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Increasing Self-Esteem and Happiness: 8 Steps to a Fulfilled Life

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“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~Buddha

A few nights ago I did a search on Google Ad Words to compare the words “self-esteem” and “happy.” I discovered that over fifty-five million people search for the word “happy” every month, whereas just 800,000+ people search for “self-esteem.”

Okay, I get it; we just want to be happy. But in order to be happy we need the foundation first, and the key ingredient is a healthy self-esteem. Once we increase our self-esteem, happiness comes with it.

Creating a healthy sense of self-esteem might mean tons of work for some of us. It all starts with disciplining our thoughts.

When I was in my twenties I was as far away from understanding this as you can imagine being. I used to think I was the ugliest person on the planet. I went through two terrible depressions, and I even contemplated suicide.

All of this happened because I lacked gratitude for being alive, and I struggled with self-acceptance, discipline, and forgiveness. I had trouble forgiving myself because I would be too tough on myself whenever I made a mistake, and I had trouble forgiving others because I used to take things too personally, when in reality what other people say is a reflection of them, not me.

Growing up I didn’t develop confidence in my ability to create change. I was allowing things to happen to me instead of making things happen for me.

The last time I was depressed was twelve years ago. I could have died after taking a whole box of sleeping pills. After that I finally realized how ungrateful and selfish I had been by only focusing on myself.

I decided to take 100 percent responsibility for my life because the idea of dying was scarier than the idea of living. If I was going to live, I decided I will do it in the best possible way.

And I did. In the process I laid a strong foundation for high self-esteem and ultimately became much happier.

Now, I love my life, I’m extremely grateful, and I continually learn how to keep improving as a human being while also teaching what I learn.

Being the woman I am today doesn’t mean I never get sad, or that I never have problems.

Being happy with who you have become, being grateful for the opportunity to live and for all you’ve experienced so far, being open to teaching and helping others helps you to deal better with challenges that life puts into your journey.

Life is a cycle. Sometimes everything is great and sometimes everything falls apart in a matter of seconds. But we can choose to see each experience as something that will help us grow and become wiser.

My conclusion after years of self-growth work is that a high self-esteem equals a high level of happiness, which leads to a fulfilled life. The keys?

1. Understand why you need to change your thoughts and habits.

It takes discipline to direct your thoughts to love, to increase your good habits, and to look after your body and soul every day.

One way to increase your discipline is to write down the “why’s.” Ask yourself, why it is important to improve the quality of your thoughts?

How would you feel having more loving thoughts? How would you feel if most of your thoughts were self-hating? Can this be a compelling reason? How would your life change if you treated your mind as sacred? How would life be if you treated it with respect?

I used to have very low self-discipline, but step by step I kept improving it because I found compelling reasons to do so. Find your “why’s” and start with the first step. Today.

2. Enlist support.

Ask your family and friends for support, join a community, or seek professional help as you work toward increasing your self-esteem. Alone we won’t get anywhere.

3. Use affirmations and mantras.

Choose a mantra that will guide you through this process and repeat it three times a day (thirty times each time). One of my favorite mantras is “Every day I am better in every area of my life.”

4. Filter your inner circle.

We can’t always avoid negative people; they’re everywhere. But you can choose to surround yourself with people who support you and encourage you to be a better human being, while you also do the same for them; and you can create some distance in relationships where this isn’t the case.

Trust that by creating some distance, you will make space for more healthy relationships. Give yourself the opportunity to be surrounded by great souls. You won’t be alone, I promise.

5. Practice gratitude for yourself.

Every day is a new life. It’s not that hard to be grateful when everything is okay. The tough part comes when you need to continue being grateful during hard times.

When I’m feeling down, I thank my body for being able to breathe, I thank my eyes for being able to see, I thank my hands for being able to create, and I thank my values for leading me toward positive experiences.

Write down everything you are grateful for and read it every morning or any time you’re feeling low.

By practicing gratitude for parts of yourself you may otherwise not think to acknowledge, you will value more who you are, and this will help you to create a higher sense of self-love.

6. Be present.

By learning to not worry so much about the past and the future, you can start focusing on the moment, seeing each day as a new opportunity to do your best.

By being in the present you will have more confidence because you’ll know that whatever negative experience you had in the past does not have to repeat itself. You will feel empowered to create a compelling future regardless of what’s happened before, which will strengthen your sense of self-worth.

7. Help others.

When you’re feeling helpless, go out and help someone else. Perhaps you can join a non-profit to volunteer your skills.

This will allow you to see other realities, which will help you appreciate how fortunate you really are. It will also make you more confident because you will feel you can add great value to others in need.

8. Trust in something bigger than yourself.

We are not alone; we are all connected. Whenever I find myself trusting only my own strengths, I get insecure. But if I have done all that I could in a particular situation and then I also trust that the universe is supporting me, insecurities go away and miracles happen.

Get out there, do the best you can, and allow the universe to give you a hand.

I’d love to know what your challenges with self-esteem and happiness are! Will you take these important steps? What else would you add to this list?

Profile photo of Carolina Ordoñez

About Carolina Ordoñez

Carolina is the Author of “The Confident Woman: How to Boost Self-Esteem and Happiness”, she teaches women how to maximize self-esteem and happiness to live a fulfilled life. She is also a globetrotter and a healthy cook. Sign up at MundiaLink.com to learn more tips that she shares via email.

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  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Hello Carolina,

    Thanks for sharing your story with interested readers in the community. Actually this is what I love about this website – diversity in the stories and several perspectives on each topic. Compliments for Lori here 😉

    I agree with your points Carolina and I’m sad to hear about your earlier depressions. Life has its ups and downs but that is what makes it interesting. You know what we say: Life is like a rainbow. You need both the sun and the rain to make its colors appear.

    It is a shame to see that you – such a beautiful woman – believed that you were the ugliest person on the planet. First of all your appearance is lovely and second of all – beauty comes from within. Based on your article I think you are beautiful 🙂

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm
    Motivational speaker

  • Tim

    Carolina,
    Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences. I struggle with self esteem at times. Mine seems to fluctuate, especially now that I’m getting older. I do work on the things that you have mentioned in your list. The last one is the hardest one for me. I don’t know how to really convince myself to let go and some power will just take care of me. I feel like all I have is this time on earth and that a countdown timer is constantly ticking.

  • Mahesh

    Nice article. Corolina. Thanks for sharing your heart touching story and experience.
    This is a life time, day to day practice to be better self esteem and happyness.
    Mahesh

  • I like where you said ‘Every day is a new life.” Maybe that could be a useful mantra to live by.

  • Jackie

    This rang beyond true for me. I thought of myself as the ugliest person in the world for many many years too. It’s so comforting to read that someone else shares the same struggles and I love your 8 steps. One thing I have always struggled with as silly as it may sound, is my skin. It’s not awful (though it was when I was a teenager) but it’s not perfect and to this day, it can still really bother me. So whenever I find myself feeling “ugly” because my skin isn’t perfect I start to remind myself of all the reasons I’m beautiful that aren’t related to my appearance or repeat positive affirmations like “My flaws do not define my beauty.” Thank you so much for sharing Carolina. This got my morning off to such a positive start!

  • Aljoscha

    Thank you for this post! It helped a lot!

  • helen

    Whilst I agree with the points the writer makes here, I’m not sure how I feel about things like “repeat the mantra every day three times a day” etc. Whilst I am not doubting for a second it would help to do this, I feel that for someone with low self esteem who is searching for help might feel even worse about themselves if they do not end up following all the steps. They may feel as though they have failed and are back to square one. For anyone who is struggling with self acceptance its really important to hear that its ok not to follow all these steps right through and its ok not to be disciplined all the time too. You are good enough just as you are and when you are ready to follow the steps, you will. Just maybe not all at once. Be kind to yourself and don’t try to force yourself to change. That will happen once you learn that you are good enough.

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you for taking the time to comment Helen. Maybe a Point 9 could be about having tons of compassion for ourselves so we can forgive ourselves if we don’t follow through.

    I believe that the beauty of life experiences and perspectives is that all can teach us something, and we can apply what feels right to our own reality.
    C x

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Glad to hear so dear Aljoscha!

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you Jackie for sharing your story. So glad to hear you use affirmations, they have helped me tons as well.

    Agree with you “being beautiful is not about external appearance”, I believe we’ve all got perfect, loving souls, but sometimes during this temporary physical life we just get a bit lost.

    Enhancing our self-esteem helps us find our way back to love and happiness. C x

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Love it Nicole! I kind of wanna repeat it all day long now 🙂 C x

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    your welcome Mahesh! thanks to you for commenting, it was written with a total open heart.

    I so agree with you when you say “This is a life time”. This is a process that we need to follow for the rest of our lives. I believe that feeding our souls to grow and improve every day is as important as eating food for our bodies. C x

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Uff, this is a hard one to comment on. For some time I didn’t believe in anything either so I can relate to you, Tim.

    But the more I read about energy, and how we are all connected, the more I believed it. I tested it for years… and now my religion is that what we all have in common is LOVE. We all come from a place of love, and our final destination is love. If you are open to this, I recommend that you read “A Return To Love” by Marianne Williamson.

    Also, by physics, we are energy and “energy does not get destroyed, it gets transformed”.

    I am no one to make you believe anything, but if you can believe in what physics says (we are energy), maybe you and I are the same, and come from the same ocean. I hope this helps C x

  • helen

    Thank you for your reply. I like the point 9! I also believe that all life experience has something to teach us . thank you for sharing your story and your vulnerabilities, we can all learn from others’ experiences and heal ourselves in the process 🙂

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Absolutely dear Helen. Much love C xo PS glad to hear you like point 9, you just inspired me to write about compassion. Thank you.

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    thanks for your words Anders, no need to be sad about my past. What happened made me stronger and pushed me to become the person I am today, and I really love her 🙂

    Agree, Life is like a rainbow!

  • Catherine

    This really hit home, thank you! I really like what you write about discipline. I have been trying to let go more instead of beat myself up so much. Interestingly, I have become numb and distracted. I think for me, creating a loving and positive discipline will really help. Thanks again for you post, I really like it! 🙂

  • Mary T. Combs

    Thank you. I love your article!

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    My pleasure Mary! Glad to hear you love it 🙂 it came from a place of love. Have a great day, C x

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you for commenting Katherine! glad to hear you liked it. I must confess that years ago I had almost no discipline, but step by step we can all get better at it at our own pace.

    Everything in life tends to drift apart unless we are paying attention to it. As you said, just keep paying attention to “creating a loving and positive discipline” and soon love is the only feeling you will allow. Where focus goes the energy will flow. And if this girl that used hate herself could do it, I know you can too! With love, C x

  • Emjay

    I have had counselling in the past due to depression and anxiety/panic attacks. I recently got hurt by a man I cared about, I told him how I felt about him and he told me we were just having fun. I moved 3000 miles to Canada from England because I really truly cared about this man and he no longer wants anything to do with me. I am so anxious and unsure of myself I don’t know what to do. I am so grateful for the opportunity to live in Canada and I know I won’t get this chance again, but I miss my family so much and am considering going home….. I just wish I knew what the right thing to do was……
    I have never had any self esteem, bullied as a child and failed relationships have left me with none or very little self esteem. I have spoken to counsellors and all they say is I need to build this up, but they never say how I am supposed to do this. I don’t know how to believe in myself and feel good about myself, I am negative a lot and don’t want to be. I want to feel good about myself and maybe then I will meet someone who cares about me too…..how do you build self esteem when you have none?

  • KC

    Hello, Emjay,
    Thank you for reaching out. That is the first step. I want to give you a big hug! 🙂
    Here are some short and sweet encouraging sentences. They are short because they are important, no unnecessary extra words. 🙂
    1. You did nothing wrong.
    2. That point in your life helped to bring you to Canada. If you would not have met him you wouldn’t have been able to experience this country.
    3. I am sorry he hurt you.
    4. I went through a similar situation in my life like this. It made me look inward. I was able to discover myself.
    5. Learn what areas you need growing in.
    6. In life we have to step out to find out sometimes.
    7. We can’t always control the outcomes in situations.
    8. Only accept someone in a relationship that wants to be with you. There is someone, but you might have to wait.
    9. Don’t compromise your good morals and values for anyone.
    10. Forgive yourself for whatever reason.
    11. From where you are now, you take one step at a time. Keep looking forward.
    12. Be open to new adventures and love. There are good people out there.
    13. Join a church, group, sport, art class, etc.
    14. Take some courses online at home.
    15. Listen to music.
    16. Discover what makes you “wow” and go forth and do it.
    17. If you don’t know, start somewhere. If it doesn’t work, move to the next.
    18. Have to allow that man the freedom of choice. Letting him have his own free will (whether it hurts you or not) is part of moving on.
    19. You made it this far, keep going.
    20. It is better to be alone than with someone who brings you down.
    21. Don’t always wait until you feel good. Practice good habits and your feelings will catch up.
    22. We all have pit stops in life. This is yours. It is not the end.
    23. Follow your intuition. If you need to go back to England, then go.
    24. Read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.
    25. You are alive!
    26. To help yourself over pain, go help someone else.
    27. Volunteer somewhere.
    28. Next relationship you go in, take it slow and ask lots of questions.
    29. One day at a time.
    30. I love you.
    31. Find something you can say to yourself as reassurance all the time. My song in my head is “Everything’s going to be ok”.
    Sincerely,
    Karen
    (Heritage from England too. Also live in Canada too)

  • David St Michael

    I’d like to suggest that you learn all that you can about compassion – compassion for your self and compassion for others. Use this point in your life as a major gold mine and learn the hell out of it. May all of this teach you the wisdom that you may need for your life. Seek out all information about compassion and be brave enough to walk that path of loving-kindness. You’ve already proven to yourself the “value” of self-loathing, so maybe now would be a great time to be still and calm so that you can allow yourself to learn of the value in compassion. There is much wisdom out there for us all. Seek it out and apply it. See yourself as worth nothing less than your own precious love. You moved three thousand miles for another man. May you move thousands more for your own self, as well.
    Peace, my friend. I wish you well and may you be free from your suffering. ♥

  • Karen

    Thank You. So so much. That was encouraging helpful and right. Simply inspirational ♥ Thank You. (‘:

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    your welcome Karen! glad to hear to enjoyed it xo

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Emjay, thank you so much for sharing your story here. I congratulate you for moving to Canada, that is a strong decision woman, so you do have some self-esteem. More than focusing on not being negative, focus on being yourself, we all have positive and negative days, that’s part of life. Please PM me, I would love to help you & give you ideas to build your self-esteem my dear. Sending tons of love your way, a big hug from Chicago C xo

  • medical2

    what can someone like me do cause l have no family or friends to turn to…l really dont..

  • Beautiful post Carolina! Thanks for sharing your story and giving us simple practical steps to improve our self esteem. A willingness to look at our thoughts and beliefs helps us to gain perspective and start on the path of taking responsibility. Blessings.

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you Tracy! improving thoughts and getting rid of beliefs that keep us stuck rocks! 🙂 I wish you a great weekend lady! C xo

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you for reaching out my dear. If I were you I would: 1) look for professional help. 2) join an uplifting community in your city (a church, a university, a school, or a non profit that give free self-esteem support) 3) join an online community for support, and 4) meditate about self-love every day, start with one min. when you wake up, and 5) start volunteering every week. PM me promising me you will do it! Maybe you could start with one of these things every week, or every month until you implement them all, see what pace works for you best.

    I would need to know more about you to give you more ideas, please feel free to PM to explain me more about your situation, this will help me to serve you better. In the meantime do the things I suggest, your life will improve. Remember that all the love we need is within us, but sometimes we just get lost.

    Sending love your way, C x

  • Renée Hurt Thomas

    Well written Carolina. It was interesting to read these steps and the why’s. I have basically gone through the steps myself over the past year, some because I read, some because it seemed like the most logical next step in growing.

    I have to say one of the most helpful things for me was learning to replace those negative thoughts/voices with positive ones. In the beginning it was difficult to find the positive things so my go to was, “I am grateful for this moment in which I can breathe.” Eventually I heard more positive voices and found other things to be grateful for but because I can always count on being grateful for the moment I am happy and I am peaceful today.

    I look forward to future posts.

  • Sej D

    Thank you Carolina. What a simple and beautiful post. All this while I was under the impression that self-esteem is my self-confidence. But due to different events in my life, I have begun to understand that in addition to that, it is also my ability to pick myself up, dust off the negativity and proceed with renewed learning and hope. Because I am worthy of the happiness 🙂

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    Thank you Renée, I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article and most importantly, congratulations for giving yourself the opportunity to find peace. Replacing thoughts wasn’t easy for me at the beginning either, but with baby steps, we can all do it, and what a better way to do it by remembering what are we grateful for, love it!!

    Have you noticed that when we are grateful is impossible to feel helpless? I wish you a beautiful Christmas sister, please feel free to keep me updated with your progress! Cheers for a grateful life. With Love C xo

  • Carolina Ordoñez

    yours words are beautiful Sej, you are absolutely worthy of happiness, we all are, and this has little to do with the external world, but all to do with our internal world. At the end our external world is simply a reflection of what is going on inside us…

    Life is a cycle, sometimes all is good, sometimes it seems that everything is terrible, right there is when we need to be stronger than ever and stand up again. Night does not last forever, the light always comes back, Merry Christmas my dear, Love C xo

  • Jon Hensersky

    Whilst I practice a new word (whilst) ….

  • tips

    Hi Carolina….
    thanks for the lovely write up… how do you add discipline to your life? I feel being organised and bringing discipline to one’s routine helps to also discipline one’s mind.

  • Charlotte

    I relate so much to this article. I am having a really tough time in my life right now. I don’t have many friends and when I meet new people I always feel like they dislike me and would rather talk to other people. It’s really hard because I don’t value myself as much as I used to. I may sometimes come on too strong when trying to make friends, but since when is being nice considered a crime? I’m tired of feeling bad for myself and letting people walk all over me. I fell a lot better after reading this. Thank you for writing this!

  • arjju

    Jus pretend to new people as u r powerfull.. N make company wit dem first.. Definitely it works.. N slowly show ur character.
    Deydefinutely accept DAT..

  • Nikki

    Caroline … Look I need help. I am very young and I’m depressed and have low self esteem and the truth is.. It doesn’t go away

  • Desiree

    Nikki,

    I’m going through some very similar stuff and I met someone who is now dear to me and he went through it before as well. But through therapy, including hypnotherapy, meditation to talk to your sub-conscience, and things such as what this website says: http://www.wikihow.com/Love-Yourself, he is now one of the most self-loving and happy people I know. I am just starting on this journey now myself, as I have my first therapy session tomorrow, and I have only started with the things from the wiki-how website and meditating and I am already feeling better some days. So please, I hope that you do the same and try to get help and be open and honest with a therapist, and/or loved ones, because it’s the only way to help.