How I Improved My Self-Esteem

My journey, and the six steps that changed my life.


Like most people, I still blush when praised for the work I’ve done. It’s the last remnant from before my transformation.

Thing is, I was always way too modest to give myself much credit. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I started wondering why, and doing some research. I learned that this modesty affected my level of self-esteem. In order to feel better about myself, more confident and capable, I needed to love myself more — and give myself more credit. I needed to be stronger, stand tall, and be genuinely confident.

But how?

The ensuing transformation I pushed myself through has dramatically changed my life and lowered my anxiety. Self-esteem is an upward or downward spiral. What you do affects the way you feel. How you feel affects the things you do. The things you do affect what you and others think of you, which in turn, affects how you feel about yourself.

Here are the six actionable steps that were critical to getting on the right path:

How I Improved My Self-Esteem

Getting Rid Of The Weeds

One of the biggest realizations I had during my transformation was that I cared too much about the opinions of others. I would dwell on the rare person who was mean to me when I should have been focusing on all the positive people around me. I always wanted to know WHY?

I’ll never have a real answer to that question, so why worry about it?

I’ve since learned that the healthiest response to this is to cut those people out of my life and to recognize that I’ll never have a real answer to that question, so why worry about it? Maybe I remind them of someone they dislike, or a girl that snubbed them in high school, or the guy they like said something flattering about me, or they’re just plain crazy. Who knows and who cares?? There are billions of people in the world, and there’s no longer space for the nasty ones on my radar.

Here’s what I did: I made a decision to focus on the positive people and forget the negative ones. First, I distanced myself from people who had been consistently critical of me. I’m not talking about friends who are genuinely trying to help and give constructive advice, but the ones who feel the consistent need to voice their opinion about things I can’t (or shouldn’t need to) change, even though it’s not helpful.

By cutting the negative people out of my life, I was able to gain a better perspective of who I was. I was my own worst critic and didn’t need more people trying to bring me down. Secondly, I made an effort to surround myself with people who inspired me and immersed myself in good audiobooks, inspirational articles, affirmations of my self-worth, and things that gave me hope.

How I Improved My Self-Esteem

Take Credit Where Credit is Due

I grew up in Canada where modesty is ingrained in the culture. And modesty –in moderation– is a good thing, for sure. But for many people, being way-overly-modest is a reflection of their low self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong: people who boast and have a big ego also do so out of insecurity. It’s just a different way of manifesting it. It’s the people who can take a compliment gracefully and confidently talk about their accomplishments when asked, without over-stating or bragging, that have the most healthy self-esteem.

To break the cycle of modesty, I started with writing a list of the things I’d accomplished and the things about my personality that I was proud of. I would re-read it daily, and re-write it weekly. This engrained it into my head and when others complimented me on these things, I no longer felt the need to minimize their compliment by saying something self-deprecating. Instead, I simply say Thank You and catalog the complement in the “I must be doing something right” column in my brain.

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Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 160 Comments

  1. Avatar of Janet Day

    I lost a few “friends” last year. One of them shattered my confidence.

  2. Avatar of Edwina Thornhill

    Edwina Thornhill

    Sometimes, being too modest is a bad thing.

  3. Avatar of Agnes Hoots

    Agnes Hoots

    People always assume that I am confident because I always speak my mind when in reality, I just like voicing out my opinions.

  4. Avatar of Jennifer Kirkpatrick

    Jennifer Kirkpatrick

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I’ve been struggling with my self-esteem since I was little and out of all the self-help tips I’ve read online, this one had struck me the most.

  5. Avatar of Eleanor Honea

    Eleanor Honea

    A lady who wears too much makeup everyday screams that she doesn’t have self-esteem. Society has put too much pressure on our women.

  6. Avatar of Jennifer Baker

    Jennifer Baker

    They encourage pretty girls to be confident, but when a simple girl is confident but not that pretty, they bring her down. Wtf! Of course, everyone did this. But did that help you become better?

  7. Avatar of Janice Way

    Janice Way

    What is self-esteem and how do you take care of it? every time I get one, it dies within a few minutes. am I not feeding it correctly? LOL

  8. Avatar of William Dean

    William Dean

    I wanted to build up my self my self-esteem and confidence, but I don’t know what to do! How and when do I start? How can I help myself?

    • Avatar of Caroline Soloviev

      Caroline Soloviev

      Start now! Trust yourself, make something that makes you feel good! Do something unusual that empowers you !

  9. Avatar of Jamie Wurst

    Jamie Wurst

    But how can I change the way people treat me? Because that’s how I manage to fix my self-esteem issues.

  10. Avatar of Alta Johnson

    Alta Johnson

    I always doubted the compliments I received. I always thought of them as sarcasm. How can I determine the truth from a white lie?

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