How to Build Your Self Esteem at Work

See how to build your self-esteem at work. You can have confidence even when you are in your first job and still building experience!

Self-esteem is defined as “an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth” (Wikipedia.) Because it is subjective, it can be quite hard to measure and evaluate effectively. However, if you frequently find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your abilities, you might be suffering from low self-esteem.

How can low self-esteem hold you back at work?

Low self-esteem can be a real problem in the workplace, and it can hold you back. Employees with low self-esteem tend to avoid putting themselves forward for projects, seeking advancement and promotion opportunities, and taking even calculated risks.

How to build your self-esteem at work

Most of us could do with a little boost to our self esteem. Here are six strategies that can help you get out of the rut and start feeling more confident at work.

Seek feedback often

A good manager will give you frequent feedback on your work. But there’s nothing wrong with asking for extra feedback. Explain to your manager that you’re keen to improve and welcome any input they can give you.

This will give you a clear sense of where you’re doing well and where you could brush up your knowledge or skills. You’re probably doing more things well than you think you are, and hearing that from your manager will give your confidence a boost.

Remember: self-esteem isn’t about always knowing the answers or doing everything right. It’s as much about trusting your own ability to learn, improve, and develop based on feedback. But you can only do that if you seek out the feedback in the first place.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Your self-esteem is about you, not about anyone else. So resist the urge to compare yourself to others. It’s a cliche but a truism: the only person you’re in competition with is yourself.

Next time you find yourself obsessing about what someone else is doing better than you, refocus on yourself, your own skills, and your own development. You might be surprised to learn that other people are also secretly comparing themselves unfavourably to you! We all do it, but it’s a classic self-esteem trap. Next time you catch yourself comparing your skills, abilities, or experience to someone else’s, make a conscious decision that you’re not going to do that. With a little practice, it’s possible to re-engineer your thought patterns.

Take stock of your strengths and achievements

We bet you’re really good at more things than you think you are!

If your self-esteem is suffering, it can help you step back and recognise all the things you’re good at. Try thinking of three or five or ten things you’re really good at. Then think about some things you’ve achieved at work recently.

No achievement is too small to celebrate. Make a list and stick it to your wall or keep it in your bag. Then you can look at it wherever your self-esteem starts faltering, as evidence that you really are awesome.

Look for opportunities to improve on your weaknesses

We all have weaknesses, and that’s normal! But did you know that making an effort to learn and develop can give your self-esteem a big lift?

Identify two or three areas at work that you struggle with, and start thinking about how you can improve upon them. It might involve taking an online course, reading a book or paper, asking a colleague to teach you, or attending a training session. You can also ask your boss for their advice on how to learn more. They might be able to point you in the direction of appropriate training or resources. They’ll also be seriously impressed that you’re being proactive about your own development.

When you look back later and see how far you’ve come, you’ll feel great about yourself!

Put yourself out there

This is a real challenge for people with low self-esteem, but I encourage you to try it if you can. Start small – you don’t have to go for a big promotion this week! But next time your boss asks for volunteers for a task or project, throw your hat into the ring. Next time a colleague asks for ideas in a group meeting, speak up and put your ideas on the table before you talk yourself out of it.

Think of it like this: positive self-esteem isn’t just something you have, it’s something you do. It takes active work to improve, and actively taking small risks and putting yourself out there is a big part of that. The more you do it, the less scary it will get! 

Get some professional help if you need it

While self-esteem isn’t a mental illness in and of itself, it is deeply tied to several mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. Living with low self-esteem doesn’t necessarily mean you have one of these conditions.

But if your self-esteem is suffering and you have been unable to improve the situation, consider talking to your doctor or seeing a therapist. Your workplace might have an Employee Assistance Programme that you can contact to get free, confidential mental health support.

You are amazing!

Low self-esteem is a really common problem, so if you’re struggling with it, you’re not alone. But it’s also possible to fix it. You’ll not only feel better about yourself if you do, but you’ll also be better equipped to excel at work and advance in your career.

You’re amazing – you’ve got this.


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