Boosting Your Self-Esteem


According to Google’s definition, self-esteem is: “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect” …which is accurate, but feels like an over-simplified definition of everything it entails. Self-esteem depicts how people value themselves; it shapes how we perceive our value to the world and how valuable we think we are to others. Our self-worth impacts nearly every part of our lives–our trust in our own abilities, our trust in others, relationships, work, etc.

What does one’s self-esteem look like?

Obviously, this is something that will vary from person-to-person, but it impacts many aspects of a person’s life. In general, these are some outward signs of:

  Positive Self-Esteem                   Low Self-Esteem
ConfidenceFear of being ridiculed
An awareness of personal strengthsFear of taking risks
OptimismBlaming behavior
An ability to solve problemsNegative view of life
An independent and cooperative attitudePerfectionist attitude
Good self-careMistrusting others
The ability to say “no”Feelings of being unloved and unlovable
An ability to trust othersDependence



By: Julie Burke, LPC-I
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S

Low self-esteem can be caused by many different things…a few contributing factors may be:

  • Loneliness
  • Poor academic performance
  • Bullying
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Feeling like you don’t belong/like you’re the “odd one out”
  • Being unemployed

It’s important to acknowledge that almost everyone has (or will) experience self-doubt and/or question their abilities at some point in time in their lives. Having a lapse in confidence or questioning what you’re doing once or twice is not necessarily synonymous with having low self-esteem. When someone has low self-esteem, whether they realize it or not, they have the belief that they are not good enough in various facets of their lives. Whether you are someone struggling with low self-esteem and you’re wanting to raise it and feel more self-love and worth or someone who has a positive self-worth and want to maintain that, the following suggestions are just a few, easy things to do to help boost self-esteem.

1. Positive self-talk.

The way you think about yourself has a HUGE influence on your self-esteem. If you think you’re no good (whether it’s something you tell yourself or hear from others), this is something that you likely will start to believe. When is the last time you acknowledged your strengths? Or reminded yourself that you are: smart, kind, funny, helpful, etc.? Reminding yourself of these things may feel silly at first–because it feels unnatural to give yourself accolades, but it really does help.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparing yourself to others is something that is all too easy to do, but so hurtful to your self-esteem. Everyone has their own story and thing going on…so why not worry about YOU? Again…as mentioned above–focus on your strengths. What are YOU good at? Your friend, coworker, sibling, etc., may be really great at this one thing, but what other thing are you especially great at? Focus on you.

3. Exercise.

Exercise can (and will) help improve your mood. And find what exercise works for you. Whether it’s crossfit or going on a walk in the neighborhood or jazzercise or yoga…find something that works for you and find a way to fit it into your routine.

4. Don’t strive for perfection.

This also doesn’t mean slack off either…but keep in mind that perfection is not a realistic standard to live up to. Nobody is perfect, after all.

5. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake.

I repeat…nobody is perfect, after all. Everybody makes mistakes…and keep in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.

6. Do things that you enjoy.

If you’re able to find activities and do things that you enjoy, you’re more likely to think positively. Find something to do every day for yourself that you enjoy–self-care is a must!

7. Celebrate the small stuff.

This can be especially difficult for people to do, but only because people often have unrealistic expectation for themselves (if this is you…re-read number 4). Celebrate the small things! Did you get extra cuddles from your pet? Awesome! Those are the best. All green lights when driving earlier today? Woo-hoo! Find little things in your day and find time to celebrate them.

8. Surround yourself with supportive people.

If you are constantly surrounding yourself with people who bring you down…how do you think that will make you feel about yourself? Do your best to avoid spending time with people who trigger your negative thinking. Surround yourself with people who will help you celebrate you and will make you feel good about yourself.

9. Be helpful & considerate.

Often times, helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. Have you ever done a random act of kindness? It just might help.

There is a great quote I recently read:

“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?” -Unknown

Unfortunately, for many people, that’s not going to be one of the first, second, or even third thing they name. It’s time to do things for you and work on increasing your self-esteem and self-worth.

Play Is The Language Of Children


Birds fly, fish swim, and children play.–Garry Landreth, Author of Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship

Play therapy was developed with the knowledge that play is the language of children. While it is often therapeutic for adults to talk things over with a therapist, children benefit similarly from a session of unstructured play.


By: Leanna Hammett, LPC-I
Supervised by Tammy Fisher, LPC-S

Children need time and space to work through feelings and thoughts, practice appropriate social interactions, and just generally feel free to express themselves in whichever way they choose.  The play therapy room and that safe relationship with their therapist provide the opportunity for just that. With a non-directive play therapist, they have an ally in their development and a partner in play rather than an authority figure telling them how to act or what to do. Given this environment, they are more easily able to decide whom they choose to be on their own.

Play Therapy: What’s the Point?

I’m sitting in the therapy room, watching a child create a scene in the sand tray. I’m engaging with him, noticing where he puts each object, commenting on the scene he’s choosing to create. Out of nowhere, a familiar feeling creeps into my brain: doubt. Doubt starts to say, “Why are you just sitting here watching this child play? Isn’t his mom paying you to help create change for this child?”

As adults, and as play therapists, it is so tempting to fall into doubt’s trap. It is so tempting to start to question the value of simple, unstructured play for children. But just as a therapist’s role with adults is not to step in as the expert and “fix” everything for them, the play therapist’s role with a child is also not to take control and do things for them. Not only is it impossible to change something FOR another person (at any age), but it also completely misses the point of therapy.

So What IS The Point? Two Things.
  • The Relationship.
  • The Process.
The Relationship: Am I Really Just a Glorified Babysitter?

No. The simple answer is no, you’re not just a babysitter. Yes, you’re playing with children. Yes, that may seem confusing to the outside observer. But at the heart of that play, you are building a positive, trusting relationship and a safe space for the child to explore him/herself and the world around them.

When the child from the story above is carefully positioning those miniatures in the sand tray, he is using the language of play to express his unique thoughts and emotions. To have someone there to walk alongside him as he expresses these things fosters trust and safety. When I comment on how carefully he chooses his miniatures for the scene and reflect that he puts a lot of thought into the choices he makes, I’m showing him that I’m present in his play experience. And more importantly, I’m showing him that I notice him and the person he is choosing to be.

Play therapy is about providing a place for the child to feel free to explore. What they explore and where they go is up to them. The important part is that they feel safety, freedom, and ownership of their own therapeutic process. It is about taking what is in their life that feels unmanageable to them and bringing it into a manageable forum of symbolic play. You help them see the truth through the experience of play.

The Process: Let the Play Do the Work
Why Child-Centered Play Therapy?

One of the primary premises of child-centered play therapy is that the child will choose exactly where they need to go. And as their therapist, it is your goal to follow them wherever that may be.

In child-centered play therapy, the focus of the session is quite literally “child-centered,” and that means exactly what it sounds like. As the therapist, your goal is to follow them wherever it is they need to go, engaging with them, acknowledging that you’re there, you hear them, you notice their choices and their feelings, and you’re walking alongside them in their play.

Your goal is not to change the child. Your goal is to provide the child a rich space full of possibilities in which they are able to change themselves. This is why you’ll see a vast array of options in any fully equipped playroom, typically including a sand tray, miniatures for the sand tray, puppets, an easel and paint, a dollhouse, a good variety of dress up clothes and props for imaginative play, some games, and more. And it all remains visible to the child, so they can quite literally choose what they need. Your role is to act as a mirror and reflect them and their choices back to them as they go. So, what is the purpose of play therapy?

Quite simply, the purpose is to let the child play.

Help Your Teen Have a Healthy Dating Relationship

Healthy Teen Dating

In honor of February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it seems like a good time to shed light on the issue of teen dating relationships. It’s a startling reality that 1 out of 3 adolescents will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and only one-third of them will tell someone else about it. Many times, they themselves don’t realize that it’s a problem. Enduring dating violence at such a young age puts teens at risk for later developing mental health or substance abuse problems, and makes them more likely to experience domestic violence again in the future.

For these reasons, it’s highly important that parents openly discuss the concept of healthy and unhealthy relationships with their teenagers and help them understand what warning signs to watch for. Here are some suggestions to help get you started:

Have An Ongoing Conversation.

There’s no need for a formal sit-down lecture. Take advantage of opportunities as they naturally come up. Point out examples of both healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors you see in television, movies, and even your own past. It’s ideal to have both parents present for these talks, if possible.

Give Your Child Room To Share Their Own Opinions And Beliefs About Dating.
Amanda edit 2

By: Amanda Robinson, LPC, RPT

It will be more meaningful to them if they feel part of the conversation. Coming across as a lecturer will make them less likely to seek your advice and support in the future. Some talking points to consider:

  • What would you want in a partner? What are your “deal-breakers”?
  • Have you witnessed any unhealthy relationships among your friends or classmates? What did you see that you thought was unhealthy?
  • What do you think makes up a healthy relationship?
  • How would you know if you were in an unsafe relationship? How do you think you would feel? What would you do?
  • What have you liked/disliked about previous partners or relationships?
Reinforce That Dating Should Be Fun.

While it’s perfectly normal (and healthy) to have disagreements with one’s partner, they should definitely be balanced with fun and uplifting times. The relationship should never make your child question their worth as a person.

Talk Realistically About Sex.

Delineate both the pros and cons, and again, allow your teen to give their input. Yes, the conversation can be awkward, but sex is a frequent component of romantic relationships, and the topic should not be ignored. Remember to discuss responsibilities and the importance of respect – for both parties.

Emphasize Their Right To Say No To Anything They Feel Uncomfortable With.

Keep It Cool.

When there are differing viewpoints on a controversial topic, the discussion could start to get heated. If you can see that your teen is becoming frustrated and reacting defensively, back off. You want to be seen as a source of understanding, and they won’t engage with you if their walls are up.  Try it again another time.

Discuss Red Flags.

Talk about the signs of an unhealthy relationship with your teen. Emphasize that they can always come to you to talk things through, and reassure them that you’ll listen and respect their choices. Red flags:

  • Your partner constantly wants to know where you are and who you’re with
  • They try to keep you from spending time with friends and family
  • The person treats other people or animals with disrespect or cruelty
  • They blame you for relationship conflicts
  • They tell you how to dress or behave or how to spend your time
  • Your partner puts you down a lot, even in a “joking” way
  • The person harasses you to do things that you feel uncomfortable with
Provide Useful Resources.

Love is Respect offers a wealth of information for both parents and teens, including quizzes to help your child determine whether their relationship is healthy and affirming.

Above all else, it’s MOST important for you to listen and provide understanding in these conversations. Your teen will get more out of the connection with you than they will from a particular piece of wisdom or statistic. Remember, teenagers will not respect adults’ ideas and viewpoints unless they feel we respect theirs.

If you suspect that your teen may be in an unhealthy relationship, visit Love is Respect to find tips for helping your teen, or make an appointment with a knowledgeable therapist at Austin Family Counseling. For safety-planning, information, and support, The National Domestic Violence hotline is also a helpful resource.

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