I Don't Like Myself: Five Ways To Address Self-Esteem Issues

Updated April 11, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

It can be common to worry about what others think about you, but have you ever considered how you feel about yourself?

Self-esteem. Confidence. Believing in yourself. We've all heard these ideas at some point in our lives. Maybe it was a teacher or parent encouraging you to try harder or push through adversity. Maybe it was an inspirational movie or TV show. Whatever it was, you've probably heard of self-esteem and how important it can be for living a happy and successful life.

This is why it's so absurd how many people struggle with self-esteem issues and how much we still don't talk about it openly. Some research suggests that 85% of people struggle with self-esteem issues, many of them daily. Our lack of faith in ourselves, our values, and our abilities limit our progress, stability, and happiness.

Having low self-esteem is common. We have all had experiences that made us doubt ourselves and feel inferior compared to others. We are also constantly surrounded by stories and reports of amazing people who seem flawless.

Overcoming those pressures, understanding where your low self-esteem is based, and improving your faith in yourself takes work and time. But it can be done, and it can be done with big actions and small steps. It is taxing, and progress is irregular and faltering. It is also worth every minute.

In this article, we will discuss what self-esteem is, some of the many ways it can be challenged, and then discuss some strategies and specific actions to work on improving yours today.

Struggling with low self-esteem? Therapy can help

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is sometimes referred to as a trait; it's something each of us has to a greater or lesser degree. It has also been described as a motivation or a skill. In essence, self-esteem refers to your overall opinion of yourself, including your talents and abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. American psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that one of our primary drivers in life was to develop a greater sense of self-worth, which he talks about in his hierarchy of needs. Understanding and accepting your own limitations and strengths takes practice and reflection. 

Self-esteem can be broken down into several components. These include:

  • Identity
  • Value
  • Competence
  • Belonging

Each of these components is the basis for understanding how self-esteem develops and how it can be improved. We’ll explore each of them below and then discuss how they can be used to build your self-worth. 


Who are you? What drives you, repels you, and excites you? What are you skilled at, what do you struggle with, and how do you respond to success or adversity? These are just some of the questions that inform our understanding of who we are as individuals. Before you can start feeling one way or another about yourself, it can be important to figure out who you are. 


Once you know who you are, what do you think of that person? How does that compare to what you want to be or how you think you stack up against others? Are you able to appreciate what you do well and accept your shortcomings? No one is perfect, and having strong self-esteem means knowing your value and worth despite what anyone else believes about you. 


This is also known occasionally as self-efficacy. How proficient are you at different things? When you try to take action to achieve your goals or help others, how effective are you? Do you struggle to do things that you think should be easy? Do you excel at things that others find hard? Understanding where your skills lie and how you think they stack up can play a big role in your self-esteem overall.


You can have a crystal-clear sense of self, a high perception of your value as a person, and clearly defined skills that enable you to get exactly what you want when you want. However, when you add others into the picture, do you feel like you belong? Being able to form close bonds with others and recognizing that there are plenty of other people like you in the world can be essential to feeling a sense of belonging.   


Improving your self-esteem

Now that we’ve addressed the components of self-esteem, let’s explore different ways that yours can be improved. Everyone can have a different plan in mind when it comes to building their self-esteem. Having a plan in place can motivate you to continue even when you experience setbacks. Being your own leader throughout this process can help you feel competent and capable of making the appropriate changes needed to start liking yourself again. Further, having an action plan can ensure you feel empowered to succeed. 

As with any other self-investigative process, it can be helpful to start with some questions that allow you to understand yourself more clearly. Below are some questions to consider as you start this process. 

  • Consider the different attributes of self-esteem described above. How would you rank yourself in these areas? Which areas are better or worse than others? Avoid giving yourself low ranks across the board because you don't like yourself. The question is not whether your identity is positive, but rather how well you know yourself.
  • When you assess your behaviors on a day-to-day, and overall basis, how much patience and compassion are you applying to yourself? People who struggle with low self-esteem tend to be much harder on themselves than other people in the same situation.
  • How do comparisons you make to other people factor into your self-assessment?
  • When you reflect on your behavior, is it intentional? Do you tend to start berating yourself after every interaction immediately?
  • When was the last time you perceived yourself as having done well? Has that been happening with less frequency over time? When you stack past performances up against one another, is it possible that you've been critical of everything you do, even though some behaviors are clearly better than others?
  • Do you ever take time to reflect on what you've done well?
  • How much of a support network do you believe you have for what you are trying to accomplish?
  • What would you say are your goals in life? How many of your actions on a day-to-day basis are based on moving toward those goals? Is there a way to change this reasonably?

These are just some examples of questions you can start to ask yourself. Remember, the overall goal of this process is to establish a baseline understanding of your current situation. This can allow you to plan action steps to create change. 

Five general rules to learn to like yourself

Whatever process you develop for tackling the issues and opportunities you identify, there are some guidelines you might follow that can help make this process rewarding and easier to adhere to. Consider the following five ways to learn to like yourself and develop greater self-esteem:

Practice patience

As with any effort at self-improvement, working on your self-esteem is going to take some time and patience. There are small behaviors and big steps (some are below) that you can take to start developing a more positive view of yourself. Knowing how to think more positively about yourself does not mean that you will start to do so all the time immediately. Self-esteem has a strong emotional component and making a shift in the emotional part of your brain takes longer than changing behavior. Be gracious with yourself as you learn how to make changes in your life, especially if this is new for you. With time, you can understand how to adapt in the ways you need.

Learn to practice compassion

If you have low self-esteem, you are likely already being generous in your assessments of other people. Part of the reason you are so down on yourself may be because of how kind you are in your assessments of other people. Just as you offer compassion to others, try to do the same for yourself. It’s okay to have things you want to change about yourself but remember that no one is perfect. You are still a human being, and you have flaws just like anyone else. Try to be more understanding of your faults; you may even learn to love them as the things that make you stand out. Making mistakes is natural, so avoid beating yourself up over them. Instead, choose to see yourself in a healthier way.

Try to balance the negative with some positive

You may be so practiced at criticizing yourself that you've almost forgotten how to compliment or praise yourself in any way. A simple trick to start working against the cycle of negative thoughts is to be deliberate about giving yourself some space to highlight where things went well. 

Maybe you did better on an assignment than you thought; it's ok to feel happy about that, even for a second. Maybe you didn't say all the smooth things you wanted to say in your last conversation but avoided the mistakes you thought you made last time— count that as a win! This step can take time, but the momentum behind it can build. Instead of focusing on the things you’re doing wrong, start noticing what you’re doing well. Little praises can add up to bigger changes and overall mind shifts over time. 

Switch from analog to binary thinking

One of the biggest reasons people end up judging themselves negatively is because they compare themselves to an exceedingly high standard. For example, when attending a networking event, you may set the standard for success as "talk to ten people, get five business cards, and set up three coffee meetings." The problem with this can be that you've essentially defined a perfect performance as the only way you can "succeed" at the networking event, and anything less than that is thus a failure.

In a way, when you do this, you create a 1-10 scale of performance in your mind and set a 10-level performance as the only acceptable outcome. This analog scale of 1-10 can make it very hard, if not impossible, for you to achieve a satisfactory outcome, and greatly increases your chances of having a negative outcome.

An alternative approach is to simplify your whole definition of success. Switching to a binary system can help you succeed more easily. 1 means you did it, and 0 means you didn't. For the same networking event, success would then be "talk to one person," and failure would be "don't talk to anyone." The power of this is that redefining success can make it much easier to get started. You may even exceed your expectations by just getting started. 

Build a support network

While you may not be able to believe in yourself, others might, and you can use their positive thoughts to help transform your own thinking patterns. It can be important to surround yourself with people who love and support you exactly as you are. Having friends and family members who build you up, encourage you, and help you when you’re down can help you feel a sense of belonging, one of the key components of self-esteem. It can also allow you to feel less lonely. While you may be tempted to withdraw from others if you struggle with low self-esteem, this can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Instead, reach out to other people and let them be there for you. 

If the people in your life are contributing to the negative thoughts you have about yourself, it can be crucial to find more supportive people to spend your time with. Having a strong support network can be key on particularly hard days or weeks. If you need a reminder of why you’re valuable and worthy, you can ask a loved one. This can encourage you to keep going and teach you how to be a friend to yourself as well.  

Struggling with low self-esteem? Therapy can help

Online counseling for self-esteem issues

Feeling unsure about yourself from time to time is normal, but regularly doubting your abilities and thinking negatively about yourself may mean that it’s time to take steps to improve your self-esteem. You can reach out to friends and family for support or consider speaking with a licensed therapist for professional guidance. Although it may be intimidating to reach out for help, the virtual interface of online therapy may make it easier for you to be open and honest about what you’re going through. 

The efficacy of online counseling for self-esteem issues

Online counseling could be an effective tool for those experiencing issues with low self-esteem. In one study, researchers found that an online group therapy intervention increased participants’ self-esteem levels, decreased their feelings of loneliness, and reduced the severity of the psychiatric symptoms they were experiencing. This study was conducted over a 10-week period and results were maintained when researchers followed up 6 weeks later. 


Even the most confident people can doubt themselves from time to time. Struggling with low self-esteem can be common, but there are ways to overcome it. The goal is to learn to be compassionate with yourself, understand all the ways that self-esteem manifests, and start working to improve your actions and thoughts to live more positively. Committing to small changes in your life can help you move toward a healthier, happier mindset over time. If you need help during this process, connecting with a licensed therapist could be the first step in the right direction. A therapist can equip you with the tools you need to view yourself in a more positive light and feel more capable in life. This can allow you to go down a new path that you can feel confident in.

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