Building self-esteem

There’s no quick fix to low self-esteem; but there are the five ways to wellbeing. Building these things into your life can help how you feel about yourself. The Mix explains.

Graphic shows a young person looking at their reflection in the mirror after trying DIY beauty treatments at home

We all have times when we don’t feel great about ourselves. The problem is when these thoughts affect our wellbeing and begin to make us less happy.

But we can control how we feel about ourselves and about life in general. The New Economics Foundation has used actual science to come up with five simple steps to improve your happiness.

Ways to build your self-esteem

1. Connect

Our relationships with other people are really important for our happiness – research proves it. This won’t come as news to most of us; who hasn’t felt good after spending time with friends, or bad after spending too much time alone? But do we actually make the effort to connect?

There are two things you can do to be more connected. First, put effort in with the people already in your life, like your family and close friends. Make sure you see them lots to catch-up – the closer you are to them, the more supported you’ll feel. Secondly, try to talk to more people and have more people in your life. We can fall into the habit of just talking to who we know, but having more people to chat to (even if it’s about nothing) is really good for your self-esteem. Try and say ‘hi’ to someone new each week. Our friendly online community is a great place to start.

If you find yourself feeling a bit nervous when meeting new people, read our guide to coping with shyness.

2. Be active

You don’t need to become an Olympic athlete but, statistically, people who exercise have lower rates of depression and anxiety. If the word ‘exercise’ produces flash-backs to angry PE teachers and playing games in the freezing cold, then you don’t have to do team sports. Do stretches when you wake up, for example, sign up for a dance class, or walk to work or college. Find a type of exercise you enjoy and fit it into your daily routine.

3. Take notice

Look at the world around you. ‘Enjoying the moment‘ has been proven to help you understand yourself, and your place in the world, better. But often we end up rushing around from one thing to another and get so caught up in our day-to-day life, we forget what really matters to us.

Try to spend more of your day just looking around you and thinking things over. If you work, leave your desk at lunchtime. And when you’re travelling to and from school, work or uni, look at the sky, the trees, the shops, the people, and even the graffiti you pass. Appreciate the beautiful things you see.

4. Learn

Learning is good for you. You may be doing it at college or university everyday anyway, but learning doesn’t have to be academic. Learning an instrument, reading a book, trying out a new sport, or even a new game can give you a sense of achievement that’s good for your self-esteem.

Once you’ve left school, college or university that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. You can try new things out, just for the fun of it, even if you never have to revise for an exam again (whoop!).

5. Give

Research tells us that people who help others tend to be happier than people who don’t. Think about ways you can help other people. You could give some money to charity, do some campaigning, volunteer, or maybe do the washing-up occasionally.

If you’re struggling with your self-esteem, giving can make you feel like you have a bigger role in the world around you because you can help others. Sharing and being part of a wider community can also make you feel part of something bigger than yourself.

Volunteering covers loads of these five ways to wellbeing, it’s giving, you’ll learn through it, and you’ll connect with other people.

Next Steps

  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.




Updated on 01-Feb-2021