Dubai, UAE

10 Ways to Build Your Self-Esteem in the Workplace

While many are too ashamed to admit it, the number of people experiencing low self-esteem in the workplace is significant. People with low self-esteem often spend a large part of their day comparing themselves to others in the office. They perceive themselves and worry others perceive them as inadequate. They often feel inferior, and in extreme cases live in constant fear they could lose their job because they don’t, and may never, measure up. This is often accompanied by high stress levels, feelings of overwhelm or for some depression – which can, of course, impact performance. Which then reaffirms their belief they are, in fact, not good enough.

People with low self-esteem often doubt their decisions and capabilities, always seeking reassurance, approval or validation from their boss or peers. This is particularly true of those who have experienced low self-esteem in the past, a traumatic event such as redundancy or illness, or simply a long period of time out of the workforce.

If you want to have a successful career, building your self-esteem in the workplace is fundamental. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you?

Building self-esteem can be a long journey, but for everyone is absolutely possible. The first step is to understand what self-esteem really is. In my opinion, it’s a combination of knowing you are of equal value to everyone else on this planet, and believing in yourself. Knowing that even if you’re not good at something yet, if you put your mind to it, you will get there in the end. It’s about self-respect and knowing who you are and who you want to be. Self-esteem is not the same as confidence. Confidence comes from doing. The more you do something, the more confident you will become doing it. Take driving for example. Scary to begin with, but practice and repeat it enough times, it almost becomes subconscious.

So how can you build your self-esteem in the workplace even further? Here are some steps you can take to get you started today:

1)   Start making more decisions

To build your self-esteem, you have to start trusting yourself. The only way to do this is by making more decisions. The more decisions you make the more confident you will become at making them. Ensuring at each stage you note what worked, what didn’t work and what you need to do differently next time. So you can learn and constantly improve. Seeing yourself learning, getting better and making decisions independently can be great for self-esteem.

Remember – you’re making decisions every day. Decisions on what to wear, eat, read and do etc.. You’ve probably made some pretty big decisions in the past – some of which will have brought you to where you are today (still alive with a roof over your head and food on your table). So you can make decisions. Now it’s simply a case of getting better at them. Which comes from practice, practice, practice.

2)   Trust your instincts

This feeds into point number one. Often people who rely on outside confirmation they are doing the right thing, have forgotten to listen to their intuition. To listen to their minds and bodies to see and feel whether something is right or wrong.

Whenever you need to make a decision or take action, take 10 deep breaths and ask, “What is the outcome I am looking for? What looks and feels like the right decision here?”

We often do things we know aren’t right through fear. Fear if we don’t do them, something bad will happen. If you want to develop high self-esteem, being true to yourself and what you believe in is a crucial step. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

3)   Do a skills SWOT analysis

If you doubt your capabilities, doing a SWOT analysis of your skills can really help. This will allow you to assess and identify where your gaps are. Once you have identified your gaps, you can start to look at what you can do (training, reading, attending workshops) to close your gaps. Closing the gaps is great for confidence. Seeing yourself take control of closing those gaps can do wonders for self-esteem.

4)   Say ‘exactly’ what you mean

“Are you OK?” “Yes, I’m fine.” How many times have we said that without really meaning it? Hiding how we really feel or think teaches our subconscious mind that it’s not OK to express who we are or what we want. This has a detrimental effect on self-esteem and only leads to poor communication and relationships further down the line. Stand up for what you believe in and what you want, ensuring you communicate it in such a way it will be received as positively as possible.

5)    Stop trying to please people

If you’re constantly making decisions based on what other people think and what they like, you will very quickly forget what it is you like. What you enjoy. What makes you tick. You then end up in a trap of looking to other people to tell you who you should be and what you should do. You stop trusting and listening to yourself. People with high self-esteem know what they like, what they don’t like and approve of themselves. Including both their “good” and “bad” bits. They know they can’t please everyone and make decisions based on what is right – not what others think.

6)    Never speak badly of yourself

If you want to have high self-esteem, it’s imperative you speak about yourself as if you are your best friend. With love and respect. Speak badly about yourself, internally and externally, and you are disrespecting yourself – hammering your self-esteem into the ground. It’s time to step up and be your own internal cheerleader. If you don’t stand in your own corner, who else will? Take time to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and watch your self-esteem soar!

7)    Follow your goals and dreams

“That’s a stupid idea.” The moment we hear this, our dreams are shattered and we give up on them. People with high self-esteem ignore what other people think and stay focused on their goals. Knowing that, no matter what, they will find a way. Because they can.

8)   Learn how to say ‘no’

Saying “yes” to everyone and everything sends a message to our subconscious that we come second. What we want and need is not as important as those around us. Constantly saying ‘yes’ leads to burn-out. You spend so much time focusing on other people you neglect yourself. This can negatively impact your performance at work and feed into your low self-esteem.

Learning to say “no” gives you the time you need to recharge your batteries and do the things you enjoy. This will positively impact your mood, self-esteem and performance at work. It also means you’re forcing other people to learn to do things for themselves. Which is probably more helpful to them in the long-run.

9)     Stop comparing yourself to others

This is possibly the most crucial step. The quickest way to low self-esteem is through comparing yourself to others. Stop it. Right now. If someone is better than you at something, that’s OK. There will always be people out there better than us – but our individual value remains the same. We are all born equal and nobody is superior or inferior to anyone else.

If someone else is better than you at something, ask yourself if it is something you think you should be good at, or something you actually WANT to be good at. If it’s something you want to be good at, use their performance as inspiration to go and develop that skill further. Not one more thing you can use to beat yourself up and confirm you’re not good enough.

10) Stop being a perfectionist

People with low self-esteem are often perfectionists. Either because they believe they only have value if they are perfect. Or they are avoiding the pain of criticism. This puts them under unnecessary pressure and stress, which ultimately could impact their performance at work and how others perceive them. Feeding back into their belief, they’re not good enough as they are.

People with high-self esteem don’t fear criticism because they take it as feedback rather than a personal attack. It doesn’t hurt them. They know their value. They know what they’re good at and their areas of improvement. And they’re OK with that. Because they know there is no such thing as perfect. Achieving 80% is most of the time – good enough.

For more information on how to build your self-esteem for greater career success, please email me at or visit

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About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook

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