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Nancy Williams, M.A., LPC
• February 27, 2024

February is National Self-Esteem Month, a time to reflect on the importance of cultivating a positive self-image and nurturing self-worth. Self-esteem plays a crucial role in mental health and wellbeing. Individuals with healthy self-esteem are better equipped to navigate the ups and downs of life, assert their needs, and pursue their goals with confidence. In addition to the psychological benefits of self-esteem, evidence suggests there are physical benefits as well. Individuals with healthy self-esteem are more likely to engage in health-promoting behaviors such as regular exercise, healthful eating, and adequate sleep. And, studies have shown that those with healthy self-esteem may have stronger immune function and improved physiological responses to stress. 

While it may seem that some people come by their strong self-esteem naturally, building and maintaining self-esteem is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness, self-compassion, and intentional effort.

So how does one boost their self-esteem?


1. Identify negative self-talk or limiting beliefs that may contribute to low self-esteem. Journaling, mindfulness practices, and therapy are great ways to develop awareness about messages that contribute to low self-esteem. See if you can notice your thoughts without judging them. What does your inner monologue sound like? Once we’re aware of the negative things we may tell ourselves, we can begin to adopt a more positive, empowering narrative.

2. Cultivate self-compassion. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness and acceptance, especially when it’s most difficult: those moments when we struggle or make mistakes. Perhaps you begin journaling and you become aware of a tendency toward self-criticism. Rather than be hard on yourself, practice approaching yourself with the compassion you might offer a friend. It’s okay to acknowledge frustration or disappointment; remember, too, that everyone experiences mistakes and setbacks. When we respond to these experiences with kindness, we foster resilience and inner security. As you practice responding to yourself differently, remember that change takes time. Being patient with yourself is an expression of compassion.

3. Explore how past relationships may have impacted the way you see yourself. Sometimes we learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others. This can include family members, friends and loved ones, or larger groups such as members of our culture. When noticing any negative self-talk, get curious about where that message comes from. For example, if you experienced rejection or criticism from important people in your life, you might struggle to give yourself the encouragement or self-acceptance you deserve. Perhaps you believe that others will view you in the same critical way. In therapy, we work on understanding and processing these experiences, gradually replacing them with more self-affirming beliefs.

Nancy Williams, M.A., LPC


Nancy Williams (she/her) is a National Certified Counselor with an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Northwestern University. She works collaboratively with clients to navigate concerns including anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, identity, trauma, and challenges related to major life changes.

References & Citations

Arch, J. J., Brown, K. W., Dean, D. J., Landy, L. N., Brown, K. D., & Laudenslager, M. L. (2014). Self-compassion training modulates alpha-amylase, heart rate variability, and subjective responses to social evaluative threat in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 42, 49-58.

Orth, U., & Robins, R. W. (2022). Is high self-esteem beneficial? Revisiting a classic question. American psychologist, 77(1), 5.