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Try Something New to Boost Self-Esteem

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Tue, Jul 30th 2013

In my last post, I talked about the two keys to self-esteem: efficacy and self-worth. Efficacy is a sense of competence or confidence in one's abilities. Self-worth is a basic belief in oneself as a good person and worthy of existing.

wooden blocks spelling out try something newBoth efficacy and self-worth are crucial for a healthy level of self-esteem. In this post, we're going to talk about efficacy and how to increase it by trying new things. Research has shown that we're more likely to attempt a new activity if we engage in "warm-up" exercises including thinking about, talking about, and visualizing the new behavior.

To become more familiar with this process, I encourage you to complete the following steps, which I adapted from an activity created by Mark Young, author of Learning the Art of Helping:

  • Make a list of 5 things you cannot do right now but would like to be able to do someday. For instance, you might write, "I would like to learn to ski" or "I would like to be able to create spreadsheets on the computer."
  • When making this list, do not include personal qualities that you would like to develop or global statements about self-worth such as, "I would like to be more compassionate" or "I would like to be a better human being."
  • Now, place the letter "T" next to an item on your list if you have talked to a friend or family member about engaging in this activity. Mark as many items as apply.
  • Next, place the letter "V" next to an item if you have ever visualized or daydreamed about yourself performing this task.
  • Place the letter "M" by an item if you have seen other people perform this task on several occasions.
  • Finally, place the letter "A" next to each task that you have attempted to perform within the last year.

Studies indicate that a person is more likely to try a new behavior if he or she gets ready for it by talking about it, visualizing it, and watching the behavior modeled by someone else. On the other hand, when we haven't readied ourselves through these "warm-up" activities, we are farther away from ever actually attempting the behavior.

Take a look at your list. Do your answers confirm this "readiness hypothesis"? If you see items with several letters by them, perhaps it's time to take the leap and try them. If you see items on your list with very few letters next to them, ask yourself: Which letters are missing? Is there a pattern? The missing letters should indicate which "warm-up" activities you can initiate if you want to increase your readiness.

Do you think you might experience a boost in your self-esteem if you tried any of the activities on your list? Why or why not? Leave a comment here and share your thoughts.


Young, M. E. (2013). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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