Do you want to feel truly great about yourself? Would you like to feel at ease wherever you are? If so, read on — this powerful article is meant for you.

First, let’s talk about self-esteem. It’s important to know what self-esteem is so that you can nurture it consciously. Sometimes we use the terms self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably, yet they are very different qualities.

Let’s take a close look at what it means to be self-confident. Self-confidence generally arises from one’s abilities or characteristics in a certain area and is often dependent on something external or fleeting in nature, such as looks, achievements, or certain skills. As such, self-confidence often diminishes if a characteristic or skill declines. In essence, self-confidence is often dependent on something that is impermanent. It’s important to note that a person can be self-confident in a certain area and actually have low self-esteem.

For example, a person might be confident about their physical appearance or business abilities but have very poor self-esteem. That’s why the successful man driving the fancy car and the “it’s all about me” woman often have low self-esteem. Those who appear “super self-confident” sometimes wear a mask of superiority in an attempt to hide a deep inner sense of inferiority — and they don’t want anyone (even themselves) to know about it! Self-confidence can be rather tricky this way!

Good self-esteem is an incredible quality that is self-earned. Self-esteem is not superficial, nor does it rely on power, looks, external success, or money. Self-esteem is generally permanent and is built by learning and growing from life’s experiences. Interestingly, self-esteem is often strengthened as a result of facing and moving through life’s challenges with an aware, intentional attitude.

In general, you can build a stronger sense of self-esteem by consciously striving to be compassionate, kind, and respectful to yourself and others. In this way, you slowly craft strong self-esteem as the result of striving to be the best version of yourself. Self-esteem takes time and energy to build, yet it is a far more pervasive, lasting quality than self-confidence.

You now have a solid understanding of what makes up self-esteem and why you might want to generate more of this powerful quality. The five steps below will guide you into creating a strong, increasingly permanent sense of self-esteem.

  1. Get to Know and Cultivate Your Self-Esteem: Take an honest, non-judgmental look at your level of self-esteem. If it feels right, you can even rate your self-esteem on a scale of “0-10” so that you have a sense of where you’re starting from. If your self-esteem is lower than you’d like it to be, strive to be kind and compassionate with yourself — it’s never helpful to be judgmental or critical! Instead, just do an honest assessment of where you are now so that you have an idea of where you’d like to be.
  2. Strive for Non-Judgmental Self-Awareness: It’s important to notice both your strengths and weakness in life. First, make a simple list of your greatest strengths. Then, make a simple list of your weak areas. By homing in on your strengths and capacities, you can reinforce these qualities in life. For example, you might be truly appreciative of your ability to be grounded or your capacity to focus. In the same way, nonjudgmentally notice the areas where you feel frail or weak — these are the places that can be honored, healed, and strengthened when possible. As easy examples, you might notice that your boundaries aren’t as strong as you’d like or that you tend to be highly critical. As you develop your two lists, strive to be compassionate and non-judgmental. Your goal is simply to assess the areas where you feel strong and the areas where you feel rather weak or challenged.
  3. Do Your Self-Work with TLC: You now have two important lists. One contains qualities that you like and may want to strengthen or increase. The other list reflects your weaknesses, the areas that you want to heal, strengthen, or shift in some way. Place your lists in a place you can see them every day — whether on your fridge, desktop, or cell phone. Each day, pick at least two of your positive qualities to focus on with loving awareness. Give gratitude for these qualities and smile in appreciation for the work you’ve done (and continue to do) to foster them. Then, select one item on your list of weak areas to work on just a bit each day. For example, you may choose to work on setting boundaries at work one day and being less judgmental the next day. Take a playful, can-do approach, and you’ll begin to see (and feel) results week by week.
  4. Embrace Learning: Strive to embrace an attitude of self-compassion that is oriented toward learning and growing. Consciously move toward respectful tolerance with yourself and others as you move away from judgment, criticism, and resentment. When you cultivate an attitude of curiosity and self-awareness, your focus shifts away from the dualistic attitude of “right or wrong” and into the realm of thinking and doing whatever feels most productive. This shift in attitude will create more positivity in your life. As you become more self-aware and intentional, your self-esteem will steadily grow.
  5. Be Patient as You Strive for Self-Love: By working on yourself with honesty, positivity, acceptance, and kindness, you will come to appreciate yourself more and more. Be patient with yourself, for change does not happen overnight. As you learn to accept that you are a “work in process,” your self-love will grow. This type of self-love is true and not dependent on looks, how much money you have, or the brand of car you drive.

As you follow the above steps with conscious attention, you’ll begin to notice a true difference in yourself and your life. You won’t be trying to impress anyone or prove yourself. Instead, you’ll be focusing your energy on being the kind of person you want — you desire — to be. You’ll know and radiate the power of strong, hard-earned self-esteem. And, perhaps for the first time in your life, you’ll find that you’re truly loving yourself from the inside out.

Embrace and enjoy insights like the above — and so much more — in the pages of my powerful new book, Joy from Fear.