Student Health And Counseling Services

Topic - Self Esteem

Most people's feelings and thoughts about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. The grade you get on an exam, how your friends treat you, ups and downs in a romantic relationship-all can have a temporary impact on your well being.

Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal "ups and downs" associated with situational changes. For people with good basic self-esteem, normal "ups and downs" may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor basic self-esteem, these "ups and downs" may make all the difference in the world.

Poor Self-Esteem vs. Healthy Self-Esteem

People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how they feel about themselves. They need positive external experiences to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that constantly plague them. Even then, the good feeling (from a good grade, etc.) can be temporary.

Healthy self-esteem is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately (know ourselves) and still be able to accept and to value ourselves unconditionally. This means being able to realistically acknowledge our strengths and limitations (which is part of being human) and at the same time accepting ourselves as worthy and worthwhile without conditions.

Steps to Building Self-Esteem


Anything that involves new behavior, new ideas, new beginnings, new projects, a different way of doing things, and expressing the self. This also means suspending judgments about outcomes. It's important to keep an open mind when trying something new. This doesn't mean just about your success, but just the ability to try new things is important in and of itself.


The "I can do this" type of feeling or a new understanding that comes with mastering a new skill or concept.


Giving service to your family, friends, and community is important, positive work. Giving of yourself -- whether it be time, services, or just plain energy -- can be very rewarding.


It is important to take personal time to regularly have fun!


Nothing extraordinary is necessary, a brisk walk will do. Regular exercise fuels creativity and positive moods. And exercise gives a us a sense we've accomplished something.


We all need love and relationships of all types. The hard thing is to make ourselves lovable and attractive to other people. This involves listening to others as well as receiving feedback on our behavior which initially can be painful.

Spiritual Activities and Experiences

These keep us focused on the deeper meaning of life and help us keep problems in perspective.


These links may also be helpful

Self-Help Resources: Self-Esteem

Wikipedia: How to increase Self-Confidence

Ezine Articles: Building Self-Esteem


Page updated Summer 2017 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC - Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls

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Student Health and Counseling Services
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