Do you how to build self-worth? First things first—you are AMAZING, so you have every reason to be confident in who you are.

If you have high self-worth, you feel confident and know you are a good person who deserves good things. That’s why investing in your self-worth is one of the best, most productive ways to spend your time today… and I am honored to help.

My name is Vanessa and I am a recovering awkward person. I have struggled a lot with my own self-worth:

  • I felt I was unworthy of true friends and had a lot of fake friends in my life.
  • I used to feel I was unworthy of being paid my worth and had a heck of a time negotiating for myself. 
  • I felt unworthy of love and struggled to find secure attachments to good people.

My goal is to build your self-esteem and confidence with 20 self-worth boosters so you can feel as incredible as you actually are.

What is Self-Worth? (Definition)

Self-worth is the deep, unshakeable belief someone has that they are loved and worthy to be loved. People with high self-worth tend to have higher respect, confidence, and values. People with low self-worth might suffer from low confidence and feel bad about themselves.

Self-Worth versus Self-Esteem

Woman Standing in a Yoga Pose with Quote- It's Not Your Job to Love Me

Self-esteem is often used interchangeably with self-worth; however, self-esteem can be defined as “feeling” good and confident about oneself.

The big difference here is that self-esteem is often a fleeting feeling—it can be raised through external factors like receiving nice compliments or buying a new pair of shoes.

But self-esteem doesn’t last.

Think of it like this: self-esteem is like a floating cloud in the sky. It can come and go—and it most certainly will—and people with high self-esteem might need constant mood boosters to “feel” good about themselves.

But true self-worth is more than that. It’s the permanent, grounded “knowing” that you have worth. And unlike a cloud, self-worth is more like the earth. It’s an unmovable, grounded belief that is “rooted” in confidence—and a snide remark or unfortunate circumstance won’t completely destroy your self-worth.

Can you have self-esteem without self-worth? Absolutely. Narcissists are folks who have high self-esteem and put on an air of confidence and self-assuredness. However, they often LACK self-worth because they are compensating for deeper problems within… like a lack of fundamental love for themselves.

Now here’s the key about self-worth… 

Not everyone will know your true self-worth.

It’s up to you to increase your own self-worth and it all starts with building those self-worth synapses in your brain.

Remember… when you feel “good” about yourself over a long period of time, the higher your “baseline” of self-worth will be!

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16 Signs of Low Self Worth

Think you have low self-worth? Here are some of the symptoms you should look out for. Check off the ones that feel truthful to you:

  • You tend to avoid eye contact when passing strangers on the street.
  • You often feel taken advantage of in toxic friendships.
  • You don’t feel loved or accepted by others.
  • You don’t like to speak in public and think what you say has less importance than others.
  • You don’t know what your true values are.
  • You constantly doubt yourself and have impostor syndrome.
  • You often compare yourself to friends or even random strangers.
  • You often push people away in fear of them finding out your “true” self.
  • You have slouched shoulders or take up less space in social situations.
  • You fall into the same bad relationships over and over again.
  • You accept a lower salary or are afraid to ask for that raise you deserve.
  • You have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep.
  • You don’t know how to stand up for yourself during social situations.
  • You can’t sit still and alone for 10 minutes without feeling anxious or sad.
  • You often browse social media and wonder why your friends’ lives are more exciting / more important / more social than yours.
  • You feel inferior when being around more beautiful / smarter / competent people.

Does any of that sound like you? If so, we need to crank your self-worth. But first, we have to understand…

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What Determines Self-Worth?

There are 2 reasons why people have low self-worth.

Genetics

Most people may not know it, but here’s the bad news: self-worth can be inherited.

It’s been long-known that our genetic makeup affects certain chemicals in our brain, like the amount of serotonin (the happiness molecule) or oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) released.

Studies even show that certain genes are linked to optimism and self-esteem. Certain genes can even increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and other negative feelings… all leading to low self-worth.

But if it’s not genetics, there’s also another reason why you may experience low self-worth or self-esteem…

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Trauma

Low self-worth from a traumatic experience is caused when you mix two ingredients:

  1. The event: a traumatic experience or situation that causes you to feel bad, and
  2. The response: a fear response following that event.

Low self-esteem can happen from being exposed to consecutive, fearful events that span across weeks, months, or even years. 

But does that mean we are doomed forever then? Should we call it quits and resign to a mediocre life of low self-worth? Absolutely not.

Here’s the good news: you can fix low self-worth.

And the more you reinforce good, optimistic things in your life, the higher your self-worth will be.  Now, I’ll show you exactly how to raise your self-worth.

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20 Ways to Build Your Self-Worth

The first step to building your self-worth is finding things to build your self-esteem and confidence. Luckily, I have sooo many ideas for you. 

Your self-worth challenge: Below is a list of 20 ideas. Try to take on as many as you can. Hopefully at least one of them intrigues you, gets you excited, or gets your heart pumping.

Are you ready to take the challenge?

But wait! There is a catch…

You have to do at least 1 of these confidence boosting ideas TODAY.

Yes, today! If you’re not willing to take action, this article is not for you. This article is for the action-takers, the doers, and the people who want to become the best versions of themselves.

Okay, are you ready? You got this!

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#1: Find your anthem

Go through the music charts and pick a song that makes you feel alive or that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. The best confidence songs make you feel like dancing. 

And here’s some interesting science: did you know that we tend to like certain songs from our youth? 

A data analyst compiled musical data from Spotify and found that users love to listen to songs that were popular when they were teens.

Why is this? We tend to associate music in our brains to certain special events or new experiences. And it just happens to be that we experience a lot of new things when we are teenagers.

So if you’re having trouble finding a perfect song for you, try reminiscing about your past—you’re bound to find a song that makes you feel confident.

Need some inspiration? I got you!

Here are a few songs for the ‘90s kids:

And for the millennials:

And here’s a great list of confidence anthems from Billboard.

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#2: Get up and dance

A picture of Vanessa's signature awkward dance move

Did you just pick your anthem? Great, take a dance break! Not only does dancing increase your levels of energy, but it also has been proven to decrease levels of tension in your body!

Double whammy.

And don’t worry about being weird—no one can see you. Here’s an awkward picture of me dancing to make you feel better.

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#3: Text 3 Awesome People

Text 3 people and tell them they are awesome. Do it RIGHT NOW! Sometimes the best way to feel confident is to help others feel confident.

A 2012 study conducted by psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley found that lonely or sad people felt much happier when they sent and received text messages.

There’s no surprise that the team here at Science of People has always believed that personal relationships are one of life’s greatest treasures.

So look at your most recent texts or scroll back to texts from one month ago. Ask yourself: who needs to be checked in with? Tell someone you miss them!

Bonus: If you’re having trouble finding the right first words, try reading our 57 killer conversation starters article. You’re bound to find the perfect message to send!

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#4: Do the Smile-Nod

Do you know the smile-nod? 

It’s that nice nonverbal facial expression we do when we want to acknowledge someone. Little do people know, adding that little extra nod takes up so little energy… but it means a whole lot more to the person you’re giving it to.

Why is it important? Psychologist Todd Kashdan conducted a fascinating experiment where he walked down the street and interacted with strangers by doing 1 of 3 things:

  • quickly glancing in their direction
  • nodding and smiling at them
  • avoiding all eye contact and pretending they did not exist

The result is astonishing.

When the researcher ignored strangers, not only did they feel disconnected from him, but they also reported feeling a “lower sense of connection to other people.”

Think about it: When strangers ignore us, we feel more negative and isolated from everyone! And the reason is simple: we ALL love to be acknowledged. Being acknowledged makes us feel that human connection we all need.

So when you are walking down the hallway today at work or see a stranger walking down the street, give them a smile and a nod. It says “I see you, and I’m happy about it.”

It is a surprisingly likable body language cue. 

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#5: Favorite Photos

Think of your favorite photos in your phone or storage. It’s likely they bring back feelings of happiness, novelty, or closeness to others.

Now it’s not an “unusual” feeling, since these old photos are more than just taking up precious gigabytes.

In 2013, a study was conducted by the University of Portsmouth—people who looked back at their old Facebook photos felt an increase in their overall happiness and well-being.

So we know that positive reminiscing works. It helps you connect with long-lost experiences and friends. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. And most importantly, it reminds you of some of the happier moments in your life. 

Now go through your phone and pick 5 of your favorite photos that make you happy. Share them, set a new screen saver, put them as your phone homescreen, or better yet, print them and tape them to your bathroom mirror so you can see them every morning.

Wish you had more pictures with people you love? Check out my tutorial on How to Make Friends as an Adult (non-awkwardly).

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#6: Make a Learning “Bucket List”

Make a learning bucket list! I believe everyone should have a list of all the things they want to learn and try in their lifetime. Every time you learn something, you feel more confident. Here are some ideas:

  • Start a tea or herb garden.
  • Learn how to make homemade pasta.
  • Study the basics of a new language.
  • Learn the trapeze.
  • Teach yourself how to make electronic music.
  • Learn the art and finesse of making sushi (yum!).
  • Learn how to write a book.
  • Learn self-defense.
  • Learn how to be a master conversationalist.

Check out more in our full learning bucket list tutorial:

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#7: Refresh Your Instagram

Do you like the people you follow? 

Chances are, if you’re like me, you need to spring clean some of those old accounts… and get some people who actually make you feel good!

Here’s how:

  • Follow people who you think have great self-worth and confidence. It is contagious!
  • Get rid of the “Negative Nancys” on your Instagram—negativity is also contagious! 
  • Follow your favorite comedians on Instagram or Twitter. Laughter is one of the fastest ways to feel amazing! 

I love @Amyschumer, who always makes me laugh.

If you need some Instagram-spiration, Mashable has a great article on the 34 best Instagram accounts. Among the ones that stand out are:

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#8: Stand with Confidence

Did you know you can stand like a winner?

There are all kinds of science-based ways to improve your confidence.

Amy Cuddy’s research on 55 studies shows out that power poses affect your emotions, attitudes, and feelings about the self.

In other words, standing like a winner makes you feel like a winner. So it’s no wonder that winners around the world, no matter their gender or race, typically take up as much space as possible when they win a race.

The best way to make a winning pose? It’s simple: channel your inner kiddo and pretend you just won the ultimate game of tag!

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#9: Find Joy

Sometimes we forget that even the smallest things can bring you joy.

A study conducted by DoubleTree by Hilton surveyed 2,000 adults and revealed the ultimate “mood boosters.” Can you guess which led to the most happiness?

  1. Finding money you didn’t know you had
  2. Sunshine
  3. Getting something for free
  4. Getting into bed with fresh sheets

The answer? A.

It turns out, finding that surprise money makes people the MOST happy! However, the other answers also rank high on the list.

What’s your little source of joy? For me, my young daughter, Sienna, always reminds me to embrace wonder.

Think of one small thing that brings you joy. Don’t let it come to you; make it happen.

  • Go spend time with your kids.
  • Try stargazing.
  • Ask a deep question to your partner.
  • Go spend time with your funniest friend.
  • Cherish every bite at your next meal.
  • Spend time doing arts and crafts.
  • Go for a walk—or walk your dog. 
  • Go see a movie.
  • Read about someone else’s joy.
  • Build an amazing playlist. 

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#10: Breathe & Meditate

Take 10 deep breaths. Sometimes the best way to snap out of a funk and boost your confidence is to slow down and breathe deeply.

The effects of deep breathing have been known for years now—when you pay attention to your breath, stress and negative feelings just evaporate

We have greater control. We supply our bodies with more oxygen. Our lives move slower.

Do 10 right now. If you really want to level up your self-worth, you should try turning inward. I especially like taking deep breaths before my next important video call.

We even have a completely free, science-based article on how to meditate. Check it out below to unlock your inner potential:

How to Meditate: a Free Science-Based Guide

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#11: Pump Up 

Create a pump up routine. 

  • Athletes do warm-ups.
  • Musicians practice before hitting the stage.
  • Actors put in their ear buds to get in the zone for their next scene.

And you? You should have your own Rocky routine. We even have an article on how priming can affect your behavior.

Here are some ideas to create an amazing pump up routine to increase your self-worth:

  • Make a playlist for each of your different work tasks. Your workouts? Your moods? We have some great ideas in our music and productivity guide.
  • Have a favorite inspiring / funny / beautiful video you like to watch before a big event? We have our own favorite videos to bring us nonstop laughter every time we watch them!
  • Try associating smell with a certain state of mind. In Jordan Belfort’s book, The Wolf of Wall Street, a unique smell (such as a blend of herbs, a certain cologne, or a specific food) is used to prime Jordan before making a big sales pitch.

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#12: Clean Up and Clean Out

It’s time to clean out your closet. Do you have something you wear that makes you feel frumpy? Lazy? Fat? Get rid of it!

In a 2012 paper by Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky, the idea of “enclothed cognition,” ie, whether our clothes affect our thoughts, was studied. In one experiment, participants wore either a doctor’s coat or a painter’s coat.

Can you guess which group performed better at tasks? If you thought it was the group with the doctor’s coat, you’re right!

But, why?

The research behind enclothed cognition suggests that it’s not so much about what we wear, but what we think about what we wear.

The participants who wore doctor’s coats felt more competent wearing them, so they performed better at tasks.

Wearing your confident clothes is also a great way to sound more confident!

Bottom line: if it doesn’t fit or makes you feel dumpy, it isn’t worth wearing. Don’t let your clothes wear you.

I also have some other fun clothing hacks to feel great about yourself. 

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#13: Just Say No

Here’s one of the most powerful words on the planet: no.

You’ve got FULL permission to say no. The absolute worst thing to be is a “yes man / woman.”

And if you’re having a hard time saying no, try saying “I don’t” instead. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying “I don ‘t” worked much better in turning down offers instead of “I can’t.”

Why? Because when you say, “I can’t go to the party / buy the subscription / lend you money / _____” it sounds like an excuse.

But when you say “I don’t want to _____,” you’ve got two things: conviction and stability.

Say no or “I don’t” to one thing you are dreading.

There is nothing worse than going to an awkward social event or spending time with people you don’t like.

Life is just. Too. Short!

Do you have toxic people who challenge your boundaries? I know this is a real problem. Watch my free class on How to Deal with Difficult People. 

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#14: Be Kind

Kindness is a funny thing. It not only makes other people feel better. It also makes YOU feel better.

That’s why kindness is one of the most important tips in this article.

Helping others is one of the fastest ways to build your self-worth. There are even studies that show that helping people—like volunteering—minimizes stress and improves depression.

Think of it like this: When you help improve the self-worth of others… you also improve your own. See the pattern? That’s why I am writing this article for you!

Do one nice thing for someone in your life. Order your best friend a bouquet of flowers. Do the dishes for your partner. 

And you don’t even have to be kind to someone close to you. Kindness to anyone spurs self-esteem and self-worth. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Write someone a thank you card for a time when they were kind to you.
  • Call your mom and tell her you love her.
  • Buy someone a coffee.
  • Make an introduction to two people who should know each other.
  • Send someone flowers who would never expect it.
  • Compliment a stranger who looks like they’re having a rough day.
  • Pay for someone else’s meal.
  • Select something from 20 more ideas to be a better person.

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#15: Sound Confident

Want to hear about something people often forget?

Their own voicemail (I’ll explain soon). Little do people know that the way they feel about themselves—and their own self value—can be heard in their own voice.

A 1991 study measured both the vocal loudness and how fast someone responded when answering trivia questions. And guess what? They found that the more confident someone was in their answers… the louder and faster they sounded. 

But you didn’t need me to tell you that. When you’re naturally more confident—in a comfortable environment with a close group of friends, or when you’re singing in the shower, for example— your voice just sounds better.

Having better self-worth makes your voice naturally sound better.

And, like the above tip, there’s a pattern. When your voice sounds better… you’ll have higher self-esteem and self-worth.

So here’s an action step for you: Re-record your voicemail so you actually like the way you sound. 

And if you need more tips on how to increase your vocal power, check out my tutorial on upping your vocal power. This will not only help you sound confident… It will help you feel confident!

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#16: Walk

This is an easy one—go take a walk. Even if it’s just 12 minutes.

Why 12?

A 2016 study from psychologists at Iowa State University found that walking for just 12 minutes a day—even without happy mood boosters like sunshine, nature, social contact, and music—can powerfully boost your mood.

Sometimes a quick fix to increase our self-worth is as easy as changing our environment. If you can, try walking outside. Another study in 2018 found that walking in nature further lowered stress than simply walking on a treadmill.

But sometimes it’s not easy to walk regularly. Maybe it’s too inconvenient or there’s no park nearby. If you already walk all the time, try a new setting—is there a new spot you have been wanting to try?

Go try a new cup of coffee. Or pick up a new kind of gum at the local mart.

Easy, peasy, powerful.

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#17: Start a Success File

Why remind yourself of your successes?

Psychologist David DeSteno studied the relationships between success and emotions. Here’s what he says about success and other prosocial emotions:

“These feelings—gratitude, compassion and pride—are easier to generate than [willpower]… And while willpower is quickly depleted, prosocial emotions actually become stronger the more we use them.”

In other words…

The more you think about your past successes… the more successful you will become.

Not only will we feel more successful, but we will also develop greater resiliency and motivation to achieve our future goals.

What is one of the most valuable things you can do to increase your feelings of success and self-worth? Keep a success file.

In a nutshell, a success file keeps your successes at-the-ready. Whenever you see your success file, you will be reminded of your achievements and be flooded with positive, prosocial emotions which are great for your self-esteem.

Here’s how to make a success file in 3 simple steps:

  1. Brainstorm. Sit down and make a list of all the successes you have had — both large and small. I prefer to keep them online, so I can have access to my success file anywhere, anytime.
  2. Add them to your success folder. For me, this is a little folder in Evernote. For you, this could be a poster on your bedroom wall, or a little note in your wallet / purse. 
  3. Add more. After your main file is created, you can make it bigger by keeping nice emails from colleagues, sweet social media comments, or thank-you notes from friends. Add to it every time you have a success, and look through it when you need a self-worth pick-me-up! 

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#18: Clear Your Clutter

Being clean is good. Sorry dirt-lovers, but science proves it.

In a 2010 study, women who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more depressed and fatigued than women who’s living spaces were “restful” and “restorative.”

If you’re especially low in conscientiousness, you might hate cleaning. I get it—sometimes old socks reveal themselves after hiding for weeks under the bed.

But more than anything else, cleaning is a symbol of respect and your own self-worth. What’s more is that cleaning is simple and only takes minutes to see an improvement.

It’s time to do a desk makeover. Try throwing away old papers or things that don’t serve you anymore. Take just 30 minutes to clean out your desk. Do you like every single decorative item sitting on the table? That old Applebee’s gift card your ex-coworker gave you? That old coffee mug you got as a secret Santa gift?

Time to sift and sort out the junk.

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#19: Spread Positivity

Some of the most successful, high self-worth people utilize one special tool for their career success: LinkedIn.

In fact, there are nearly 675 million users of LinkedIn, spanning more than 200 countries across the globe. That’s more than double the entire United States population.

But did you know you can spread that joy through LinkedIn? If you want increased self-worth, try logging into LinkedIn and doing this 1 thing…

Write a positive LinkedIn review. I can almost guarantee it’ll put a smile on someone’s face. And, increase your feelings of self-worth, too.

You see, when you think about the great work relationships you’ve had, it can help you with your own confidence and self-worth. You’ll reminisce about the great work relationships you’ve had… think of the great moments you spent working with your colleagues… and who knows—you might even get one back!

If you have time, also try one of our recommended 15 Tips for LinkedIn.

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#20: Be Grateful

Write down 3 things you are grateful for and write them in the video comments or tweet me @Vvanedwards right now! There are even numerous studies mentioned by Harvard that have shown that gratitude is the fastest way to happiness:

  • Couples who expressed more gratitude towards each other felt not only more positive towards the other person but also more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
  • Managers who thanked other people who worked for them found that their employees were more motivated to work.
  • People who raised money for a fundraiser made 50% more fund-raising calls when they received a pep talk versus those who had not received one.

Here are my 3 grateful things:

  1. I’m grateful for my wonderful daughter, Sienna.
  2. I’m grateful for my amazing hubby. 
  3. I’m grateful for YOU! I am honored to be able to help you improve your self-esteem and self-worth. It’s my life’s mission to help you harness your inner potential. 

THANK YOU for being you.

And remember…

Investing in your self-worth is one of the best ways to spend your energy and time. You are your most precious resource.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

6 replies on “Self-Worth: 20 Ideas to Build Self-Esteem”

  1. Luis

    I am grateful for your book and your willing to share your knowledge with others Vanessa and Science of People team.
    I am grateful for my wife and family.

  2. Rakesh Khatri

    Hey Vanessa
    I like you
    Thanks for this excellent video
    Every day I watch your video and it give me confidence 👍
    You are Amazing 😉

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