We have all heard about and thought about positive self-image, or self-esteem, or self-confidence (some argue that these are not quite the same thing but for this piece, we consider them so). We all want to be more positive in how we see ourselves. The topic is a big one – there are hundreds of books and videos on this – and it is complex, involving deep-seated psychology and more. This is to be understood and respected – we do recommend seeking professional help with a clinical psychologist as the best approach to developing self-esteem – but sometimes it helps to list a few simple practical steps you might take in your quest for a more positive self-image, so here are some ideas you might try….

  • Look after yourself. If you take care of your body and mind (eat well, exercise, control your habits, rest enough, etc.) you will feel better and more energetic and you will, quite righty, be able to feel pleased with and positive about yourself. Sounds simple but it is too-often overlooked.
  • Look after others. Caring for your close friends and family, and perhaps others (think community work), is not only about helping others. It also builds your own self-esteem. There is room for considering your primary motivations carefully (it can be argued that some people help others purely or primarily to feel better about themselves and this may indicate complex psychological issues sometimes) but self-less behaviour can be a real win-win (good for others, good for you).
  • Manage money. It is often said that money cannot make you happy and this holds true we feel. But it also seems true that the lack of money can make us pretty miserable, can it not!? So it helps to develop good money-sense. Have a budget, be realistic, save for rainy days and long-term goals, etc. Money supports and is needed for much of life, so best respect and manage it well.
  • Be honest. We cannot build genuine self-esteem on lies and half-truths. We must look at our lives in a brutally honest way in order to see the truth and identify areas for change. This means not being naïve and overly positive without reason, but it also means not getting excessively negative about ourselves. This is another large and complex area that will vary for each of us, but please give it careful, honest, thought.
  • Consider professional help. It is probably true that this is an area where all of us, or almost all of us, could benefit from time with a clinical psychologist or life-coach. Even if we are quite balanced and quite content and quite productive etc., there is invariably room for improvement. It might be compared to top professional sports people who still use and benefit from mental coaching of various sorts. So please consider seeking professional help if you can afford it – the investment could be well worth it.
  • Be careful with social media. The Internet and social media have changed the world. Many of us feel we cannot cope without social media and there are certainly real issues there. One aspect that we would highlight here is realism: people tend to post and publish in a way that shows the best of themselves and their lives. This is what the rest of us see and we may make the mistake of believing that social media is truly and honestly representative of how others live. It rarely is. But the envy and consequent negativity can be very damaging. Just know that real-life is rarely what is shown online. Think about it. No, really, think about it.
  • Be patient. Many of our negative thoughts have taken years or decades to develop. Changing these things does not happen overnight. Work, and time, is needed.


The development of a positive self-image is a goal we probably all have. It can be done but it takes brutal honesty, some tough decisions, hard work, and time. Almost all of us can benefit from professional help in this area. Think about it, today, tomorrow, and every day.

Author: Dr Colin Burns, retired medical practitioner and wellness coach