31 Expert-Backed Ways to Easily and Instantly Boost Your Self-Esteem
Get the confidence boost you need with tips from therapists and scientific studies.
Some days, you might feel like you can take on the world. And others, well, not so much. It's a fact of life that everyone has those moments when their self-esteem tank is a little depleted. But there are plenty of different ways you can bring your confidence back up. And it won't take weeks or months, either—you can do it today. The next time you're wondering how to build your self-esteem, try one (or all!) of these 31 expert-backed tips—from what you wear to your self-talk—that'll make you instantly feel great about yourself again.
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How to Build Your Self-Esteem
1. Give yourself a pep talk.
Football players give themselves serious pep talks before they hit the field, so why not do the same for yourself when you need a hit of confidence?
"Practicing self-love boosts self-esteem," says Miyume McKinley, LCSW, owner of Epiphany Counseling, Consulting & Treatment Services.
However, she notes that practicing self-care and self-love are not one and the same—instead of getting a manicure or massage, McKinley recommends "[making] a list of why you love you, and why you should love you." Once that's done, "remind yourself often."
2. Make a point not to criticize yourself.
How many times a day do you cut yourself down? Whether it's about your appearance, intelligence, personality, or any other part of who you are, negative self-talk isn't good for anyone.
"We learn early on to reflexively criticize ourselves when we look at our reflections, and it becomes so automatic, we don't even realize we're doing it," says integrative psychotherapist Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT.
Instead, when you look in the mirror, say something positive about the person you see staring back at you. "It doesn't have to be hyperbolic, just something you know to be true," Gerst says.
3. Say "I love you" to yourself.
You tell other people you love them all the time, so why not share that love with yourself, too?
"Say it while looking in the mirror every time you brush your teeth, and at every red light you encounter while driving," suggests licensed psychotherapist and art therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, founder of Create Your Life Studio. "Then, start peppering it in before you go to sleep and when you first wake up in the morning."
"If you feel like you have a weight on your chest, you just might," notes Jocelyn Michelle Reaves, MPH, business consultant and coach and founder of Fireside Insights and CoachedIt. And to help alleviate that, she suggests journaling.
"Do a brain dump of what's going on in your mind to get clarity on a current situation and feel more secure in the present moment by truly understanding what's happening, how you feel, and what you want," Reaves says. "Many times, lack of self-esteem comes from lack of clarity."
5. Repeat some affirmations.
Self-affirmations may feel funny at the moment, as it can seem odd to shower yourself with praise and compliments. But this tactic really works.
In a 2015 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that using self-affirmations not only calms you down but also gives you the confidence you need to conquer your goals, whether it's acing a job interview or getting the courage to ask someone on a date.
"I ask my clients to say one nice thing about themselves each day, even if they do not believe it," says therapist Julie C. Kull, LCSW, founder of Kull Counseling.
Kull recommends short affirmations, like telling yourself that you're smart, kind, or a good person. "The more you hear the messages, the more you start to believe them."
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6. Focus on the small victories.
Instead of ruminating about the times you said the wrong thing or how far behind you feel career-wise, try thinking about all the things you have going for you.
"It's always a great practice to self-reflect on your journey and give yourself credit for all your accomplishments," says therapist Samantha Smalls, LCSW. "You can also reflect on your day and check off your daily victories."
These don't have to be huge victories, either. They can be as small as getting to see a friend during a busy workweek or adding an extra five minutes of exercise.
7. Tackle one project on your to-do list.
Procrastination does more than just stress you out—it can also take a toll on your self-esteem. If you want to see your confidence soar, try checking one item off that list.
"One thing that powerfully impacts self-esteem is to move something off the back-burner," explains Mike Ensley, LPCC, a professional counselor.
Whether that's finally clearing those clothes for donation out of your closet or emptying your email inbox, having one less thing on that to-do list can send your self-esteem to new heights.
8. Make a list of your goals and how you're reaching them.
Even if it feels like you're a long way off from becoming the person you want to be, writing down the goals you hope to accomplish and how you've taken steps toward achieving them can give you a serious self-esteem boost in the short term.
"Set a goal and see how you're getting closer to meeting it," suggests clinical psychotherapist Kevon Owen, LPC.
If you're hoping to go back to school to finish your degree, for example, make a note of how you called to attend an information session. If you want to get fitter, write down the date when you signed up for the gym.
"Whatever it is, look at how well you're doing or how you're progressing and watch how it impacts that self-esteem," Owen says.
9. Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude.
It's easy to get into the mindset where everything is either fully fantastic or totally terrible, with nothing in between. If something doesn't go your way, don't immediately chalk it up to being a failure.
The Mayo Clinic says that all-or-nothing thinking is incredibly harmful to your self-esteem. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, learn from them and turn them into positives. Once you reframe the way you think about certain situations, your confidence will make a comeback.
10. Break a sweat.
There's a scientific reason why you feel so much better about yourself right after a workout. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there's a strong link between exercise and mood enhancement. In fact, just five minutes after some moderate exercise, you'll begin to feel the effects.
So, whether it's a midday walk during your lunch hour or a 45-minute personal training session, getting your body moving can make a major difference in how you feel about yourself and your outlook on life as a whole.
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11. Practice yoga.
It's not just high-impact workouts that can send your self-esteem through the roof—assuming a few yoga poses can also make your confidence soar.
And if you're pressed for time, don't worry: According to a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, it only takes two minutes of yoga to feel a major difference in your mood.
12. Do a power pose.
Stand like a superhero, really! "While this may seem like fluff, there's actually been studies that say that doing a power pose (or superhero pose) can boost your confidence in minutes by helping you feel empowered," shares Reaves.
"To do this, put your hands on your hips, stand with your legs and least shoulder-length apart, and hold your head high," she says. "Just 30 seconds of this will make you feel ready to take on the world."
13. Sit up straight.
Got a hunch that your usual slumped-over position is holding you back? You're onto something. Experts say adopting a more confident posture can raise your self-esteem in seconds.
"Shifting your posture helps slowly shift your mindset," says licensed clinical psychologist Heather Stevenson, PsyD. "Stand and walk with an upright body posture, head tilted slightly up, and shoulders down and rolled back."
14. Enjoy a cup of coffee.
Starting your day off with a cup of coffee has plenty of science-backed benefits, from decreasing your risk of illness to helping with appetite control. Another major perk? Boosting your self-esteem!
A 1994 landmark study published in the journal Food Components to Enhance Performance found that caffeine can increase confidence levels, as well as benefit your mood and energy.
15. Listen to feel-good music.
Music is an incredibly powerful thing. It can make you feel sad, giddy, and even more confident.
In a 2014 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that music evokes a sense of power, giving you the self-esteem you need to totally conquer your day.
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16. Give yourself some screen-free time.
If social media tends to have a negative effect on you, you're not alone. A 2012 study published in the journal Communication Research found an inverse relationship between the amount of time spent in front of a screen and self-esteem in children.
If you can relate, try shutting down your devices and doing something that's going to make you feel good, not set you back.
17. Force a smile.
Even if you're not feeling particularly happy, putting a smile on your face can make a big difference in how you feel, even boosting your confidence along the way.
According to a 2019 meta-analysis published in Psychological Bulletin, people who smiled typically felt happier—and what makes you more confident than feeling happy?
While you're smiling, might as well throw a laugh in there, too!
"Laughing triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters," explains Ana Sokolovic, a licensed psychotherapist at Blue ABA. "Improvements in your mood affect what you focus on and can help you reframe current insecurities, thus boosting confidence."
She recommends watching a comedy show, funny animal videos, or reading jokes.
19. Channel your inner social butterfly.
One simple way to instantly boost your self-esteem is to put yourself out there.
In a 2015 study published in the journal PLOS One, researchers found that being more social and surrounding yourself with people can help increase your self-esteem. So now's the time to find folks who share the same interests as you, and join in on the fun.
20. Flirt with somebody.
Unleashing your inner flirt is a quick way to increase your self-esteem.
As Fairfield University's Sean M. Horan, PhD, wrote f0r Psychology Today, when someone flirts back, it instantly makes you feel great about yourself (and might even score you a first date).
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21. Get to gardening.
Getting your hands dirty in the garden isn't just good for your physical health—it can be a major boost to your self-esteem, too.
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Public Health, among 269 participants—133 control subjects and 136 gardeners—the latter group reported significant improvements in their self-esteem and overall mood.
Sometimes, the key to boosting your confidence has nothing to do with yourself and everything to do with others.
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Adolescence, researchers found those who took the time to volunteer—whether at a food bank, a soup kitchen, or simply helping with a neighbor's yard—wound up increasing their self-esteem in the process.
23. Do a random act of kindness.
Even if you don't have time to commit to a long-term volunteer project, you can still boost your self-esteem in no time by making an effort to incorporate good deeds into your daily routine.
"Whenever we are feeling low, putting our time and energy into making someone else feel good usually gives us a self-esteem boost, because it feels good to lift up someone else," explains Cherie Miller, MS, LPC-S, a body image, eating disorder, and self-confidence psychotherapist and CEO of Nourished Soul Center for Healing. "It reminds us that we are capable of doing good and making a difference in the world."
24. Remind yourself of others' kindness to you.
When you have a moment of low self-esteem, Miller suggests looking at kind things others have said about you. "Keep a folder on your camera phone with screenshots of kind texts from people. Save cards expressing how much someone loves you in a box and read through them."
If you don't have anything saved, Miller recommends asking a friend or family member to remind you why they love you or see the good in you.
"It can be hard to ask, but since most people know what it's like to have low self-esteem sometimes, they're usually happy to help build you up in a low moment," she says.
25. Fire off some four-letter words.
Sure, you don't want to swear anywhere and everywhere, but if you're in need of a little more confidence, consider unleashing some curse words under your breath or in private.
"By swearing, we show, if only to ourselves, that we are not passive victims, but rather we are empowered to react and fight back," writes psychiatrist Neel Burton, MD, for Psychology Today. "This can boost our confidence and self-esteem."
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26. Break out that lucky charm.
Whether it's a pair of socks or a penny you found laying heads-up, having some kind of lucky object can give you the boost of confidence you need to conquer the day.
In a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that people who have lucky charms with them tend to be more confident going into certain situations than those who don't. Better yet, that confidence has been shown to help boost performance, too.
27. Take a peek at your resume.
Sometimes all it takes to give your confidence a boost is looking at everything you've achieved. But when you're feeling down, it's hard to remember just how great you are.
In her book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, psychology professor Sian Beilock says simply taking a glance at your resume can give you the reminder you need to make you feel great once again.
28. Spray on a scent you love.
You might be a spritz or two away from a major boost to your self-esteem. If you don't wear cologne or perfume every day, consider adding some to your morning routine.
In a 2011 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward, researchers found that 90 percent of women instantly felt more confident after using a little perfume compared to those who didn't. All the more reason to find a scent you love and use it regularly.
29. Get a haircut.
Sometimes, a little refresh in the hair department can have a big impact on our self-esteem, whether that's a totally new haircut, a simple trim, or new highlights.
"In a study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina, 66 male and female participants were asked to complete a survey before and after getting a new haircut," shares Sokolovic.
The study found that after, they felt a higher attractiveness, self-esteem, and overall mood. "The researchers also discovered that the positive effects can last for several days following the haircut," she adds.
30. Get back in black.
Black might seem like a gloomy color, but that's not the case when it comes to your self-esteem.
In a recent U.K. survey, 56 percent of people said black is their go-to color to wear whenever they want to feel confident, whether that's for a first date or a job interview. And if you think about it, it makes sense: Who doesn't look great in black?
31. Put on a fancy outfit.
Putting on an outfit you feel confident in can not only make you look better—it can make you feel better about yourself, too.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, individuals who wore formal attire felt more powerful than those who didn't dress up.
So, when you need a self-esteem boost, opt for those dress pants and oxfords instead of your usual sweats and sneakers.