Many people experience having low self esteem. Having low self esteem can impact multiple areas of someone’s life and hold them back in certain ways.

It can also decrease overall levels of happiness. At SDSU, many students contact the counseling center noting that their self esteem is lower than they would like it to be. 

Some individuals go through their daily lives and their low levels of self esteem do not significantly impact them. For others, it can significantly hinder their ability to be successful as college students.

College can magnify insecurities as students may believe that ‘everyone else’ feels better about themselves and others do not struggle in the same way they do. But we know that feeling low about yourself is very common. That does not change the fact that having low self esteem can lower feelings of self worth and increase feelings of guilt and shame.


We are constantly narrating our personal experience and are often not accurate to what exactly is taking place. The tone of our narration, which is based on many factors, can directly influence our emotions.

For example, if we are running late and there is unexpected traffic, we might tell ourselves “Oh no, of course I am late again. I can’t do anything right.”

Simply having that thought can lead to feeling down, meaning that it is based on your interpretation of the events as opposed to the events them selves.

Self talk can play an important role in how we experience our emotions, which can then impact our self esteem, so please feel free to check out our page dedicated to it.

For people with low self esteem, there may be strong, seemingly fixed beliefs that they have about themselves. Sometimes you may be aware of these beliefs, other times you may need to monitor your self talk to learn what they are.

Core beliefs generally emerge in childhood. Here are some examples of negative core beliefs that some people have:

  • I’m a fraud
  • I’m stupid
  • No one will ever love me
  • No one really wants to spend time with me
  • I’ll never be enough
  • I’m bad at talking to people

There may be aspects of these that hold some degree of truth. For example, maybe you think no one will ever love you because, as far as you know, this has not happened yet for you. Or maybe your parents told you this growing up. But this does not mean that it cannot happen.

If you are able to identify some of your core beliefs, it can be helpful to rephrase them. Here are some examples

  • I’m a fraud to I’m feeling inadequate, but it is normal to feel that way. Many people do. 
  • I’m stupid to I struggle in certain areas at times, but I am great in others
  • No one will ever love me to I have not yet had a chance to meet the person that will care for me like I care for them
  • No one really wants to spend time with me to some people really enjoy my company but do not always show it

One thing that can be very helpful to assist with low self esteem is to determine what you have control over versus what you do not. Some people feel as if it does not matter what you do and bad things will inevitably happen. While poor results may occur in some parts of our lives, there are also many aspects of our life that we do have control over.

Depending on how you assess a situation can then determine what you do next. If there is something present that you have control over, you may see if there is a way to address it as well as focus on coping with it.

However, if there is something that you have no control over, you may instead opt to focus on managing your emotions surrounding the stressful situation. Focusing on what you have control over, and learning to be successful in those situations, can increase feelings of mastery and overall self esteem.

Please look at our page for control vs no control for more information.

Identifying what your most effective personal coping skills can be a good strategy for increasing self esteem. There may be activities that you engage in that help take your mind off of what is worrying you. Some common coping strategies for self esteem are exercise, talking to a supportive friend or family member, or listening to music.

There may also be activities that you enjoy that you are good at. Engaging in activities that bring you joy or give you a sense of achievement can be great for assisting with low self esteem.

Visit our coping skills page to learn more and get additional ideas.

Journaling in various forms can be a particularly effective way to cope with low self esteem. This may include writing your thoughts down daily and saving them, writing your thoughts and erasing them immediately, or even recording yourself discussing your thoughts.

The most important part is finding a way to get your thoughts out, not necessarily that you find a way to go back and see them again (hence the idea that you can erase or not save the document).

This is also a great opportunity for those that enjoy expressing themselves artistically to use their preferred platform, whether it is music, painting, poetry, or many more, as a means to express what they are feeling.

To learn more, please visit our journaling page

A way to increase self esteem is to try to align yourself with your values. This may seem simple, but we often find ourselves in conflict with what we care about and what we participate in on a daily basis, we recommend participating in a values sort exercise, then seeing how your values line up with what you are currently doing. For more information, please click here.


Remind yourself of these strengths when you wake up in the morning.
Identify your top values, then identify three ways you can increase that values presence in your life.
If you like it, try it more.