14 Self-Esteem Goals You Can Set To See Yourself More Positively, Bit By Bit

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In the quest for personal growth and well-being, few goals are as important as growing your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is a mirror that reflects back your perception of yourself. It’s how you think and feel about who you are and what you bring to the world.

Self-esteem also serves as a compass as it helps define what direction you’re going to take:

  • If you don’t believe that you can, then you won’t.
  • If you don’t think you are valuable, then you’re not going to believe when other people find you valuable.
  • If you can’t love yourself, then you’ll find yourself questioning the truth of the people who love you.

If you have self-esteem issues, you may miss out on valuable opportunities for personal development because you don’t believe yourself capable. That may be personal, romantic, professional, or even opportunities for self-growth.

That’s why it’s so important to set goals to improve self-esteem.

The good news is that setting self-esteem goals and working toward them can make a major difference.

In this article, we’ll explore ways that you can improve your self-esteem, find value, and nurture love for yourself.

But to do that, we need to examine the causes of low self-esteem, why it matters, and examples of self-esteem goals and objectives so you can find the love for yourself that you deserve.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you build your self-esteem up. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem refers to your overall evaluation and perception of yourself. It refers to how you perceive your own capabilities, worth, and value as a person.

Self-esteem influences your self-confidence and self-concept.

Healthy self-confidence means you view yourself as capable and worthy which causes you to take bigger steps toward your goals. It helps you feel that you have the ability and attributes to do the things that you want to do.

Self-esteem is part of your self-concept which is a larger sphere that encompasses what beliefs, ideas, and perceptions you hold about yourself. One of these perceptions is your self-esteem.

Self-concept also includes things like social identity, self-image, and your real versus ideal self (your real self being who you are now and your ideal self being who you want to be).

Self-confidence plays another important role in self-esteem. The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence is that self-esteem includes self-confidence. Self-confidence is knowing that you are valuable and competent, which helps fuel the positive feelings of healthy self-esteem.

The role that self-esteem plays in shaping your mental well-being, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions is crucial. It’s hard to find peace when your emotions are telling you that you are unworthy and incapable.

A healthy self-esteem accepts your strengths and weaknesses in a balanced way where you have a realistic perception of who you are. The person with healthy self-esteem loves and accepts who they are.

Positive self-regard makes it much easier to navigate life’s challenges, stay strong in the face of setbacks, and pursue their goals with confidence. Often, you underestimate yourself if you have low self-esteem.

Unhealthy self-esteem, on the other hand, includes a lack of self-confidence and negative self-perception. People with low self-esteem may doubt their capabilities, feel unworthy of love or success, and typically engage in negative self-talk and depreciation.

Unhealthy self-esteem limits personal growth because you may not feel worthy of feeling better or doing better. As a result, it often leads to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression.

What causes low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is typically caused by a combination of internal and external factors. These factors interact with one another to affect the way you perceive both the world and yourself. By understanding where low self-esteem comes from, you can better identify where to set your self-esteem goals.

Early Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences play a significant role in developing different aspects of personality. The way you experienced childhood may affect your relationships, perspective of the world, your self-esteem and self-worth.

After all, if the adults in your childhood were not kind to you or you lived in a neglectful environment, you may find that their poor actions define what you perceive about yourself, whether true or not.

The critical voices that were unkind to you as a child may become part of your internal narrative about yourself. It’s not your internal voice, it’s theirs.

Negative Self-Perception

Negative self-perception and low self-esteem sound like similar phrases with similar meanings. In fact, negative self-perception is an influence on low self-esteem.

Negative self-beliefs stem from perceived inadequacies from negative feedback or failures. That erodes your self-esteem by causing you to believe that you are less capable and valuable than you actually are.

You might have a fragile ego because of a negative self-perception. This may also include a failure to meet personal goals and setbacks—a common part of the human experience.

Social Comparison

Comparing yourself to other people is a surefire way to make you feel worse about yourself. The truth is that everyone is on different levels of their life. Within those levels, some people are doing better than others.

So yes, you can look at other people and find others that are more attractive, wealthier, healthier, or whatever thing than you; but that’s true for everyone. Absolutely no one is perfect. No one’s exceptional at everything.

It doesn’t make you less of a person even if it can make you feel inadequate.

Social Rejection

People are social animals. Being deprived of the ability to socialize, make friends, and develop relationships can make you feel like you are worth less than others.

You may find yourself asking, “Why not me? Why can’t I have friends? Why can’t I find a romantic partner? Is there something wrong with me? There must be something wrong with me.”

Social rejection, isolation, and exclusion can contribute to low self-esteem. A lack of positive social support may cause you to feel unworthy. Long-term bullying and teasing may also play a role.

Relationship Issues

The relationships we have can help or harm us. A healthy relationship with both partners working lovingly with one another can uplift them both.

However, an unhealthy relationship may cause you to question your value and self-worth, particularly if it’s later on in the relationship with someone who claims to love you. This person who claims to love you may start pointing out your flaws, asking why you can’t do things right, and generally being unkind.

A person with low self-esteem may look at those criticisms and think they are valid because they are coming from someone who claims to love them.


Trauma affects people differently. Accidents, significant losses, and physical and emotional abuse may all affect the way you feel about yourself.

Trauma survivors may find they have lower self-worth, questioning how they handled the situation and why they did things that they did. They may also find that their sense of security is upended because they may not feel like they can handle these problems that come along.


Setting unrealistically high standards for yourself is a sure way to erode your self-esteem. Unrealistic standards doom you to never having the ability to live up to and meet your goals. You set yourself up for failure from the start.

It doesn’t matter what you do, how you do it, or how much time you invest in something—someone somewhere is doing something better. And that’s okay!

Accepting that fact means you don’t need to waste your time wrestling with negative thoughts about how you aren’t smart, capable, or worthy enough to meet your goal.

Mental or Physical Illness

Poor health can take a toll, whether it’s mental or physical illness.

Mental illness brings with it numerous difficulties about the way you perceive yourself and the world. Not only does it distort your perceptions as a byproduct of the mental illness, but it also affects your ability to act.

Are you going to feel good about yourself if you can’t support yourself, maintain a job, or even shower on some days? Probably not.

Physical illness is similar. You may be healthy and independent one day, then you develop a chronic illness where you can’t do those things anymore.

Media Influences

There are few things worse for your self-esteem than media and social influences. The media and advertising industries thrive on making you feel like you are ‘less than’ to encourage you to buy their products.

Makeup? You’re not pretty enough. Expensive car? Don’t you want to impress your friends? An engagement ring that you should spend two months’ salary on? Surely the lady needs to have something she can show off.

The central theme is that you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy enough, and if you want to be good and worthy enough, buy what we’re selling.

Social Influences

Social influences address society at large. You may find that your self-esteem diminishes when you don’t fit the typical social mold. Culture and racism can play a big part in it. They may make you feel as though you aren’t worthy or good enough for respect for just being who you are.

Those external forces are overwhelming. They may be impossible to carry on your shoulders without feeling as though you are less than for being part of that out-group. It may be even worse if you don’t fit in the out-group that you view yourself to be part of either.

Careers and Finances

A lack of career progression may make you feel as though you aren’t valued as a worker or for promotion.

Granted, many jobs don’t necessarily work in that sort of linear format anymore. An excellent coder may not have the social skills and understanding to be a good project manager. However, that doesn’t mean they are less capable.

Consequently, you may find that your job or career leaves you struggling to make ends meet. You may feel as though you are unable to manage your finances, not good enough for a job that pays well, or avoid opportunities because of it.

Unresolved Past Issues

Unresolved past issues may affect you in the present. Guilt, shame, and regrets may all cause you to question your self-worth if you can’t let them go.

“Why did I do that? I shouldn’t have done that…” is a statement that we have all made at some time. The problem is that hindsight is 20/20. You may have made the best decision that you could at the time, but you didn’t have all the information to make a good or right decision.

It doesn’t make you less than or worse than anyone. It’s just another thing that is part of the human experience.

How To Set Goals For Self-Esteem

The path to progress is goal-setting. Big goals need to be broken up into smaller, more reachable goals to help guide your journey and rebuild the confidence you had but lost.

Meeting those smaller goals can also be a much-needed boost of confidence while you’re on your way to success.

How do you set meaningful goals? There are many strategies, but the SMART system is effective. That is—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Related, Time-based.

By setting SMART goals for self-esteem, you can bring yourself closer to a happier, healthier you.

The SMART system breaks large, unfocused goals into smaller, achievable goals. For example: “I want to set goals to improve my self-esteem.” Okay. How? What are some ways?

Specific: I’m going to practice self-compassion by being kinder and more understanding to myself when facing challenges or making mistakes.

Measurable: Yes, I was kinder and more understanding to myself; or no, I was not.

Achievable: Do I have the ability to do this specific goal? Yes. You may not have total control of how you think about yourself but you do have some control.

Related: Does this short-term goal help me improve my self-esteem? Yes, it does; or no, it doesn’t.

Time-based: This part of the SMART system is tricker when it comes to self-esteem goals. You could say “I want to accomplish this goal once a week.” But what if you don’t experience a situation like this once a week? Sometimes you may need to be flexible. You could say, “I want to accomplish this goal once a week, or whenever it may come up, whichever is less.” And then you can increase the number of times from there.

14 SMART Goals To Improve Self-Esteem

Now, let’s look at a list of SMART self-esteem and self-confidence goals that may help you improve.

1. Cultivate Gratitude.

Gratitude helps you focus more on the positives and what you have, rather than the negatives and what you don’t have. By cultivating gratitude, you can shift your opinion about yourself, improve your mindset, and alleviate some stress. This can be hard to do if life isn’t being kind to you right now. But that’s the most important time to do it.

SMART Goal: Every day I will take a few minutes to think of three things that I’m grateful for.

2. Practice self-care.

Self-care is an important part of positive mental health, stress management, and overall wellness. Yet, it’s one thing that we often neglect in our fast-paced world. Self-care is a gift to yourself that reinforces in your mind that you are worthy of care. Do things that bring you peace, make you happy, and remind yourself that you are worthy.

SMART Goal: I will schedule time at least once a week for at least two hours of self-care.

3. Develop boundaries and assertiveness.

Boundaries are essential for protecting your mental health. What do you do when someone talks you down or insults you time after time? You can’t just stand there and take it without it sinking into your subconscious. You need to be assertive, stand up for yourself, and ensure you are being treated fairly and kindly. The ability to advocate for yourself helps you reinforce your boundaries.

SMART Goal: I will consider one social situation that does not make me feel good. The next time it happens, I will assert a boundary that, “This is not okay, and I will not be treated this way.” If they persist, you can then take the next step of remedying the situation; whether that be walking away, looking for a different job, or whatever else is required to end that abuse.

4. Positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations are a reminder of your strengths and other good things about you. By reminding yourself of these things regularly, you can improve your thinking, attitude, and perception toward yourself. Replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations goes a long way to helping improve your attitude and feelings about yourself.

SMART Goal: Create a list of 10 things you do well, like about yourself, or other strengths. Every day, read the list and contemplate your positive qualities for five minutes.

5. Accept compliments.

Accepting compliments without deflecting and downplaying them subconsciously gives you permission to love and accept those things about yourself.

People who have a difficult time accepting compliments often run into some of the same issues. “It makes me uncomfortable.” If it does, then it does. You won’t get to a point of comfort if you don’t let yourself be uncomfortable. “What do I say? What do I do?” Smile and say “thank you.” That’s it. That’s all that’s required. Don’t try to give the person a compliment back—that’s deflecting and downplaying.

SMART Goal: The next time someone pays me a compliment, I will simply smile and say thank you. I will allow myself to be uncomfortable if I am, because personal progress is usually uncomfortable.

6. Volunteer and give back.

You can improve your self-esteem by volunteering and giving back to the community. How? Giving back can give you a sense of purpose because you’re making a difference to improve a situation for others.

Pick something that appeals to you and get involved. It doesn’t have to be formal or major. It can be something as simple as visiting with an elderly neighbor so they have some company. You may also try community organizations if you’d prefer to work alongside a group, which can be a great way to meet people and develop friendships.

SMART Goal: I will pick a cause or action that appeals to me and find a way to contribute at least once a month.

7. Express yourself creatively.

There are few things more fulfilling than creating something with your own two hands. Of course, different creative acts appeal to different people. But, whether it’s painting, gardening, writing, or carpentry, it’s healthy for you and your self-esteem to take some time to create.

SMART Goal: I will pick a creative activity that I enjoy or once enjoyed. I will carve out an hour’s worth of time to do my creative activity once a week.

8. Surround yourself with positivity.

The people you spend time with dramatically affect your mental health. If you hang around with pessimistic people who tear you down, then you’re going to feel bad. If you spend your time with positive, uplifting people, you will find your thoughts are generally more positive.

SMART Goal: Spend at least one hour per week with a positive friend or with a positive influence. That could be lunch or just hanging out together. If you don’t have any positive friends at the moment, do something that makes you happy instead.

9. Embrace failure as learning.

Failure doesn’t need to be a fatalistic end. You may find that failure leaves you feeling incompetent or less than. Instead, failure can serve as a valuable learning experience in what not to do to achieve a goal. A person can use that experience to look for another path that will get them closer to their goal.

By doing this, you teach yourself that failure is not always so terrible. It allows you to be kinder and gentler because you don’t spend your time calling yourself worthless or stupid for not succeeding. Sometimes you just won’t succeed for reasons outside of your control.

SMART Goal: The next time you experience a setback or what you would consider a failure, take some time to come up with three things that you learned from the journey. These things cannot be self-deprecating. Then, research and consider another path toward your goal.

10. Improve your physical health.

Physical and mental health are inseparable. Exercise encourages your body to produce more endorphins, raises your energy level, and helps you sleep deeper at night. Your body is a machine, and healthy eating provides quality fuel for that machine to run.

Any steps you can take to improve your physical health is a win. Even small changes can net you big rewards. Improving your physical health can improve your mental health which will help boost your self-esteem.

SMART Goal: Exercise three times a week for twenty minutes. This doesn’t have to be anything more serious than a brisk walk. The important thing is you are getting out there and getting some physical activity in. Once you create that basic habit, you can expand on it later.

11. Learn a new skill.

Choose a skill you’ve always wanted to learn and commit to improving it. The learning of a new skill facilitates personal growth and gives you smaller targets to work for. You should find that your opinion about yourself improves when you can say, “Yes, I did that. I’m doing this.”

Granted, you may not be able to be consistent 100% of the time—and that’s okay! If you fall off the pattern of doing it, just get back to it and try again. Learning complex or high-level skills is often difficult. As you move past basics, you will likely find that you are challenged to excel.

SMART Goal: Four days a week, spend at least one hour per day studying and practicing your skill. If you don’t know where to start, YouTube is a great place to just type in <skill name> beginner and start from there.

12. Celebrate personal progress.

Far too many people reach milestones and let them drift by as they look toward the next thing. They don’t take any time to celebrate their achievements, take a short break, and give themselves a pat on the back.

You deserve that! That little celebration is even more important when you start meeting your self-esteem goals because you reinforce that you are accomplishing things. At first, you should start to feel a bit better about yourself, then that should grow over time.

SMART Goal: Build a small celebratory practice into each of your SMART goals. For example, if you meet your exercise goal, treat yourself to a new movie or book.

13. Practice regular hygiene and upkeep your appearance.

Regular hygiene can bolster your self-esteem. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re not clean, wearing clean clothes, and ready for the world. Plus, you might find others are down on you and avoid you if you don’t smell clean or brush your teeth regularly. Replace old, holey clothes with new ones that you can feel good in.

SMART Goal: Develop a list of hygiene practices to follow week-by-week. Break the list down into days so you know what you’re going to do each day of the week.

14. Seek professional support.

The fact is that meeting your self-esteem goals is likely to require some professional help from a therapist. Low self-esteem often comes from somewhere; somewhere typically traumatic in nature. Trauma is not an easy thing to deal with on your own.

You will likely need the help of a mental health professional and therapy to work through the trauma of a bad childhood, abusive relationship, or mental illness symptoms.

SMART Goal: Attend each of your appointments when scheduled. Like working toward any goal—it’s simple but it’s not easy.

BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

You might not think your problems are big enough to warrant professional therapy but please don’t do yourself that disservice. Nothing is insignificant if it is affecting your mental well-being.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

Why is self-esteem so important?

Positive self-esteem will affect your trajectory in life. People with low self-esteem think less of their worth so they think less of their abilities and capabilities. That translates to a lack of action, which translates to a lack of progress. Progress does not typically fall into your lap out of nowhere.

Of course, progress and accomplishment are not promised even with hard work. Still, you’re less likely to succeed if you’re not trying to begin with. Healthy self-esteem helps your motivation because you can be confident in your ability to succeed and find solutions to setbacks along the way.

A lack of self-esteem also leaves you vulnerable to bad situations and people. A person with low self-esteem is more likely to stay in an abusive relationship or situation because they may not feel like they deserve to be treated any better. They may not believe that they are worthy of love and respect like someone with healthy self-esteem would.

Healthy self-esteem plays multiple roles in positive mental health and improving your mind. People with healthy self-esteem are typically more resilient, happy, and peaceful than those without. They experience greater stability because they alleviate some of their anxiety and depression caused by worrying about things they may not be able to handle.

All these things push us closer to the kind of satisfying life that we want to live, with more opportunities and careers, better relationships, and better health. They can help you learn to love yourself in a way that you deserve.

Any progress you can make with your self-esteem goals, no matter how small, will help you find greater peace and love for yourself. So make a start today.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspectives from the side of the mental health consumer. Jack has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.