14 Ways to Build Your Self-Esteem by Denis Waitley

Recently I listened to an interview between Denis Waitley*, one of the greatest teachers in human achievement and Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine. One of the questions Hardy asked Waitley was, “How can people improve their self-esteem?”

Waitley first defined the term by saying, “Your self-esteem is the deep-down, inside-the-skin feeling of your own worth, regardless of how you look or where you came from. It is the feeling of worthiness—just being glad you are you. It’s the feeling of identity—finding something unique about yourself. It has the feeling of competency—if I do something and it works out, it gives me the courage to do something more.”

Continuing, Waitley listed fourteen ways that people can strengthen their self-esteem.

1.  Lead with your hand. When you walk into a room always lead with your hand by offering a firm handshake. This gives you a feeling of self-assurance and indicates to others that you are confident in who you are.

2.  Make eye contact. Making eye contact indicates you are a caring person capable of holding the glass of another person.

3.  Offer Your Name First When meeting people, always introduce yourself by saying your name.

4. Smile. A smile indicates there’s a light on in your window and that you are a caring and sharing person inside.

5. Dress your best. Always dress your best—not necessarily in designer clothing—and take pride in how you look. It’s the outside of the package that draws people in.

6. Ask engaging questions. When you ask questions you are demonstrating your genuine interest in others.

7. Sit in front. When you attend meetings, sit up front and be an active participant.

8. Walk with confidence. Walk with a spring in your step—a certain type of charisma and feeling about yourself.

9.  Use a positive explanatory style. Listen carefully to how people describe themselves, as that often tells a lot about how people feel about themselves. Do they say negative things? Do they make excuses? Always explain yourself with a positive explanatory style.

10. Accept compliments. When you graciously accept compliments, you are accepting yourself for who you are rather than making excuses about yourself.

11. Keep your self-talk positive. We are all our own worse critics. No eyes are as critical as our own. We don’t like pictures and videos of ourselves. There is no voice or set of eyes that has the power to discourage like your own. Look for the good in you, not the bad, and when you look in the mirror count your blessings, not your blemishes.

12.  Look at what you do well. When things aren’t going well, look back at the things you have done well. When we focus on what’s good about ourselves, we feel good about ourselves. When we focus on our faults, mistakes and weaknesses, we naturally feel poorly about ourselves.

13.  Hang around the right people. Our circle of influence is our circle of influencers that have a powerful impact on how we feel about our abilities and ourselves. Hang around people with the same goals, rather than the same problems. Play with better golfers and bowlers. Spend your time with people who have been more successful in the same fields.

14. Expect good things from yourself. You will not do anything or reach any goal you don’t expect to achieve. Our expectations are at the root of all our achievements, and our achievements have a profound impact on how we view and feel about ourselves.

I encourage you to print out Denis Waitley’s list of ways to improve your self-esteem and read the linked Little Things Matter posts that edify his ideas. I then challenge you to be intentional about implementing each of them into your daily lives.

As you focus on building your self-esteem, remember the wise words from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

When you concentrate on positive actions and attitudes, not only will you achieve greater personal and professional success, but you will also enjoy the powerful side effect of an improved self-image.


* Denis Waitley has trained people from every walk of life, including Apollo astronauts and U.S Olympic athletes. He has sold more than 10 million audio programs and has written 15 books including two best sellers: Seeds of Greatness and Psychology of Winning.

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About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #26 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

Related Posts:

Handshakes Really Do Matter

The Fundamentals of Eye Contact

10 Ways to Build Your Self-Image (Part 1)

10 Ways to Build Your Self-Image (Part 2)

Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

10 Ways to Make a Positive Impression When Greeting People

The Ripple Effect of a Smile

Make Your Appearance an Asset

The Power of Questions

Carefully Select the People who Influence Your Life

Believe That You Can

No One is Perfect

How to Accept Compliments

The Power of Self-Talk

Become Your Greatest Fan

Are Your Expectations Hurting or Helping You?

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  • Heidigm

    Hi Todd,

    As a business woman and a mother, I appreciate the lessons and reminders you share in your book, "Little Things Matter," as well as the posts you make in your blog. Don Yoakum shared your book with me and I have taken the opportunity to share it with many people I coach. I have also shared it with my children, who are nearly grown. These lessons that I have shared with my grown children have impacted their lives beyond anything I could have taught them from a school book. I believe these lessons should be made a part of the curriculum for high school students, as the benefits far outweigh those of learning math, history or science. The ability to understand the little things that matter and having a strong sense of self esteem will contribute more to ones success than a high measure of IQ. The reading list posted by Mr. Kilroy would be a great student resource as well! Thank you for making a positive difference!

  • WOW Heidi- What a sweet message. It is messages like yours that keep me motivated.

    Thanks so much for taking your time to share your encouraging words.


  • Thank you Todd.
    Great article. I read it many times.

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