Simply defined, your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and your abilities. And according to Tina Bakardzhieva, Level Two Mindfulness-based Interventions Teacher, it can have a pretty big effect on your life, whether it’s high, low, or somewhere in-between. Bakardzhieva says it’s important to understand that nobody is born with limitless self-confidence. If they appear to have an unbelievably high self-esteem, it’s because they’ve worked on building it for years—which means you’re capable of achieving this level of confidence too.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

If you have a low self-esteem and wish to achieve a higher level of confidence, the first step is to identify where your low self-esteem stems from. Sometimes this can be difficult: “perhaps you’ve never really thought about it, or maybe it’s difficult to determine when it first started.” In either case, at least consider if it might be related to the following:

  • Loneliness
  • Bullying
  • Poor academic performance
  • Neglect or abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Something going on at a deeper level

Identifying the source of your low self-esteem—whether it’s listed above or a different source entirely—can create a foundation for improving your lack of confidence. If, on the other hand, you can’t pinpoint the cause, don’t worry: there are still steps you can take to build that esteem and improve the way you feel about yourself.

Improve Your Self-Esteem: 10 Professional Tips

A low self-esteem can not only influence how a person behaves, but what they achieve in their lifetime. According to Bakardzhieva, if you “feel confident and sure in yourself and your abilities, even the toughest problems and situations can be resolved.” So, what are you waiting for? Follow Bakardzhieva’s 10 tips below to improve your self-esteem and live a meaningful life:

    1) Manage your inner critic.
    “A good place to start with raising your self-esteem is by learning how to handle and to replace the voice of your own inner critic,” Bakardzhieva explains. “This inner voice whispers or shouts destructive thoughts in your mind. A few examples include: You are lazy and sloppy, now get to work. You aren’t good at your job at all and someone will throw you out. You are worse than your friend/co-worker/partner.”

    2) Use healthier motivation habits.
    Bakardzhieva says, “to weaken that inner critic and, at the same time, motivate yourself to take action and raise your self-esteem, it certainly helps to have healthy motivation habits. Refocus on doing what you really, really like to do. When you really enjoy doing something then the motivation to do that thing comes pretty automatically. Furthermore, when you really want something in life then it also becomes easier to push through any inner resistance you feel.”

    3) Take a two-minute self-appreciation break.
    Taking a pause to appreciate and compliment yourself “ is a very simple and fun habit. And if you spend just two minutes on it every day for a month, then it can make a huge difference,” says Bakardzhieva. “Here’s what you do: take a deep breath, slow down, and ask yourself this question: what are three things I can appreciate about myself? These short breaks do not only build self-esteem in the long run, but can also turn a negative mood around and reload you with a lot of positive energy again.”

    4) Write down three things you appreciate about yourself.
    “This is a variation of the habit above and combining the two of them can be extra powerful for two boosts in self-esteem a day,” Bakardzhieva explains. “Or, you may simply prefer to use this variation at the end of your day when you have some free time for yourself to spare.”

    5) Replace the perfectionism.
    According to Bakardzhieva, “few thought habits can be so destructive in daily life as perfectionism. It can paralyze you from taking action because you become so afraid of not living up to some standard. And so you procrastinate, and you do not get the results you want. This will make your self-esteem sink.” Bakardzhieva says it will do you well to remember this, and when you stumble you should be kind to yourself.

    6) Be kinder towards other people.
    “When you are kinder towards others, you tend to treat and think of yourself in a kinder way too. And the way you treat other people is how they tend to treat you in the long run,” the mindfulness teacher explains. “So, focus on being kind in your daily life. Try the following: hold open the door for the next person; let someone into your lane while driving; encourage a friend or family member when they’re unmotivated.”

    7) Stop falling into the comparison trap.
    Bakardzhieva says nothing good comes from comparing yourself to others: “When you compare your life, yourself, and what you have to other people, you have a destructive habit on your hands because you can never win. There is always someone who has more or is better than you at something in the world. There are always people ahead of you. So, replace that habit with something better. Look at how far you have come instead. Compare yourself to yourself. Focus on you, on your results.”

    8) Surround yourself with supportive people.
    Spending less time with destructive people is vital to improving your self-esteem, Bakardzhieva explains: “Even if you focus on being kinder towards other people (and yourself) and on replacing a perfectionism habit, it will be hard to keep your self-esteem up if the most important influences in your life drag you down on a daily or weekly basis. So make some changes. Choose to spend less time with people who are nervous perfectionists, unkind, or unsupportive of your dreams or goals. And spend more time with positive, uplifting people.”

    9) Try something new.
    “When you challenge yourself in a small or bigger way and go out of your comfort zone, then your opinion of yourself goes up,” says Bakardzhieva. “You may not have done whatever you did in a spectacular or great way, but you at least tried instead of sitting on your hands and doing nothing—and that is something to appreciate about yourself.”

    10) Remember the whys of high self-esteem.
    “The bottom line is improving self-esteem requires a bit of work, as it involves developing and maintaining healthier emotional habits, but doing so will provide a great emotional and psychological return on your investment. Keeping this in mind has done wonders for me and I hope it can do the same for you.” Bakardzhieva wants to pass on one final message: in the wise words of Lao Tzu: “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”