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Build Self-Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem?

From What is Self-Esteem at TeensHealth.org

Self-esteem means having a good opinion of yourself and feeling good about yourself as a person. 

People with self-esteem:

  • feel valued and accepted by others
  • feel worthy of being treated with fairness and respect
  • accept and respect themselves, even when they make mistakes
  • believe in themselves, even when they don't succeed at first
  • see their own good qualities, such as being kind, capable, or fun to be around
  • take pride in the things they do, like passing a difficult math test or mastering a new recipe
  • think positively about themselves

Having self-esteem matters. It can affect almost everything we do. Self-esteem helps us have good relationships with others, gives us the confidence to try new things, and helps us succeed.

How's Your Self-Esteem?
Look for this online quiz in the box on toward the bottom of this page, and get tips and advice personalized to you.

Positive Traits List
Sometimes it’s hard to remember the positive traits you have going for you. Look at this list of positive traits and circle or write down those that you sometimes have, or have had, or someone else has mentioned about you. Put this list in a place where you will see it every day.

The Best Things About Me
Use this worksheet to reflect on what the best things are about you. If you are having trouble filling it out, ask some friends and trusted adult to help you. Keep this sheet in a special place and reread it often, and share it with people you trust. 

Things You Can Do Right Away – Every Day

Adapted from Building Self-Esteem: A Self-Help Guide, a federal SAMHSA publication prepared by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A.

You may be doing some of these things now.  There will be others you need to work on.  You will find that you  will continue to learn new and better ways to take care of yourself.  As you incorporate these changes into your life, your self-esteem will continue to improve.

  • Pay attention to your own needs and wants. Listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you.
  • Take very good care of yourself. As you were growing up you may not have learned how to take good care of yourself. In fact, much of your attention may have been on taking care of others, on just getting by, or on "behaving well." Begin today to take good care of yourself. Treat yourself as a wonderful parent would treat a small child or as one very best friend might treat another. If you work at taking good care of yourself, you will find that you feel better about yourself. Eat well, get outside, wash up, do something fun.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy. You may be so busy, or feel so badly about yourself, that you spend little or no time doing things you enjoy--things like playing a musical instrument, doing a craft project, flying a kite, or going fishing. Make a list of things you enjoy doing. Then do something from that list every day.
  • Get something done that you have been putting off. Clean out that drawer. Do that chore. Write that letter. Pay that friend.
  • Do things that make use of your own special talents and abilities. For instance, if you are good with your hands, then make things for yourself or someone you love. If you like animals, teach a dog some tricks.  
  • Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself. If you have little money to spend on new clothes, check out thrift stores in your area.
  • Give yourself rewards. Break down things that are hard to get started on into small, manageable steps and give yourself a simple, fun reward each time you finish a step.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself—people who treat you well. Avoid people who treat you badly.
  • Make your living space a place that honors the person you are. Display items that inspire you or that remind you of your achievements or of special times or people in your life.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to learn something new or improve your skills. Take a class or go to a recreation center or ask someone to teach you how to do something you’ve wanted to be able to do.
  • Do something nice for another person. Smile at someone who looks sad. Say a few kind words to the check-out cashier. Help someone with an unpleasant chore. Take a meal to a friend who is sick. Volunteer for a worthy organization.
  • Make it a point to treat yourself well every day. Before you go to bed each night, write about how you treated yourself well during the day.

7-Day Challenge: Make Affirming Lists

Adapted from Building Self-Esteem: A Self-Help Guide, a federal SAMHSA publication prepared by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A.

Each day for a week, take a few minutes to make an affirming list. Choose a different list to do each day. If you have a journal, you can write your lists there. If you don't, any piece of paper will do. Keep your lists in a place where you can reread them often. You might want to rewrite them from time to time, or add to them.

Choose one list to complete each day for a week:

  • At least 5 of your strengths, for example, persistence, courage, friendliness, creativity.
  • At least 5 things you admire about yourself, for example the way you have supported a friend, your good relationship with a sibling, or your spirituality.
  • The 5 greatest achievements in your life so far, like recovering from a setback, completing a difficult class, or learning to use a computer or play an instrument.
  • 10 ways you can reward yourself that don't include food and that don't cost anything, such as walking in the woods, window-shopping, watching children playing on a playground, enjoying a beautiful flower, or chatting with a friend.
  • 10 things you can do to make yourself laugh.
  • 10 things you could do to help someone else.
  • 10 things that you do that make you feel good about yourself.

Second 7-Day Challenge: Do One Small Thing Each Day 

Using the 10 things lists that you made during the Make Affirming Lists 7-DAY CHALLENGE listed above, choose ONE thing from your lists to do sometime during each day of the week.

Need Help Now?


California Youth Crisis Line: 1-800-843-5200
Connecting youth to trained counselors and local services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Your Life Your Voice1-800-448-3000

Crisis Text Line: send text to 741 741 


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