Is it possible to raise low self-esteem without external help

By Vladimir Marchenko

  1. Why self-esteem gets lower
  2. Levels of low self-esteem
  3. Self-esteem manipulation
  4. How to spot low self-esteem
  5. Where to start from?
  6. Further steps to improve self-esteem
  7. Interaction with the outside world

Low self-esteem does not allow a person to realize his full potential. He constantly acts with an eye on others, expects approval and support from them. However, self-confidence can be gained without waiting for someone to help you with this.

Why self-esteem gets lower

The foundations of our adult life are laid in childhood and self-esteem is no exception. Although it can change over time, most often the reasons for low self-confidence should be looked for at an early age. At some point, a person begins to underestimate and inadequately assess himself (appearance, mental abilities, achievements), which develops into more serious issues like indecision, insecurity, embarrassment, cowardice, resentment, envy and even aggression.

Parents, as well as peers and teachers at school, have a great influence on the formation of self-esteem. The value judgments made about us by other people affect  our personal characteristics, replacing objective reality and forming a distorted view of it. Criticism, swearing and threats, excessive exactingness, a need to go beyond the call of duty, perfectionism, doubts about one’s mental abilities gradually lead a fragile child's mind into a state of constant anxiety. It also manifests in the inability to comply with the set ideal patterns and, results in a decrease in even initially promising abilities and characteristics.

female boss yells at subordinate
Remember that perfect people do not exist, and even bosses sometimes make mistakes during the work process

Often the reasons for low self-esteem are the memories of past failures at school, losses in competitions, especially if the “bar” for a child was set too high. This inevitably causes a feeling of guilt, laziness, procrastination, etc.

Thus, low self-esteem manifests itself as a constant lack of confidence in oneself, actions and thoughts, self-digging and internal complexes, which provokes the inadequate assessments of one’s merits and abilities, underestimating them. Psychologists focus on this state more than on “excessive” self-esteem for two reasons: it can lead to suicidal feelings and is generally more widespread.

Levels of low self-esteem

For the convenience of diagnostics, several levels of low self-esteem are distinguished.

Level I. Below average. In this case, the person experiences downs only for a short time and even if gives up - finds the strength to mobilize himself. He takes into account the mistakes made, draws conclusions and acts differently the next time. One or even several failures are not an obstacle for him, although sometimes they make him doubt whether he is doing the right thing.

Level II. Low. It is usually caused by the prolongation of the traumatic factors that a person was burdened by in the past and sometimes reinforced by external social factors. An intermittent loss of self-esteem can lead to depression, loss of energy, and apathy. New failures can provoke acute episodes of self-doubt.

Level III.Inadequate. A person experiences total disappointment in himself, his knowledge, skills, appearance, mental abilities. He deliberately programs himself for failure and inability to achieve success. As a result, the meaning of life is lost, anxious mood increases and such a patient already needs psychological help.

Self-esteem manipulation

Low self-esteem is not always the result of a mental disorder. Sometimes, when a person seeks to get some benefits from his "state", low self-esteem would be nothing but manipulation. For example, a lazy person adapts the phrase "I can't do it" so that compassionate people around him come to the rescue by doing the work for him. This may happen even if a person has a whole set of capabilities for independent work. It occurs often at school age, but also in adulthood. Sometimes the manipulator takes advantage of the sympathy for him and under the guise of powerlessness makes other people work hard instead of him. The manipulator, in turn, may spend his free time doing something more “worthy” of himself.

a lot of things to do at work
If others take advantage of your kindness and shift their responsibilities on you, it is not surprising you are not productive

False self-esteem arises from the desire to receive guaranteed praise from others. For example, a person deliberately underestimates his achievements in work, cooking, painting because he knows that others will start to convince him otherwise. Unlike the above-described manipulation, such behaviour may indeed be based on a fear of criticism. However, it is still insincere and the manipulator does so consciously in order to prove himself. Thus, over time others get bored that their compliments are devalued.

Also, a common consequence of the actual self-esteem disorder is a so-called “victim mentality”. In this case, the person deliberately takes the place of a loser, relieving himself of responsibility for actions and results, and reinforcing his own helplessness. In fact, it is about finding an excuse and exaggerating it without a desire to change.

How to spot low self-esteem

To do this, you can either use online psychology tests (Budassi, Rosenberg, Eysenck, Zanga, Leary) or an individual assessment of the existing symptoms. Only a specialist can determine the severity of it, however, the primary evaluation can be carried out straight away.

In particular, you should pay attention to the manifestation of the following signs:

  • Constant self-criticism, in most cases with no ground;
  • Uncertainty in all spheres;
  • Constant dissatisfaction with own appearance, lifestyle, amount of earnings, etc. that persists even after the changes have been achieved;
  • Expectation that other people may frame you;
  • Pessimism;
  • Inadequate response to criticism;
  • Fear of error;
  • Overthinking and, as a result, refusal to act;
  • Difficulty saying "no" in response to requests from other people;
  • Envy;
  • Chronic annoyance and anger with no grounds at everyone and everything.

Where to start from?

Given that self-esteem often decreases against the background of external pressure, it would be wise to first exclude negative factors of the outside world. For example:

  • Stop following the "successful" life of others on social networks as this is often a carefully orchestrated picture that might have nothing to do with reality;
  • Ignore criticism and adequately respond to feedback. Listening to some random opinions should be limited;
  • Eliminate toxic people from your social circle. If some people only give you dissatisfaction, criticism and humiliation, while you yourself do not find any support or approval, try to limit communication with them, even if they are your closest surrounding;
  • Watch less negative news. They do not contribute to the broadening of your horizons, exacerbating negative states of mind instead;
  • Feel free to change the environment around you if you are sure that it will help you feel better.

Further steps to improve self-esteem

To improve self-esteem, different techniques can be used, and an individual course can be made up by a specialist. Here are only the most general recommendations.


Dissatisfaction with the appearance can exist at any age and can apply to both men and women:

  • Start working out, go to the gym;
  • Pick the diet that is right for you;
  • Visit a beauty salon, a cosmetologist and a spa;
  • Work on fixing problems with skin, hair, etc .;
  • Refresh your wardrobe and find your style of clothing;
  • Look at yourself in the mirror and try to rehearse possible dialogues, emotions, reactions in advance. Gain confidence through practising. Eliminate filler words or unnecessary movements, like constant scratching and smacking. You need to feel confident, at least in private, and then move on to being confident in front of others.

Internal transformation

Changes in character and other personal traits will require more effort and the result may not appear quickly, so:

  • Acquire ​​new knowledge and develop new skills in the areas that are interesting to you and can positively affect further career growth or make you feel happy;
  • Constantly look for those areas in which you feel naturally good and where there is potential for you to grow;
  • Write a list of your merits, explain and justify them (f.e. “in the school theatre, I was often awarded and got standing ovations”). Keep it in front of your eyes constantly;
  • Failures should not put you down. Remember in the post-credits scenes there is often a selection of bad takes. Treat failure the same way the actors do - with humour and a desire to do better in the next scene;
  • Accept your imperfections. The advice is not entirely professional, but if you constantly compare yourself with someone who you admire, looking for flaws in you, try to see instead that this person is not perfect either;
  • Self-respect is the main step towards improving self-esteem. As long as you don’t like yourself, it will be difficult to convince others of this;
  • Be prepared to defend your interests.
young woman meditating in nature
Harmony in thoughts strengthens the spirit and heals the body, which boosts self-confidence

Interaction with the outside world

It is impossible to improve self-esteem without interacting with the outside world. Try to do this more often, for example:

  • Talk to a stranger, ask for directions or recommendations on where to go sightseeing; 
  • Help other people, get involved in charity; 
  • Attend member clubs of your interest; 
  • Expand your social circle; 
  • Make useful connections and contacts.

Of course, the role of psychological approach in building up your self-esteem should not be underestimated. It includes consultation with a psychologist, meditation and listening to affirmations. Short comprehensible verbal formulas are considered one of the most effective methods of reprogramming consciousness. Their repetition day after day shapes a positive subconscious attitude, which gradually changes personality traits for the better. It happens because affirmations are always pronounced aloud as a statement of something that has already occurred which makes a person think accordingly. Short motivational affirmations can be not only repeated daily but also listened to every night during sleep. This unique feature is available in the Hypnopedia app. Thanks to a unique algorithm that estimates the best sleep phase for perceiving affirmations, they are played during the user's sleep without waking him up, strengthening self-confidence and mental health in general. The statements are sorted into sections for you to choose and are aimed at improving various aspects of life. Also, the app provides relaxing sounds for falling asleep and a smart alarm clock with an adaptive smooth wake-up period that calculates the most suitable wake-up time for the body.

You can download app Hypnopedia here:

Ссылка App Store

The time you will need to invest to boost your self-esteem will depend on how long you have been ignoring this issue. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes years, however, absolutely everyone can build up their self-confidence. The main thing is to start taking actions in this direction, and the way you feel about yourself will start to improve day by day.

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