Have you ever felt so miserable about things going on in your life that it was difficult to concentrate on anything else? There are times in our lives when we hurt and feel overwhelmed by our pain.  Sometimes when we are in this painful headspace, we may find that we ridicule ourselves with self blame, self doubt, and focus on our perceived shortcomings.  When we close our eyes at night, we might replay a narrative that is unkind, we may have difficulties falling asleep, and when we wake, we may find it emotionally challenging to face the world outside the confines of our room or homes.  If this sounds familiar, whether for yourself personally or for someone you love, there are things we can do to help to disrupt the cycle of self abuse and help promote positive self-image and self esteem.  

Feeling good about ourselves is fundamental to our resilience; it supports our abilities to develop and sustain positive relationships, gives us the courage to try something new, the self forgiveness and patience to try again when we fail, and generally helps us to embrace what is in front of us in our daily lives. Life doesn’t have to be perfect for us to feel good about ourselves. In fact, it is precisely when life is not so perfect that we rely on positive self image and esteem to help us navigate through the difficulties. A positive sense of self can give us perspective and help us to view challenges as bumps in the road, rather than insurmountable obstacles.  The good news is that we can develop and foster positive self esteem in ourselves as well as in our kids. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help this:

Acknowledge the feelings: Having difficult feelings can feel isolating, and it is important to acknowledge the validity of those feelings.  Validating the feelings that challenge our self image and self esteem is an important empathy step.  It is okay to reflect on how we feel, even when those feelings are hard to unpack.  Take time to pinpoint specifics that are contributing to those feelings and reflect on other aspects of our lives that make us feel proud of ourselves.  

We are not defined by the difficult feelings: When we are faced with situations that make us feel that we are not good enough, it is important to help ourselves and our kids understand that these feelings will pass.  As humans, we all do things that hurt our sense of self worth, and it is important to recognize these circumstances do not define who we are.   We can role model this for our kids by connecting the issue to a limited time, or specific scenario – be it a tough moment, a difficult subject, a bad fall.  There are many other things that we do well in, and times like this can serve as opportunities remember and be reminded of those things. 

Take inventory of the positive: Maybe this one thing left us feeling down, but what are other things that we have done that we feel really great about?  As adults, we can help our kids remember all things they do well.  It is important to celebrate the good stuff, and try to find enough good stuff to outweigh the negative each day.

Create a safe and loving environment: We all get caught up in the stress of daily life, but we can try to build in time every day to allow the people in our circles to ‘just be’.  Try to find time regularly to  limit the direction, corrections, or requests you make.  Take a walk together, or just share the same space while reading or cooking, and let the kids do the talking.  See how long you can sustain a positive and quiet connection.  Creating connection and acceptance can be powerful antidotes to low self esteem.

When we feel good about ourselves, we are in a better position to role model this for our kids and help them when they are feeling down. Like anything in life, practice and patience will improve our skills, and ultimately support more confidence and resilience for ourselves and our kids. 


For Children: A heartwarming family film sharing themes of love, acceptance, and having a positive self-image.

For Youth: This Ted Talk speaker would like to introduce you to someone she thinks you should know-YOU!

For Caregivers: 10 tips to raise a child with resilience & self-esteem.

For Educators: 18 self-esteem worksheets and activities for teens and adults.