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Five Tips for College Students to Beat Low Self-Esteem

Picture of African male college student celebrating his success by lifting hands in the library
Written by Tenesha

Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-brake on. – Maxwell Maltz 

This quote by Maxwell Maltz provides an apt description of how low-self esteem can significantly hamper your life experiences and accomplishments. Can you imagine driving your car with your hand-brake on to every destination? I am sure driving would be utterly frustrating. No matter how much pressure you put on the gas, your car would barely move. Similarly, if you have low self-esteem, your progress is constantly hampered by negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. Additionally, it is very difficult for you to fit in social environments as you often assume that everyone sees you in a negative light. 

College is a place to explore your talents and skills and create lifelong moments. However, if you struggle with low self-esteem, you are likely to miss out on discovering your true capabilities in college. That is because you stop yourself from fully participating in college activities due to your chronic fear of failing or being ridiculed. For instance,  you rather not ask a question in class due to your anxiety about how others might ridicule you. The truth is, college can be a tough place with lots of cliques and bullies. If you are very thin-skinned and do not have a strong sense of who you are, your college life will be very stressful. 

Don’t let low self-esteem steal your shine. You have the power to be your best self in college and in life as a whole. Follow these tips to beat low self-esteem and develop your confidence.

1. Know Yourself

Too often we spend our lives trying to be someone else. Everyone has unique talents and preferences. Spend time exploring your preferences, talents, and skills. Instead of trying to copy your friends and celebrities, try to develop your skills. You will feel so much better about yourself when you pursue the things that you are good at. Choose college courses and activities that can help develop your abilities. Additionally, knowing yourself is knowing your values about what is acceptable and what is not. Do not wait for others to define you. You need to have a clear picture of the kind of person you are and what you stand for. Hence, you will never feel pressured to change yourself to fit someone else’s definition of who you should be.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

The sooner you realize that nobody is perfect, the less fearful you will become about making mistakes. Moreover, many successful people will tell you that the greatest lessons they learned in life were from the mistakes they made. Being a perfect college student is an unrealistic expectation as you are bound to make some even silly mistakes along the way. You cannot control how others react to your mistakes but you have full control over your reaction. Will you take the wisdom gained from your mistakes to become a better person? Or will you wallow in self-pity and sentence yourself to a life of failure? The choice is yours.

3. Keep Track of Your Goals

As a college student, you have to understand what your goals are. That will help you to measure your progress. You should be flexible and realistic with your goals. If you set unrealistic goals, then you are not likely to achieve them and that can make you feel like a failure. Hence, as you set your goals, try to be very practical with your expectations and your timelines. As you keep track of your goals, it is always good to look back at where you are coming from to appreciate the progress that you have made. Additionally, you sometimes have to modify your goals and timelines along the way to adapt to changes in your situation. 

4. Avoid Negative Thoughts

Everyone is susceptible to feelings of doom and pessimism. These negative thoughts sometimes arise from experiences with bullies, our families, and friends. They also come from our memories of past failures or just from the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds. The fact is, negative thoughts are not uncommon. However, we have the power to channel our minds into positive thinking. Reject all unfounded negative claims about who you are. People often misunderstand situations and are quick to judge you and label you with negative terms. Defend your reputation and do not harbor negative thoughts about yourself unfairly. 

Additionally, praise yourself for your good deeds and great attributes. Recognize your own value and do not leave it to others to judge your worth. Moreover, get rid of connections that negatively affect your self-esteem and embrace relationships that build your self-confidence. Finally, approach all of your goals with an attitude for success. If you expect to fail, then you are more likely to fail. However, if you have a winning attitude, then you are more likely to succeed.

5. Take Chances

Take chances in college so you can gain new experiences and learn new things.  You can take a study abroad course or get involved in new extra-curricular activities. Staying in your comfort zone will only limit your perspective and your opportunities for development. Trying new things can also help you to be more comfortable with exploring your strengths and weaknesses. That way you will learn to relax more and not be too harsh on yourself for not being perfect at everything. Moreover, new experiences help to build lifelong memories and can help you discover your hidden talents.

Low self-esteem is a state of mind that causes you to think negatively about yourself and your abilities. Getting to know yourself and appreciating your unique qualities can help you to develop a strong self-concept. Finally, becoming comfortable with making mistakes and taking chances in life are great strategies to help with low self-esteem. 

For more great tips about college, read our other blogs.

About the author


Edmonton Canada based freelance copywriter & College Basics contributor.