Effective Ways to Build Your Self-Confidence and Self-Worth

Are you highly critical of yourself and don’t think you’re very talented, special, or important? Do you struggle with feeling confident, even with topics you know a fair amount about? Do need to be successful and accomplished to feel valuable?

These are all signs of having low self-confidence and low self-worth.

Self-confidence and self-worth are similar to each other and therefore often influence one another – when someone has high self-confidence, they likely also have strong self-worth, and when one is lacking the other usually is as well.

Self-confidence and self-worth are both valuable qualities because they empower and embolden you to take risks, shield you from the pain of mistakes and failures, promote resilience, contribute to a positive outlook, and free you from a reliance on factors beyond your control – typically success and accomplishments – to feel happy and comfortable with yourself.

But a number of people don’t have these qualities. This can be due to how they were raised, because of how they interpreted challenging life events, or how they view success.

No matter the cause, if you’re lacking self-confidence and/or self-worth, you can address the beliefs that keep you from valuing yourself and take steps to build them. Challenging beliefs and changing thought patterns, especially those that come from childhood, is often a long and difficult process. But it is possible to move away from harmful ways of thinking and begin to view yourself more positively.  

What are self-confidence and self-worth?

There is some professional disagreement on what exactly self-confidence and self-worth are, but you don’t need precise definitions to be able to value yourself.

Self-confidence comes from being comfortable with how well you do things, especially what’s important to you, even if you’re not very good at them. Someone with self-confidence could be happy with themselves for being on a sport team even though they’re not one of the better players, an amateur carpenter who knows they could improve but are proud of the progress they’ve made since they began, or someone with an Instagram account who doesn’t have many followers but is proud of the pictures they post. Since self-confidence doesn’t come from getting praise and recognition or outperforming others, the only person you need to impress to have self-confidence is yourself.

People with high self-confidence aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, make mistakes, or experience failure because doing poorly at something doesn’t severely impact their confidence since they value effort, not results.

Self-confidence isn’t the same as self-esteem because self-esteem is based in comparing yourself to other people. But someone with self-confidence isn’t concerned with competition – they could be the worst at something but still have confidence because they do their best and are proud of that.

Self-worth also comes from the ability to tell yourself you’re a person of value, but rather than being connected to your accomplishments, it’s having a good relationship with yourself because of who you are. You think that – most of the time – you have good intentions, make the right decisions, have respectable values, treat people fairly, and live a life you’re proud of.

Like in relationships with other people, there can be parts of yourself that you’re not so fond of or even dislike – such as having a temper, low impulse control, or being forgetful. But you do your best to change these parts of yourself while accepting that although you would be happier without them, they don’t make you a bad person.

Someone with self-worth doesn’t get their value from having things like an impressive job, a happy relationship, or their social status. These can elevate their sense of worth, but even without them – if they were fired, dumped, or suddenly ignored by all of their friends – they would still think they’re a good person who deserves respect and connection with others.

People who have low self-confidence and self-worth often think negatively of themselves, judge their decisions and performances harshly, criticise themselves, think they aren’t talented (and what they are good at isn’t anything to be proud of), and focus intently on their mistakes and perceived flaws. They’re often afraid to try new things or leave their comfort zone because they don’t want to fail or do badly. But often these types of things are what would build confidence and worth.

Self-confidence and self-worth are positive qualities to have because they give you a sense of value that you don’t have to earn by impressing others, winning competitions, or being successful.

What causes low self-confidence and low self-worth?

There are different reasons someone can lack self-confidence and self-worth. It can be caused by lessons they learned as children or how they interpreted experiences as adults.

The most painful and impactful reason is a traumatic childhood. Children who experienced abuse or neglect can grow up to have low opinions of themselves and think they’re generally worthless. Abusive parents can make children believe they’re useless, lazy, ugly, a burden, and more. Some children think they’re to blame for how they’re treated and if they could be better children, they would have better parents. These beliefs can continue in adults who at a logical level know that what their parents told them wasn’t true and they weren’t to blame for how they were treated, but they still struggle to change how they think about themselves.

But abusive or neglectful caregivers aren’t the only types of people who can impact their children’s self-confidence and self-worth. Parents can unintentionally teach their children that they have to outperform others to have value and that external validation is the only type of encouragement that matters. If a child is only praised for the results they achieve – getting A’s in school, leading a sports team, being attractive, etc. – they can come to believe that they’re only as valuable as their accomplishments and that personal worth comes from what they do, rather than who they are. They don’t develop the ability to decide for themselves when they’re doing a good job and deserve to be proud of themselves.

Childhood isn’t the only time that people can develop a low opinion of themselves. Experiencing a series of setbacks, failures and challenges can erode confidence and self-worth to make you believe that you aren’t capable or lovable. If you were left by your partner, aren’t doing well in your job, or you keep failing at goals you set yourself, you could struggle to maintain a good opinion of yourself, even if the challenges you experienced largely weren’t your fault.

Experiencing imposter syndrome can also lead to low self-confidence and self-worth. Imposter syndrome is thinking you don’t deserve your success or the opportunities you’ve been given. Typically, people experience imposter syndrome in their career – they feel like a fraud and are afraid that they’ll eventually be found out. They’re often intensely concerned about what others are thinking about them and worry their colleagues are judging them and thinking they’re inadequate. To counter these fears and prove themselves, they often push themselves to do the best job possible. Instead of measuring their performance by their own standards, they’re aiming to impress other people through perfection, so meeting their goals is impossible and their confidence and worth suffers.

No matter the reason for having low self-confidence and self-worth, you can address the thoughts and beliefs that prevent you from being confident and having a good opinion of yourself.

How can I build self-confidence and self-worth?

Self-confidence and self-worth are traits that you can build and strengthen if you’re committed to investing the time and energy that is necessary to changing your thought patterns. Achieving long-lasting genuine change will take time, but you can begin right away.

There are many different methods for changing thought patterns and some will work better for you than others. You’ll likely have to experiment to find a good technique, but the following practices are often a good place to start.

Challenge negative thoughts

Having low self-confidence and self-worth is characterised by thinking negatively of yourself and focusing on your flaws and mistakes. So, improving your opinion of yourself requires moving away from these negative thoughts.

When you have a critical thought, pay attention to it – what are you saying to yourself? Why are you saying this? How fair or realistic are these thoughts?

Critical thoughts are often exaggerated if not completely false, like telling yourself that everyone at work will judge you for wearing a nicer outfit than usual or thinking you shouldn’t even bother trying to cook because you scorched dinner three weeks ago.

After listening to your harsh thoughts, ask yourself if they’re helpful or harmful – some criticism can be beneficial as it shows you ways you can improve. But criticising yourself for things y ou have very little control over, like how other people treat you, doesn’t help you learn and improve.

A helpful thought would be “I didn’t express myself the way I wanted to. How can I say that better next time?”; a harmful thought could sound more like “What the hell were you thinking when you said that?! The whole room thinks you’re an idiot.”.

When you have harmful unrealistic thoughts, remind yourself that you’re being needlessly critical and this is something you’re trying to give up. This doesn’t stop the thoughts from happening, but it takes away a great deal of their power.

Adopt positive self-talk

How you speak to yourself matters. If you’re cruel to yourself, you’ll likely have a lower opinion of yourself than you would if you spoke more kindly.

Having positive self-talk doesn’t mean you’re always telling yourself you did a good job or that you’re happy when you aren’t – it’s speaking to yourself the same way you would talk to a friend. What would you say to a friend who made a mistake? Would you tell them they should be ashamed of themselves and expect them to learn from what you told them? Hopefully not, so why would you treat yourself like this?

When you treat yourself as a good person who will make mistakes but can learn and improve, you’ll start to think more highly of yourself, which leads to more self-confidence and self-worth.

Set goals aimed at self-improvement

Picture yourself as the type of person you would like to be to feel confident and worthy. What would you like to change about yourself? What will stay the same?

Thinking about what you would be like as a confident person with a strong sense of self-worth can give you a better idea of the changes you can make and the goals you can set to improve how you think of yourself.

Don’t use vague terms and ideas – be as specific as possible. If you would feel more confident if you could talk about current events, get in the habit of reading the news. If you want to start days being productive, set an earlier alarm and make a list of what you would like to do each morning.

Some of your goals may take a long time to achieve, such as advancing in your career, raising happy children, or paying off debt. But you don’t have to wait until you accomplish your most ambitious goals to feel confident and have a good relationship with yourself. Instead, think about what you can start doing right now to get closer to these outcomes and congratulate yourself for taking action.

This exercise isn’t to make you dislike yourself or think you need to make drastic changes to develop self-confidence and self-worth. You likely already have many reasons you should think highly of yourself. Part of visualising yourself as someone who is self-assured is recognising the ways you’re already this person. And you should be proud of that.

Take control of what you can

Believing you have very little control over your life can impact your confidence and self-worth.

There are likely some areas of your life that are difficult to control or change, and you may have some things about your life that can’t be changed, but there’s often far more you can control about your life than what you can’t control. You can increase your confidence and worth by identifying what you have to accept with and shouldn’t blame yourself for, while changing the areas you can.

Taking as much control over your life as possible is empowering and can grow your self-confidence and self-worth because you’re actively looking for ways you can improve your life and choosing to take action.

Live a healthy lifestyle

Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and having a regular sleep schedule can improve how you think of yourself. When you’re healthy, you feel good physically, which makes it much easier to be positive.

Making choices that are good for you also shows you what you’re capable of: saying no to junk food more often than not, motivating yourself to move even when you’d rather stay on the couch, and going to bed and getting up when you told yourself you would. This is an empowering experience and evidence that you can make choices that will improve how you feel, which builds confidence and worth. 

Leave your comfort zone

Building confidence and self-worth means you have to try things you’re not comfortable doing. Confidence comes from being comfortable in a variety of situations, so the more experiences you have, the more your confidence can grow.

Identify things would like to do but are afraid to try, and then push yourself to do them. If you’re uncomfortable talking to people you don’t know very well, give yourself the goal of talking to someone you normally wouldn’t. This could be striking up a conversation with a colleague, complimenting someone on the bus, or commenting on the weather when you’re ordering a coffee.

Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t need to be something big or dramatic – it only needs to be intentional.

Honour your core values

Core values are the beliefs and principles that guide your decisions and behaviour. They reflect what you think is most important to living a rich, moral, and satisfying life. You’re proud of yourself when you demonstrate your values and admire others who share and exhibit them. 

Identify what your most important values are – three to five – and think about how you can practice them. If you value loyalty, practicing this value could involve defending a colleague when you think your boss is being unfair to them. If you value integrity, you could commit to admitting when you’re wrong more often instead of trying to shift blame or justify your mistakes.

There are many different ways to live a life that’s consistent with your values. Choosing to honour the qualities you think are the most important will give you reasons to be proud of yourself and increase your sense of worth.

Remind yourself of your past achievements

You’ve almost certainly honoured your values in the past; remind yourself about these instances, even if they don’t seem very important. This could be supporting a friend who was going through a hard time, helping a colleague with a project and not expecting any credit, being polite to telemarketers, and much more.

When you’re feeling low or are being critical of yourself, remember what you’re proud of and what you like about yourself. Notice when you act in ways that are consistent with your values and congratulate yourself for being the sort of person you want to be. This not only makes you feel better in the moment, but builds the habit of paying attention to your accomplishments and admirable qualities, which are the foundations of self-confidence and self-worth.

Be honest with yourself and others about who you are

When you’re talking to other people, don’t pretend to like something you aren’t a fan of or lie about what you’re interested in – if you’re passionate about Lord of the Rings and watch the movies at least once per year and someone asks you about your favourite movie, don’t lie because you don’t want to feel like a dork.

Hiding aspects of yourself can lower your self-confidence and self-worth because you’re judging yourself and sending yourself the message that who you are isn’t someone to be proud of. But unapologetically owning who you are is empowering.

Don’t be afraid to say something when you know something

Staying quiet when you can contribute is common to people with low self-confidence. When you’re in a conversation and you have something to add, speak up. You might not get the exact response you were hoping for, but be proud of yourself for doing something that wasn’t easy and can boost your confidence.

Stop comparing yourself to others

True confidence doesn’t come from being better than people but from being able to tell yourself that you did a good job and are happy with yourself. Aiming to outperform others takes the joy out of things and means you’re trying to reach their goals, not yours. You could have been happy swimming 10 laps at the pool but if you stated at the same time as someone else and you’re determined to swim longer than they do, you’re not doing what you think is sufficient anymore.

Comparison also makes it harder to be happy with yourself because you could be comparing yourself to people who are exceptionally talented or accomplished – you could have a career you love with an adequate salary but be self-conscious about your job if all your friends are rocket science and brain surgeons.

Accept good enough

This is the foundation of self-confidence and self-worth: accepting that what you’re capable of and who you are is good enough. There could be others who are more talented, more successful, or aren’t impressed with you and your efforts, but that doesn’t mean you should feel bad because the only person you’re trying to impress is yourself.

A small girl wearing a dress looks at herself in the mirror

When you determine your levels of confidence and worth, you can be happier with yourself as you are

Having a positive image of yourself and being happy with efforts rather than results doesn’t come easy to everyone. But it’s possible to learn how to think highly of yourself.

You could have very real reasons for struggling with your opinion of yourself, but you don’t have to have these challenges forever. Even deeply-rooted beliefs about your value as a person can be challenged and moved away from. Doing this takes time and energy that can feel out of proportion to the rewards you’re getting, but this is true of all meaningful personal improvements. The challenge of changing your opinion of yourself is worth the rewards it brings.

Life is better when you get to decide how confident you are and how worthy you feel.

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