Feeling Like You Don’t Measure Up? 7 Tips to Increase Self-Esteem

Young adult with curly hair stands in front of bike facing camera with smileLow self-esteem has become an epidemic in our society. Feelings of unworthiness and an impaired self-image can occur starting at a young age and may lead to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. People who lack confidence in their abilities may negatively compare themselves to others and may refrain from trying new things out of fear of failure.

Because of unrealistic media portrayals of what a healthy body looks like, young girls and women can be especially vulnerable to developing low self-esteem and body image issues. When girls are conditioned to believe skinny bodies are desirable and should be the norm, they may feel inadequate by comparison. According to a survey conducted in 2016, 69% of women and 65% of girls feel pressured to attain an unrealistic standard of “beauty.” The negative impact on their overall view of themselves can lead to decreased self-confidence and feelings of unworthiness, as well as “yo-yo dieting” and/or eating disorders.

Social media can also contribute to an impaired view of self-worth, as many people tend to compare their lives with others and may feel they come up lacking. Seeing only happy moments and pictures posted online can create a discrepancy in what people would like to see in their own lives and the reality of what is happening. Understanding that social media portray an unrealistic and limited view of people’s experiences is important to keep in mind.

Because low self-esteem can be so harmful, finding ways to feel better about ourselves and our abilities is vital to our well-being. The following are some methods that can be used to help increase self-esteem:

  • Don’t beat yourself up. A common issue for people with low self-esteem is negative self-talk. If you have a tendency to beat yourself up, try to replace the negative inner dialogue with positive statements about yourself. Look for your strengths and focus on these, rather than on your weaknesses. When you catch yourself berating yourself, replace the negative self-talk with positive affirmations about yourself.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. We are all special and unique, with different gifts to offer. Trying to become like others or to measure up to others’ standards can be exhausting and make us feel inadequate. Concentrate instead on being the best version of yourself that you can be and on improving on the innate skills you already possess.
  • Avoid perfectionism. We are all human and therefore imperfect. Striving for an idealized version of yourself can be detrimental, as you will never be able to achieve perfection. While having attainable goals to work toward is important, don’t feel as if you have to do everything perfectly. Failure can actually be beneficial at times, as we may learn valuable lessons that can help us with future endeavors.
  • Develop a healthier relationship with your body. If you tend to struggle with body image issues, work toward developing a better outlook by focusing on health rather than on weight. Choose healthy eating options whenever possible without going overboard. In addition, find an activity you enjoy that you can commit to on a regular basis. This could be going for a daily walk after work, taking a kickboxing or yoga class, or working out at the gym.
  • Limit your use of social media. Try to avoid spending too much time on social media, as this can lead to unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and lifestyles. Remember that most people only post pictures that make their lives appear happy and fun, but that this is not an accurate representation of their experience as a whole. Spending too much time looking at what others are doing also means we are spending less time enjoying our own lives.
  • Set attainable goals. Determining what to focus on in our lives is important, so take some time to set some goals for yourself and break these down into small steps that can gradually help you accomplish them. Feeling we are making progress toward our dreams can help to boost our confidence levels and make us feel good about ourselves.
  • Meet with a counselor. If self-esteem issues have become a serious problem in your life and/or have led to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or an eating disorder, you may want to consider meeting with a therapist in order to work on healing any inner wounds and improving your self-image.

Although low self-esteem has become commonplace in our society, there are ways we can work on developing a healthier sense of self. Try some or all of the ideas listed above to increase your self-confidence and start to feel better about yourself. If you want support, contact a licensed therapist.


New Dove research finds beauty pressures up, and women and girls calling for change. (2016, June 21). Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-dove-research-finds-beauty-pressures-up-and-women-and-girls-calling-for-change-583743391.html

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  • arika

    July 5th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    I find it pretty suspicious that so much of this epidemic of low self esteem really began in earnest once we could see all of the time the fabulous lives that other people are living but not us. It is as if we all wanted to be more connected with one another but that in many ways this has turned out to do a whole lot more harm than it has good.

  • Wendy Salazar

    July 6th, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    Hi Arika,
    I agree and think that social media has definitely had a negative impact on self-esteem for many people, who tend to compare their lives to those of others.

  • Teddy

    July 6th, 2017 at 7:39 AM

    Self affirmations every day!

  • Kathryn

    July 7th, 2017 at 10:51 AM

    I have spent my whole life trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations that my parents have set for me, and no matter what I am never going to meet them. And as much as I am honest with myself and know this is the truth, I still beat myself up day after day when I think that I am somehow disappointing them. I feel like they have invested so much into me and that now that it is my turn to reciprocate I am going to fail them because what if it isn’t good enough?

  • Angie

    November 22nd, 2020 at 5:26 PM

    Hi Kathryn, I realize it is sort of instinctual to try to please our parents. However, we are not designed to fulfill their desires and dreams but ours. We don’t have to feel like we need to live up to their expectations, and if they are imposing those on you, hopefully they realize that this is your life to live not theirs.

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