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1. Avoid generic positive affirmations.

Positive affirmations are like empty calories. You can tell yourself you’re great but if you don’t really believe it, your mind will reject the affirmation and make you feel worse as a result. Affirmations only work when they fall within the range of believability, and for people with low self-esteem, they usually don't.

2. Identify areas of authentic strength or competency.

To begin building your self-esteem, you have to identify what you’re good at, what you do well, or what you do that other people appreciate. It can be something small, a single small step in the right direction, but it is has to be something. If John were a champion video game player, that could have done the trick. But he wasn’t that dedicated. As a result, the hours he spent playing did not provide his self-esteem any emotional nourishment.

3. Demonstrate ability.

Once you’ve identified an area of strength, find ways to demonstrate it. If you’re a good bowler, join a bowling league. If you’re a good writer, post an essay to a blog. If you’re a good planner, organize the family reunion. Engage in the things you do well.

4. Learn to tolerate positive feedback.

When our self-esteem is low we become resistant to compliments. (See Why Some People Hate Compliments.) Work on accepting compliments graciously (a simple "thank you" is sufficient). Hard as it might feel to do so, especially at first, being able to receive compliments is very important for those seeking to nourish their self-esteem.