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How to improve your self-esteem — tips from our counsellors

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Mindfulness, relaxation and learning new skills can all help you rebuild your self-confidence. Our counsellors have compiled their most effective tips and links for where to find extra support.

1. Recall doing something new for the first time

Learning something new often goes together with feelings of nervousness, lack of self-belief and high levels of stress – but these feelings are all normal, and are a crucial part of the learning process.

The next time you feel under-confident, try to remember the last time you did something new: started a new job, joined a class or built up the courage to go to the gym for the first time. Remembering this will remind you that it's perfectly normal to feel stress or think you're less than capable when learning something new.

2. Do something you've been procrastinating about

Phone or write to a friend, clean the house, tidy up the garden, mend your bike, organise your bills, make a tasty and healthy meal – do anything that involves you making a decision, committing to it and then completing the task.

The sense of accomplishment you will feel is a building block to greater self-confidence and esteem.

3. Do something you're good at

Swimming, running, hiking, dancing, cooking, gardening, climbing, painting, writing... If possible, it should be something that holds your attention and requires enough focus to get you into that state of 'flow', or relaxed concentration, where you forget about everything else. You'll feel more competent and capable afterwards.

Seriously consider doing something like this at least once a week. People who experience 'flow' regularly seem to be happier and healthier and find it easier to focus on a task.

4. Do something for others

Low self-esteem is often accompanied by too much negative focus on the self. Doing something that absorbs you and holds your attention can quickly make you feel better.

Helping others is a great way of shifting your focus into a more positive direction. Consider volunteering with Terrence Higgins Trust - we'd be happy to have you! 

5. Learn to relax

Some people do this by exercising, others by involving themselves in something else that occupies their thoughts - like reading or watching tv.

Being able to relax whenever you want is a fantastic life skill. Learning to practise mindfulness meditation or a physically-based relaxation technique such as gentle yoga can be incredibly useful.

Joining our Connect mindfulness group or our London Mindfulness group can be a good place to learn healthy new habits and skills with like-minded people. 

More help with self-esteem:

Depression ››

‹‹ Self-confidence and HIV, plus more helpful links



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/12/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 2/12/2018

Content Author: Kathy Osborne

Current Owner: Counselling

More information:

Bénabou, R. & Tirole J. (2002) Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 117(3) 871-915

Brown, J.S.L., Elliott, S.A., Boardman, J., Ferns, J. & Morrison J. (2004) Meeting the unmet needs for depression services with psycho-educational self-confidence workshops: preliminary report. British Journal of Psychiatry 185:511-515

Providing Emotional Support, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2007) - archived link: https://web.archive.org/web/20071224175052/http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/brochures/careathome/care5.htm

Lévy, A., Laska, F., Abelhauser, A., Delfraissy, J., Goujard, C., Boué, F. & Dormont, J. (1999) Disclosure of HIV Seropositivity. Journal of Clinical Psychology 55(9):1041-1049

Top four needs of people with HIV in the UK all related to mental health, NAM aidsmap (2009)

Self-Esteem and Hope, The Body (1996)

Rosenberg, M., Schooler, C., Schoenbach, C. & Rosenberg, F. (1995) Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes American Sociological Review 60(1):141-156

Weatherburn, P. et al. (2009) What do you need? 2007 – 2008: findings from a national survey of people diagnosed with HIV. London: Sigma Research

Be Mindful, a Mental Health Foundation resource on mindfulness