Improving Self-Esteem: Playful Steps Toward Self-Love

An older woman throws fall leaves in the air.I’ve learned to trust myself, to listen to truth, to not be afraid of it and to not try and hide it. -Sarah McLachlan

People with a healthy self-esteem are often positive, consider life to be a playful adventure, are confident in their abilities, maintain a healthy lifestyle, laugh a lot, and are never bored by what life offers.

Don’t know how to gauge your own self-esteem? Here is one way to take an inventory: Write down 20 things you love about yourself? How easily you complete this exercise (or whether you complete it at all!) will give you an idea about your current level of self-esteem.

How’d you do? If you are having a difficult time filling in all 20, or feeling resistant, try again. (Remember: real change involves taking risks—go ahead, you can do it!)

Now that you have completed your love within list, write lists for the people you love and admire—your friends, family, and colleagues. Don’t forget to share your list. Creating a list of what we love about ourselves is a challenge for many. Sharing your list will help the people you love to increase their own self-esteem. They need the encouragement as much as you do.  Now is the perfect time to strengthen your self-esteem and create the life you want, filled with self-love and gratitude for yourself and others.

Self-esteem is often accompanied by a playful attitude toward life. One of the benefits of play is that, as you experiment with breaking through barriers by trying on new experiences and making decisions, you learn to recognize your successes and celebrate your accomplishments. The more you nurture yourself along the way the more love you can share with others.

What are some playful steps that help recognize success while also expressing gratitude?

  • Listen to your inner voice. Make journaling a daily practice. Listen to the new information that comes up during this practice. Remember that few of us see the whole picture. We need guidance from both inner and outer sources. Uncensored journaling can help you get in touch with your inner guidance.
  • Try things out, experiment. What would you like to do but consider the idea too crazy, scary, or impossible.  As an example, suppose you have always wanted to learn how to draw but you don’t have a clue how to begin. Take a trip to a local gallery, pick up a book on how to draw, or watch a YouTube video on drawing. Small, playful steps are best when you begin anything new. Give it a try.
  • Remember missed opportunities and disappointments often come before new doors open. Keep going! When one thing doesn’t work, don’t stop. Most of our worries never come to fruition, but we miss opportunities because we worry too much to try. We create needless barriers, refuse to lighten up, and never address the fears that keep us from moving forward.
  • No more complaining/blaming. Take some responsibility for your actions and create the life you want! Let’s all take a break from complaining and blaming other people or circumstances. Try it. Take an oath to stop complaining and blaming for one day and see what happens.
  • Stay on track. Many of us shift gears just as we are on the verge of success. Sound familiar? Patience and perseverance are qualities that help us stay on course and complete important goals in our lives.
  • Practice gratitude. Create a list of five people you are grateful for in your life. Now write them a note, pick up the phone, or take them to lunch. Celebrate both of you! These five people are reflections of your best qualities—take a look and see yourselves through their eyes.


© Copyright 2011 by Mary Alice Long, PhD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jessi R

    August 25th, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    This is such an awesome article! I have to admit that I have not always loved myself but I am getting there with some help from my friends. What once would have been like surgery or pulling teeth, I now could list tons of things that I love about myself and the reasons why others will love me for that too. Do you know how good it feels to think like that instead of only thinking about the things that are bad? It is so liberating. I feel like a new person.

  • H Petersen

    August 25th, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    It can get difficult to go about things if you suffer from a lack of self-esteem.been there done that.Actually the problem was that nobody around me acknowledged anything good I did and always put me down.Years of this happening made me feel like I’m worthless.

    That was until I saw a therapist and thanks to him I started to see the real me.I’m not worthless,I can accomplish things that a lot of people cannot and I’m special in my own way.

    I hope this article just inspielres someone to come out and see the real themselves.You’re doing a great job with this article,Mary.

  • isabella

    August 26th, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    seems like I ve forgotten to do all of the wonderful things the author has suggested here.and although I don suffer from low self esteem I am sure to try these things to make myself feel better and live a fuller life :)

  • Angelique Felix

    August 26th, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    Dearest Mary Alice,
    What an inspiring article you’ve wrote here! I am full of gratitude for our connection. Please never stop doing what you are doing best: BEING you <3
    Love, Angelique

  • Coach Derrick

    August 28th, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    It is very refreshing to find articles like this that allow each of us to go within to find gratitude in loving our SELF.
    They say 80% of our self-talk is negative (on a daily basis). The more we can turn that internal dialog around and make it a positive experience, the more we shift our external world for the better! Thank You!

  • Mary Alice Long, PhD

    September 2nd, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Thank you all for your comments. Giving ourselves permission to love ourselves for who I am, not for ‘who I should be’ is so important. Becoming whole involves being conscious to our unique Self. Freedom comes through love of self, love of others, and playful action for the common good.

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