconnect with old friends. Take out your phone and go through your contacts list. Is there anyone you’d love to reconnect with who you haven’t contacted in a while? Or maybe you’ve forgotten to congratulate someone on their big thing.
  • Rekindle your family ties. Are you well connected with your family? A simple compliment or thoughtful handmade card can be all it takes to turn a sour or stagnant family relationship into something more meaningful.
  • Dive into learning. You can learn to be a master conversationalist. In my best-selling book Captivate, I teach you how to own your confidence and elevate your relationships. Want a free chapter? Head on over to our Captivate page.

As long as you’re working toward your social goals, you’ll feel better every day!

Week 8: Quit Negative Self-Talk

Our minds constantly listen to our internal self-talk. What do you have on repeat in your head?

Can you relate to this?

  • You’re giving a presentation when you accidentally trip up on a word. You immediately think, “Oh no! Everyone’s going to think I’m a fool. Ugh, I can’t believe I’m so stupid.”
  • You’ve ground out a project, and you think you did great. But your boss says otherwise. “UGHHH! I’m such a fool! I should have worked harder. Why can’t I be smart!?”

Whoa, hold on there.

We can build our self-esteem slowly by telling ourselves the good stuff. This means getting rid of the bad and implementing a few strategies:

  • Stop, drop, and quote! When you catch yourself thinking negatively, try to stop what you’re doing. Drop (or sit, or take a deep breath) and relax. Then think about what a friend would say to you in the same situation. Quote the people who love you most—sometimes they can be kinder to us than we are to ourselves!
  • Name your jerk. Who’s that inner critic? You can actually give them a name. Mine’s Negative Nancy (no offense to the Nancys out there!). Negative Nancy’s always yelling, telling me how bad I am, and has an all-around bad attitude. But that’s just Nancy—it’s not me. In the same way, naming your negativity can help you disassociate from it.
  • Talk to a bestie. Do you have a best friend? Even if you don’t, imagine how best friends would talk to each other. They wouldn’t put each other down. They wouldn’t yell at each other. They’d laugh, be kind, and lovingly share their own little thoughts. Do the same with your own self-talk.
  • Word shift. Do you ever use negative words like “hate” or “stupid”? Try replacing those words. Instead of “I hate this,” try “I dislike this.” Instead of “This is stupid,” say “This is not ideal.” Shifting these words to less negative ones will help you make progress and get out of your negative habits.

So let’s get to positive talking!

Note: Want a general rule of thumb for self-talk? The folks at Mayo Clinic suggest:

 “Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.” 

If you’re constantly telling yourself bad things, slowly repeat some of the phrases in the next section. You may notice your self-talk becomes more positive over time!

15 Quotes About Self-Love

Here’s a list of some of my favorite self-love quotes. Save them, write them down, and repeat these to yourself during your daily meditations and quiet times throughout the day.

  1. “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”—Oprah Winfrey
  2. “Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”—Jim Rohn
  3. “Love yourself instead of abusing yourself.”—Karolina Kurkova
  4. “Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your handbrake on.”—Maxwell Maltz
  5. “To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.”—Robert Morley
  6. “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”—Mandy Hale
  7. “Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It’s about accepting all of yourself.”—Tyra Banks
  8. “Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions… Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”—Tina Fey
  9. “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”—Brené Brown
  10. “The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.”—Maya Angelou
  11. “Once you embrace your value, talents, and strengths, it neutralizes when others think less of you.”—Rob Liano
  12. “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.”—Rita Mae Brown
  13. “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”—M. Scott Peck
  14. “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”—Lucille Ball
  15. “Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.”—Sophia Loren

TED Talks on Self-Esteem

Are you a TED Talk fanatic? I love a great TED Talk (I even did one myself!).

Watch these amazing TED Talks by incredible speakers to better understand self-esteem:

  1. Meet Yourself: A User’s Guide to Building Self-Esteem, Niko Everett at TEDxYouth@BommerCanyon
  1. The Skill of Self Confidence, Dr. Ivan Joseph at TEDxRyersonU
  1. Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth, Adia Gooden at TEDxDePaulUniversity

Final Words

Here are some final words of wisdom: You are amazing!

I want you to feel amazing about yourself graphic

If you can implement some of these action items, your self-esteem will increase over time. And remember, it’s going to take TIME to build up that self-esteem. So be easy on yourself and go one step at a time.

And if you have a serious lack of self-esteem, I highly recommend seeking out a professional therapist. You can even find an online therapist to talk to through services like MDLive or Amwell.

You got this!

P.S. Want more tips?

We’ve got you covered. Check out more ways to build your self-worth here: Self-Worth: 20 Ideas to Build Self-Esteem.

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