University Health and Counseling Services
Ambrose Center

Self Esteem and Confidence

UHCS Services

UHCS provides free, confidential, one-on-one counseling sessions to students seeking services for a variety of concerns. This includes working on self-esteem and confidence. Increasing your self-esteem can be an important part of dealing with depression, anxiety, or social difficulties. It is also a worthy goal in itself!


Attending college or graduate school is an amazing opportunity to learn who you are, become more of who you'd like to be, and to build confidence and self-esteem. But it can also present huge challenges to self-esteem: you may be in a time of transition, doing work that is more difficult than ever before, and making new friends or negotiating new relationships. It is understandable that you may doubt yourself a bit! In addition, some people struggle with basic questions of whether they are a worthy person or not. This may be an on-going difficulty, and times of change or stress can make these concerns even more immediate and painful. In either case-a dip in usually higher self-esteem, or longer-term struggles with not feeling "good enough"-there are effective ways for you to make changes and to genuinely increase your self-esteem.

Healthy self-esteem is present when we have a positive, yet realistic view of ourselves and our abilities. It involves a combination of healthy pride (accepting our strengths and identities; having self-respect) and healthy humility (accepting that we are imperfect; we're still learning, and that's OK). Self-esteem allows us to know at a deep level that we are neither less valuable than others, nor more valuable than others. It means feeling equal to other people, and knowing you are equally worthy of respect, care, and love.

Self-confidence is closely related to self-esteem. It is more the external behaviors that stem from healthy self-esteem. Self-confidence particularly relates to believing you can be effective in the world, feeling able to handle situations and to achieve goals. It is a form of courage that allows you to try things you're not necessarily good at, to take appropriate risks, and to be willing to make mistakes in the service of learning and growth.

5 Tips for the Care and Feeding of Self Esteem:

  1. Challenge your assumptions about self-esteem: Sometimes people worry that if they were to feel better about themselves, they could risk becoming arrogant, complacent, or losing motivation for achievement and self-improvement. Actually, the opposite is true! Healthy self-esteem encourages a realistic (not falsely high) appraisal of one's abilities, and a stable foundation of self-worth can free up energy to work on areas of growth. Ask yourself: What do I believe are the pros and cons of having more self-esteem?
  2. Question perfectionism: Voltaire said, "The perfect is the enemy of the good." This is the case with self-esteem. When you can only accept perfection, you deprive yourself of the satisfaction of being "good enough." Ask yourself: Do I still love and respect people who are imperfect? Why are the standards different for me?
  3. Embrace quiet confidence: self-esteem is not just for extroverts! You don't have to be the life of the party to be confident. For example, for some people who are more introverted, self-confidence may shine through as a calm, steady presence, or an internal willingness to risk failure to work toward a valued goal (alone or with others). Ask yourself: What kind of confidence is most consistent with my style? How can I honor who I am, while increasing self-esteem?
  4. Fake it 'til you make it. This old adage is actually true: recent research shows that acting confidently, especially by assuming body postures that convey strength and confidence, actually makes you feel more confident! The confident behavior can come first, and the internal feelings can follow.
  5. Consider consulting with a counselor: If your current level of self-esteem is getting in the way of doing what you want or need to do, or if it's causing you to feel down, worried, or upset, it can be helpful to talk with someone. In particular, if you are experiencing low self-esteem to the point of feeling "worthless," it's important to find support. These feelings can be a symptom of depression, which is very treatable.



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This site is not meant to replace the advice of a health care or counseling professional. You should not rely on any information on these pages, or information generated for you by this site, to replace consultations with qualified professionals regarding your own specific situation. Some links take you to a source outside of UHCS. The owners of that site, not UHCS, are responsible for the content.