Self-esteem is a sense of belief and confidence in your own values and abilities. This is something you develop over time as you respond to the big and small events in your life – anything from deciding what to eat for dinner to how well you cope with having a baby .
Having good self-esteem means you feel capable of tackling the challenges of everyday life and that you have measured up to your goals and values. When it comes to relationships, it’s also important to have a stable sense of self-esteem. This means that your self-esteem is realistic and reflects what others see in you.
Having a good and stable sense of self-esteem can mean you feel more satisfied in your relationship, and any changes in self-esteem can also change how you feel about your relationship. Poor self-esteem is linked with high levels of stress and instability in relationships.
One marker of a healthy relationship is that the individuals involved have time for their own activities and friends outside of the relationship. It is important that each person involved in the relationships has their own sense of self-worth   .
If you want to work on building your self-esteem, one thing you can try is using self-enhancing humour rather than self-defeating humour. Self-defeating humour is putting yourself down and making a joke at your own expense, such as ‘I was an ugly baby,’ or ‘That was such a stupid thing to do.’ This type of self-talk can make you feel sad and anxious.
Self-enhancing humour is finding humour in everyday situations or making yourself the target of a joke in a good-natured way, such as ‘I’m a bit of a klutz’, or ‘You’ll never believe what happened to me’. Self-enhancing behaviour can help you feel more capable and worthy .
Another way to build self-esteem is to model your behaviour on someone you admire. This can help you find ideas about how to solve problems and deal with uncertainty and anxiety. When you are stuck for what to do in a certain situation, seeing how someone else has done it can help you develop the knowledge and skills to try something similar. Take some time to think about who you look up to and the values they embody that are important to you .
Another way to improve your self-esteem is by acting in line with your values and working towards goals that are important to you. It is much easier to do this when you know what your goals and values are. You can find a values exercise in our article, ‘Are you having an emotional affair?’
When setting goals, it is important to think ‘SMART’ by making sure your goals embody the following five qualities:
S – Make sure your goals are specific. For example, rather than the general goal of ‘being more loving to my partner’ try saying: ‘I will call my partner when I get off work and say “I love you”’.
M – Having goals that are meaningful to you is also important. Make sure your goals are not geared towards avoiding pain or pleasing others. One of your values might be showing love and appreciation for your family. In this case your goal could be to make an effort to thank your partner when they do something nice for you.
A – Adaptive goals are those that aim to improve your life. It may seem silly but it’s important to weigh this one up. Something that seems like a good idea may not be practicable in the context of your life. For example, you may consider joining a dog walking club to socialise, but if you are often stressed and rushing around trying to get everything done, then a more adaptive goal could be to cut something out of your busy schedule instead.
R – Set realistic goals, taking into account your current health and financial circumstances. If you are struggling to make ends meet and your goal is to start exercising it may not be realistic for you to buy a gym membership. Instead you might decide to try something more affordable, like going for a run outside.
T – Finally setting timebound goals can help increase specificity. Set yourself a date and time by which to achieve your goals, or an estimate that feels realistic. Instead of setting the general goal of ‘running regularly’, you could aim to go for a run every Thursday at five o’clock .
Write down a series of goals you want to achieve from the immediate to long term:
When building self-esteem remember it takes time and is not something that you can improve overnight. Pursuing this goal will take perseverance, patience, mindfulness, and wholeheartedness, but it is possible, and we are behind you all the way. Let us know how you get on!
By Helen Molloy
 Mruk & Mruk, 2013
 Erol & Orth, 2014
 Santangelo et al., 2020
 Maestripieri et al., 2013
 Kuiper et al., 2004
 Harris, 2008