How to Gain a Strong Sense of Self

Author Amanda Caswell
Updated on April 21, 2024

Life is extremely unpredictable. From flat tires on the way to work and unexpected bills in the mail to a call into our boss’ office, things happen every day that throw us off course. Usually, when we least expect it, we are faced with a new set of challenges and surprises that fill us with a variety of emotions. Without good emotional health and a strong sense of self, anxiety can set in and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

Strong Sense of Self

Sense of self refers to your self-image and is immensely important in navigating through life’s challenges. It may be helpful to think of life as a boat floating along in the sea. Usually, the weather is nice. The sun is out, and the journey is easy. But suddenly, the water starts to get choppy, and a storm brews making the trip extremely difficult.

A strong sense of self is like a boat with reinforced sails that can withstand even the scariest of storms. Sure, you get tossed about and the struggle is noticeable, but it doesn’t completely sink your ship. You come out intact and even stronger than before because of the challenge you survived. But without those hefty sails – that strong sense of self –you may find yourself thrown overboard or even drowning amidst the storm. Because we never know when those storms are going to happen, we must have our sails in line before the roughness sets in.

Important aspects of life such as holding a job or having healthy relationships can seem impossible without a feeling of self-worth. An insecure person lacking confidence is more likely to be inconsistent in their behaviors.[1] Inconsistent behaviors can make it tricky for others to understand them, causing miscommunications and a lack of trust from both parties. But a clear identity of who you are opens you up to friendships, happiness and so many more opportunities in life. Below we’ll explain how to gain the confidence and strong sense of self-worth that can help you get through anything life throws at you.

Work Towards Acceptance

Thinking negative thoughts about yourself and being in a constant state of self-judgment can be detrimental to your mental health. You may even be doing this now and know how hard even the simplest things in life can be because of your fear of doing something you perceive as wrong, dumb, or different.

If you are only focusing on the negative, you will never see the good qualities that you possess. It can be hard to change your thinking, but the first step in working towards acceptance is to eliminate negative self-talk. You can start by writing down a list of all the things going well in your life and all the things you like about yourself. This is important to do even if they are small such as “I am a good listener” or “I can follow a recipe.” Put the list in your pocket or in a prominent place where you will see it regularly and read through it at least once a day.[2]

Be Honest With Yourself

If you are having real trouble with the list above, ask yourself if you are choosing social situations that might be making you feel less than good about yourself. Are your friends critical? Are you in an abusive relationship? A major part of self-acceptance and finding your self-worth is being strong enough to know when you aren’t being treated well. Know the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship so you can escape from it and start rebuilding your self-worth.

Learn to Be Alone

Have you ever noticed that some of the most confident people can sit at a restaurant and eat alone? They happily eat at a table for one, reading a book or enjoying their meal as cool and confident, as if they had an entire dinner party with them. These are the same type of people who don’t mind going to a movie or concert by themselves.

It’s not because they don’t have friends; it’s because they don’t mind being alone. Learning to appreciate being by yourself can help you discover your real self. Many of us have a subconscious fear of being alone and therefore avoid it. When life gets busy, we find ourselves constantly surrounded by work colleagues, our families, and friends, which makes it easy for us to avoid being alone. But choosing to do something you love by yourself, whether it’s going for a run, writing in your journal, or other forms of self-care, will help you open yourself up to discovering yourself. You’ll adjust to spending time alone and want to do it more often to clear your head. 

Know Your Value

A major part of knowing your value begins with knowing what you value. These deep-rooted beliefs you have may stem from your childhood or ones you’ve picked up as you’ve matured. Regardless of your values, be they religious, moral, or societal, if you don’t know what you value, you are constantly working against yourself. You may go along with what your friends or family members do simply because you don’t have a set of values of your own. This isn’t healthy. Beyond giving us a clear understanding of our self-worth, our values are the motivation, drive, and confidence behind what we do and how we do it.

Learn to Say No

This may come as a surprise, but it’s perfectly fine to say no. In fact, it’s healthy for you to say no. Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do you weaken your sense of self. We aren’t talking about things like going to the gym, getting your teeth cleaned, or going to work. We are talking about saying no when your friend puts pressure on you to join a subscription box you can’t afford or to go on a date with a coworker that you truly don’t like.

Saying yes to things automatically rather than doing something more satisfying that you want to do can have serious effects. You may find yourself so far removed from knowing exactly what makes you happy that you have developed such a low sense of self-worth that you fall into a low-grade depression.[3] Wanting to be liked by others instead of staying true to ourselves can lead to self-doubt and anxiety.

Saying no doesn’t have to be rude, selfish or impolite. The more confidence you get and the greater you develop your self-worth, you’ll find yourself effortlessly saying, “No, that’s not for me, but thank you,” and feel completely satisfied and guilt-free about your response.

Become More Mindful

The stress that life throws at us can often make us feel like we are moving 100 miles an hour. Sometimes all it takes to build self-confidence and have a stronger sense of self is to stop and evaluate the situation. When we slow down and take a moment to be mindful, we can determine how we are feeling about any given situation. Taking a step back from work, family life, or whatever else feels stressful may help shift the focus. At the same time, not doing that can make us feel stressed out, exhausted, and weak.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to mean joining a yoga studio or practicing meditation. While those things certainly can help, being mindful can mean doing something as simple as going for a walk and being alone for a few minutes. Learning how to be mindful is an effective tool that therapists often use to help their patients gain a sense of self-worth. They can help guide you through mindful breathing and offer expert tips to help you remain mindful even under extremely stressful situations.

Try Therapy

Mental health can be a tricky task to accomplish alone. With the media, social media, and society constantly telling us who we should and shouldn’t be, it’s easy for even the most confident of individuals to fall prey to feeling insecure. Negative self-talk, negative self-beliefs, and emotions can lead us astray no matter how hard we try.

While the above tips can be extremely helpful in terms of finding your self-worth, they may often fall short without the guidance of a mental health professional. It’s a great option when it comes to building a stronger sense of self when you feel stuck.

A professional therapist will help you clarify your sense of self and build your self-esteem with therapies such as CBT, which focuses on behaviors to catch negative thought cycles and change the actions you take when you feel them. By working with a therapist, you’ll soon have a stronger sense of self with the confidence to lead the healthier, happier life you deserve.


  1. Gold, A. (2016, July 12). Why Self-Esteem Is Important for Mental Health. NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.
  2. Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. (2022, February 3). Mayo Clinic.
  3. Lee, A., & Hankin, B. L. (2009). Insecure Attachment, Dysfunctional Attitudes, and Low Self-Esteem Predicting Prospective Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During Adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 38(2), 219–231.
Author Amanda Caswell

Amanda is a wellness writer & enthusiast with over 12 years experience writing in the industry. She has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from NYU. She is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American School of Nutrition & Personal Training. Amanda is also a celebrity publicist.

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