For many years now, "self-esteem" has been synonymous with "positive self image," but that's not really what self-esteem is. Positive self-image is important - it's caring about yourself and seeing yourself as a unique and special individual simply because of who you are as a human being. Self-esteem is a positive sense of one's own worth that is based on actually doing worthy things - it's that feeling you get when you've accomplished something, and it's a great feeling. Here's how to build it and help others lift theirs in the process.


1. Do something to impress yourself. There's only one way to elevate your self-esteem - earn your own respect.

2. Set goals and work toward them. They don't have to be pie-in-the-sky, they can just be gradual improvements. For example: you have a B- overall grade point average. Resolve to raise your GPA at least a half grade each semester until you are a B+, then you will renegotiate. Begin to study harder, join a study group or choose a study partner. As you begin to gain mastery of your schoolwork and see your GPA rise to a B and finally to a B+, you will have a solid sense of accomplishment - and your self-esteem will rise.

3. Gain accomplishments and achievements. Study hard. Take that B+ and turn it into Honors by keeping it there for one to three years. Or play hard at a sport. Even if you are only average, the more you practice, the better you will get, and that's an achievement of its own. Choose something to excel at, choose a goal, and work hard toward it until you achieve - even working toward bettering yourself for the sake of doing it is a worthy pursuit.

4. Value noble pursuits. Academics and sports are time-honored traditional pursuits which can bring out the best in a person by testing intellectual and physical limits, and fostering individual and team efforts.

5. Help someone. Volunteer at a retirement home or a homeless shelter. Get involved with your church in a ministry to the sick or the poor. Donate your time and service to a humane animal shelter. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Nothing is more rewarding than offering your time and talent to elevate someone else's situation. And getting outside your own head and your normal circle of influence can be eye opening and humbling.

6. Practice humility. No one was ever a greater public servant than Mother Teresa, she helped the poor, the sick and the dying, and never turned anyone away. Yet Mother Teresa was a strong, noble soul who knew that if she did not help these people, perhaps no one would. That's real self-esteem: "I am only one person, but I can help these people." That's knowing and believing in the power of One Person to make a real difference.

7. Pass your skills and talents on to someone. Teaching someone your specialty will show you how much you really do know and have to offer. As you help a novice learn the skills you have honed, you will feel their admiration and respect for your prowess. And in turn, you will be helping another develop those same skills, so that they may be passed on again.

8. Allow children to build self-esteem honestly. Just because they're kids doesn't mean they're stupid - do you really think they don't know you let them win? Self-esteem isn't built by being handed a win. It's built by actually winning. Play a game with with your kid until he masters it - it can be anything: Dominos, Scrabble, Pokemon, a video game, Hearts - and whatever you do, do NOT play down to him. When you win, celebrate. Don't belittle him or call him a loser, just say, "Yay, I win!" And then say, "Let's see, did you make any mistakes? Maybe you didn't - maybe it was just a bad draw. Let's look at your game and see where it could improve." Help him, show him how to improve, and play again. Eventually, he will beat you. When he does, tell him to stand up on the table and do a victory dance. Look at his face. See how he feels when he knows he earned this win, fair and square, and on his own? It's a huge difference, because it tells him he has the power to win, if he sticks with something and tries hard. It can set the tone for the way he goes at things the rest of his life. Don't "let" him win. By doing so you rob him of the chance to earn a win honestly.


• Nobody can give you self-esteem. You have to earn it yourself.
• Choosing non-competitive pursuits may be possible, but competing, even if you don't win, is exciting and does make you sharpen your skills - thereby building your estimation of yourself.
• Believe that you can make a difference, one person or task at a time. Over time, as your efforts bear fruit, you will feel your inner sense of satisfaction at your accomplishments.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Personal Development and Self-Esteem. The Official Guide to Personal Development and Self-Esteem is Dr. Joe Rubino. He is an internationally acclaimed authority on self esteem building, a life-changing personal development trainer and success coach. He also is the internationally best-selling author of 11 books available worldwide in 19 languages. His life-altering book, “The Self-Esteem Book: The Ultimate Guide to Boost the Most Important Ingredient for Success and Happiness in Life” is already in 5 languages and has contributed the secret to soaring self-esteem to readers around the world.

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