How can I improve my self-esteem?
Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn’t working for you (or doesn’t feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time.
“I had always just presumed [my dislike of myself] was a part of who I was … It was only when I realised that my self-esteem didn’t have to be negative that I started challenging my own ideas about myself”
Be kind to yourself
- Get to know yourself. Try to learn more about yourself – for example what makes you happy and what you value in life. Some people say they find it helpful to write in a journal.
- Let yourself have feelings. It’s important to remember that you’re a human being who can experience a wide range of emotions.
- Consider what self-esteem means to you. You might realise you’re basing your sense of self-worth on things that aren’t useful or helpful for you.
“Realising that I can change my ideas about what I base my self-esteem on has helped. I can’t do what I used to, but I can be the kind of person I want to be and now that seems more important to me”
- Try to challenge unkind thoughts about yourself. You might automatically put yourself down. If you find yourself doing this, it can help to ask: “Would I talk to, or think about, a friend in this way?”
- Avoid comparing yourself to others. Try to remember that what other people choose to share about their lives isn’t the full picture and comparing ourselves isn’t realistic.
- Say positive things to yourself. It might feel really strange at first, but you’ll feel more comfortable the more you do it.
“I’ve come to realise that people get to choose what they present about themselves online … In reality, no one’s life is perfect and everyone has insecurities, and it’s important to remember this in order to not feel bad about yourself every time you see somebody post the ‘perfect’ selfie”
Look after yourself
- Try to get enough sleep. Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.
- Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more information.
- Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing and some people find it helps improve their self-esteem. See our pages on physical activity for more information.
- Spend time outside. Spending time in green space can help your wellbeing. See our pages on nature and mental health for more information.
- Try to avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. While you might want to use recreational drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings about yourself, in the long run they can make you feel worse and can prevent you from dealing with underlying problems. See our pages on recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.
“Taking a few minutes for myself each day can really help me feel better; I like doing yoga and meditation”
Try to notice the good things
- Celebrate your successes. No matter how small they may seem, take time to praise yourself and notice what you did well. It could also help to remember past successes.
- Accept compliments. You could make a note of them to look over when you’re feeling low or doubting yourself.
- Ask people what they like about you. It’s likely that they see you differently to how you see yourself.
“Focus on ‘small wins’ … Do the little things and use it as a springboard. Whatever you can do be proud of it!”
- Don’t put too much weight on negatives. If someone says something unhelpful or unkind, you might find you focus on that and ignore anything positive.
- Write a list of things you like about yourself. For example, you could include character traits, skills or experience, beliefs or causes that matter to you or things you enjoy doing. You could ask other people for suggestions too.
“I found it helped to review my CV. It made me realise what skills, experience etc I’ve picked up over the years… and that I’m actually a very valuable person. If the people I’m with don’t choose to believe that, that’s their problem, not mine”
Build a support network
- Talk to someone. For example you can contact The Samaritans Hong Kong (multilingual hotline: 2896 0000) or The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong (Chinese hotline: 2389 2222) to talk about anything that is upsetting you.
- Try peer support. Making connections with people who have similar or shared experiences can be really helpful.
Talking and arts therapies
Talking therapies can sometimes be helpful for building your self-esteem, or finding ways to cope with experiences that have affected how you feel about yourself. You may also find arts therapies helpful for your self-esteem.
See our pages on talking therapies and counselling, and arts and creative therapies, for more information.
“I have problems feeling valued if I am not valued by others. Being loved by others certainly does not hinder your self esteem. Might be more healthy if you are able to love yourself internally though. You need a reservoir of self-love to fall back on”
Learn to be assertive
- Practise saying no. It could help to pause, take a breath and consider how you feel before agreeing to do something you don’t want to.
- Give it time. Being assertive can feel difficult if you’re not used to it, but it can feel liberating – and it gets easier the more you do it.
- Don’t take too much on. It’s ok to set boundaries around how much you do for other people. Over-stretching yourself to please others can drain your energy and affect your wellbeing.
“The thing that has helped me the most has been learning to ignore other people’s opinions and expectations. I get to decide what’s important for me and my life and where to focus my energy/time”
Set yourself a challenge
- Do things you enjoy. You could take up a hobby, learn something new, do a creative activity or simply take the time to read a book or go for a walk.
- Try volunteering. You might decide to volunteer your time for something you feel passionate about. For more information on volunteering, see the Hands On Hong Kong website, or Agency for Volunteer Service.
- Set small goals, such as trying a recipe, learning the days of the week in a new language or simply looking for information on something you’d like to do.
“Try to do one thing that pushes you slightly … doesn’t matter if big or small … just something that makes you feel like you’re making progress. Don’t beat yourself up. Just allow yourself time to gradually build up your self-belief again”
- Do something for yourself every day. Try to get into the habit of doing something to be kind to yourself or look after yourself.
- Let yourself have fun. Remember you don’t have to be perfect at something to enjoy doing it.
“It’s not for everyone but martial arts has really boosted my self esteem, I was awful when I started … but I’ve been doing it for a year now, done a few gradings and competitions and even though I have miles to go until I am advanced I still feel like I have really accomplished something”