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3+ Simple Steps to Build Yourself From a Lack of Self-Esteem

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

This was originally posted on March 24, 2017.

This post contains affiliate links at the end. For more information, see my disclosure here.

Before I get started, let me ask you this:

Are you here because

  • There were terrible events that happened in your life

  • You grew up in a terrible environment

Regardless of your answer, if it involves anything negative affecting your current mindset and behavior, you've come to the right place.

I was in that same place too.

It lasted throughout my childhood to more than half the time I was in college.

But I eventually overcame it with the guidance of people I've encountered in my life, and I will be helping you do the same.

In this guide, I will be helping you with:

Furthermore, I will be sharing with you:


When Your Self-Esteem Is Low, This Is How You Can Start Building Yourself Up:

Tracing Back the Development of Your Self-Esteem

Since self-esteem can be defined as your self-worth or self-image (or both), its development can be traced back to the environment you grew up in most of the time. In other cases, it can be very stressful events occurring later in life.

For factors that play in your childhood or much later, they can be:

  • Unsupportive parents or guardians

  • Friends or higher authoritative figures (such as your workplace) who influence terrible behavior and thinking, typically causing misery for other people to make themselves feel better and/or talking down on you

  • Stressful life events such as divorce or moving houses

  • Trauma or Abuse

  • Bullying or Loneliness

For other influences in life, they can be:

  • Ongoing medical issues

  • Belief systems

  • Society and the media (typically negative since it gets more attention than positive things)


Understanding the Effects of Key Figures and/or Influences on Your Life

By having low self-esteem, it's easy to succumb to negative thoughts and feelings about your worth and value as a person.

This eventually leads to more than one of the following:

  • Constant self-criticism that leads to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame, or guilt

  • Low levels of motivation and interest

  • Inability to deal with normal levels of frustration and anger

  • Poor performance at school

  • Fear of trying [low resilience] - doubting your abilities or worth and avoiding challenges

  • Avoiding new things and opportunities in life [neophobic]

  • Fear of judgment - being very self-conscious and stressed around others while constantly looking for ‘signs’ that people dislike you

  • Fear of failure

  • Setting unrealistic goals and expectations that lead to perfectionism

This type of negative thinking and behavior will cause problems in developing and keeping relationships with other people such as:

  • Feeling unloved and unwanted

  • Difficulty making friends

  • Constantly comparing yourself to other people ultimately leads to dissatisfaction (parent, guardian, or a higher authoritative figure can do this to you also)

  • Constantly blaming others for their or your own mistakes

  • Unable to take compliments and show mixed feelings of anxiety or stress instead

This can and may ultimately lead to the following types of behavior if not taken care of and continued throughout life:

  • Lack of self-care – neglecting or abusing themselves such as through alcoholism

  • Thoughts of self-harming behavior [ex: eating disorder, drug abuse, or suicide]


5 Actions You Can Take to Increase Your Self-Esteem

Other than the high recommendation of seeking help from a therapist (and psychiatrist if necessary), here are the 5 actions I will be showing you to change your mentality:

  1. Start Treating Every Mistake as a Lesson

  2. Instead of Thinking About What Things Could Go Wrong, Start Seeing What Things Could Go Right

  3. Remembering You Always Have A Choice In Every Situation in Life

  4. Cut Out Negative Influences In Your Life

  5. Learn A New Skill That Improves Your Life


1. Start Treating Every Mistake as a Lesson

You've made many mistakes in life. But did you take the time to reflect on that mistake in life, or did you shrug it off and wait for it to happen again in life once encountered?

When you start taking the time to reflect on every mistake you can remember and analyze it, think to yourself:

  • What was the problem?

  • Who was involved in this problem

  • How did this problem exactly start?

  • Do I have the ability to be able to stop this problem from happening again?

  • If yes, how can I stop this problem from happening again? What steps should I take to prevent this? (get creative and think outside the box)

  • If I take responsibility for this problem, will the source of the problem completely stop? [answer this question only if you've answered all the questions above]

Once you've finished answering all the questions about each mistake you've made in your life, it's time for the next step.

You'll turn those reflections into actions for the future that will help you grow and change as a person.


2. Instead of Thinking About What Things Could Go Wrong, Start Seeing What Things Could Go Right

When you see only the things that could go wrong, it tends to be unrealistic and exaggerated due to your imagination. Maybe, that's how someone taught you to think.

But when you start to see what things could go right, you're rewiring your brain from thinking more negatively to thinking more positively. And once you make a habit of thinking positively, your brain is completely rewired to avoid thinking negatively again.

Furthermore, once you're thinking more positively, you'll naturally have more self-confidence as your body language improves.

The opposite can be true if you're trying to improve your body language first. But that method would require more effort, so I recommend trying to rewire your thought process with baby steps instead.


3. Remembering You Always Have a Choice in Every Situation in Life

There will be times when you don't feel like you have a choice, especially when you're a negative thinker.

When you've trained and disciplined yourself to think more positively, that limiting factor of one choice starts to expand into multiple choices instead.

Fear limits the number of options onto ourselves as if we're fighting for survival, and research has shown that negative thinking can do brain damage to ourselves.

When we're thinking positively, it increases our creativity since our neurons communicate more effectively, so the possibilities of what we can do in each situation increase.


4. Cut Out Negative Influences in Your Life

Is there any benefit to having those negative people or things in your life?

Is there anything left that they can provide for you that can positively impact your future?

If you answered no, you should take the time to reflect and finalize your decisions on whether or not to cut them out from your life, either temporarily or permanently.

Once you've done that, you should start seeing an improvement in your mood and productivity.

If you answered yes, nothing will change, and you will most likely continue feeling miserable.

In my case, I had a friend from my childhood who had very negative thoughts that led to exaggerated outcomes in various situations. Yet, he refused to learn from his mistakes and take responsibility.

After a bit of time blaming me for his mistakes and actions, I temporarily cut ties with him in my life, telling him to stop talking to me for X amount of time and reflect on all the things he's did in his life. I told him that because I had hopes that he would change, and the best apology for me is not with words but on his effort for the actions on trying to change himself.

Another person in my life is my dad.

Same case scenario but instead of cutting contact with him, I wanted him to reduce the significant amount of contact I get from him in my life.


5. Learn a New Skill That Improves Your Life

You might be wondering why I would ask for you to learn a new skill.

When you're learning a new skill, it increases the growth of your mindset. You'll start realizing your potential and see that this is something you can do. It will increase your self-confidence because you can see your progress changing your life.

If you can give that skill to other people, do it!

Not only will it bring them joy, but it will also actually bring you more joy to yourself.

An example would be magic.

It's not something you do to amaze yourself but for other people. If you bring them joy doing magic tricks, it also brings you joy seeing how they react.


My Personal Story on Development

(For Those Who Need Someone to Relate and Connect)

For my story, I originally submitted it to Quiet Revolution in February 2017 as my original blog post after putting a lot of effort into my writing during my spare time, both at school and home.

Unfortunately, I never received a reply, and I assumed my story wasn’t good enough.

I thought it would be in my best interest to share it, knowing that people can use it to learn and connect from it. It's written in a way that's geared more towards an English class though.

But my philosophies have changed since I now identify as an extrovert (being around people gives me more energy) than an introvert.

Plus, I don't talk to my dad that much now based on how his mind works.


Being born and raised with an authoritarian dad, most of my personality was heavily shaped by him: I was treated in a strict and harsh manner as I became socially withdrawn and extremely quiet as a child.

During elementary school, I received counseling because I wasn’t speaking in class. It wasn’t that I couldn’t speak, it was just that I felt that I didn’t have the need to. I kept a lot of thoughts to myself—with my voice being silenced, my mind was used to listen.

There wasn’t anything I did wrong to anyone; yet, it caused trouble with certain people and I was picked on for being different and weird.

In 5th grade, speaking was a requirement which was letter graded—getting myself to talk and participate in class was something I didn’t want to do.

Although I grew comfortable sharing my weekend with the class every Monday, there weren’t any specific guidelines on how to get an A because of how society naturally favors extroverts over introverts.

During college, I eventually learned that forcing yourself to change from an extreme introvert to an extrovert was no easy task.

Even though I enjoyed pushing myself by making video blogs about my personal life and acting as an extrovert for club activities, it quickly drained my energy as I became unhappy at the end of the day. I simply wanted to change myself for the behavior my dad has ingrained into me.

But I’ve later learned a truth:

“People change for two reasons: they have learned a lot or they have been hurt too many times.”

This was months after becoming severely depressed from the effects of authoritarian parenting as an adult. Being forced by my dad to do something extroverted such as getting anxiety for calling a stranger on the phone that you’re going to be late to an appointment, my dad truly didn’t know me at all after all these years.

Although I now identify myself as an ambivert after long periods of self-reflection and learning, it was my introversion that eventually helped me get through my depression. I’ve tried many ways to cope with it—counseling, advice from friends, writing blog posts online about my negative feelings.

My mind was kept shut for so long because of my dad as my thoughts grew louder and stronger, becoming more dangerous in the process as it was about to affect people around me.

But it all started with an idea—writing stories to put these dangerous, developing thoughts inside something that can be used for creativity and imagination. It’s personally huge feat for me.

And because of that, I’d rather think introversion is truly a gift of mine. Even though it was seen as a problem in the eyes of myself and others in the past, it was also the very thing that helped me fight my inner demons as well.

Though I’m still working on parts on myself slowly—my accidental rudeness, my subconscious fears of being criticized and punished—given to me by my dad, even though I was raised in a tyrannous fashion, even though my dad unknowingly turned me into an extreme introvert, just know that it’s possible to undo the negativities of yourself just as long as there is someone willing to help you recognize it and with given enough time and solitude to reflect upon yourself.

Try learning a new skill or hobby. It doesn’t have to be big but bring out something that can turn you slowly towards introversion or extroversion.

But be careful not to become too ambiverted like me; you’ll end up wanting to work in different two careers: one introverted and one extroverted to balance out your ambiversion.

- Michael Leon


Expectations When You Encounter People Who Are or Have Been on the Same Path as You Are

You may encounter people (as I have) who have already been on a journey to change themselves. They will tell you to do this [action] already if you want to change [this quality of yours].

Change is not something that can be forced onto other people.

It must be learned through their own interest or by going through pain and the willingness to learn from it.

People have various motivations and backgrounds that currently affect their mindsets and philosophies.

They will find the appropriate actions on changing when they want to understand more about themselves.

So each person's journey towards change will be very different from others and will take different amounts of time, depending on the factors that negatively impact their self-esteem and life.


Final Words

If you would like to know what books helped me change my self-esteem and personality, I highly recommend reading:

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

  • If you identify yourself as an introvert, understanding and knowing more about yourself when it comes to the strengths you never knew you had will give you a boost in self-confidence.

  • It can help you serve as a reference on what qualities you would like to change about yourself to become a better person when it comes to setting up your own personal development goals.

I want to discover the power of my personality within me and be more confident with myself!

  • Millionaire Success Habits: The Gateway to Wealth & Prosperity by Dean Graziosi

  • I find this book to be helpful when it comes to boosting your self-esteem and confidence in life.

  • Other than the fact that the author is now rich because of his mindset, he is actually a dyslexic person who has been told that he is a stupid person by his teachers since he was a child due to the fact that he can't read which had a major impact on his self-esteem.

  • So I find it that it can be helpful to you to see how he changed his mindset during the process of his personal journey.

I want to change my current mindset into a more positive one!

If you're looking for related articles like this post, then you may like:


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