Using Our Successes to Build Self-Esteem

October 10, 2023 Sean Gunderson

We each have successes in our lives, but can we use our successes to increase self-esteem? We all have made goals and achieved them, whether small or large. Yet oftentimes, we overlook these successes when life gets to be overwhelming. Have you forgotten your own successes, or even your inherent worth, when life gets to be too much? In today's post, I would like to remind all of us that self-esteem can be boosted by our successes. 

Redefining Success to Build Self-Esteem

The most important thing to remember when using our successes to build self-esteem is that we must be the ones to measure our success. We must not be looking at other people's definitions of success. Rather, we want to turn inward and define what success means to us. Once we understand what success means to us, we can use these successes to remind ourselves that we are amazing, no matter what others around us may think

Those of us who are reading this are likely immersed in Western culture. We have been conditioned to see success through the eyes of other people. Put simply, when those around us validate our success, then we may feel the permission to celebrate our success. Perhaps a boss commends you on a good job. Maybe a family member acknowledges an achievement. Or perhaps we find that our recent social media post received numerous likes. While each of these is cause for celebration, we can grow beyond dependence on the approval of others to recognize our successes. 

We each have the capacity to acknowledge our own successes. Indeed, this is an effective way to build self-esteem through awareness of our successes. When we give our capacity to define success to those around us, we are not only dependent on them, but we may also overlook our own meaningful contributions merely because someone else has a different idea of what success looks like. Furthermore, the inherent drawback of relying on others to define success for us is that we may become discouraged by the naysayers who do not see what we can see. 

Building Self-Esteem by Acknowledging Smaller Successes

Many of the projects that are seen as "successful" by Western culture require significant time and energy. However, each project consists of smaller goals that we can be aware of. Each smaller goal in a larger project can be conceptualized as a success. Each little step toward that larger goal is an opportunity for us to celebrate ourselves and our successes. This is important because we do not know how the future will play out. Perhaps we will achieve the larger goal toward which we are striving; perhaps we will not. Either way, we can grow in that process, celebrate our successes, and build self-esteem along the way.

When we acknowledge smaller successes that we define, we also fuel our personal growth. Life is a moment-by-moment process. As we align our goals in life with this reality, we can build self-esteem. What I mean by this is that each moment is an opportunity to work toward a particular goal. Even if we are 1000 steps away from our larger goal, we can use these in-between successes to build our self-esteem. When we see how capable we really are, we build self-esteem. When we overcome our doubts, we build self-esteem. When we love ourselves in the moment and realize that it has always been "about the journey, not the destination," we build self-esteem. 

Watch this video to learn how I viewed overcoming health challenges as successes to build my self-esteem.

How do you define success? Does your personal understanding of success help you build self-esteem, or does it hinder it? 

APA Reference
Gunderson, S. (2023, October 10). Using Our Successes to Build Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Sean Gunderson

Sean Gunderson (they/them) has a wealth of lived experience with mental health issues and, after publishing their thesis, "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Psychiatric Survivor: Exploring the Paradigm Shift in Mental Health," became an advocate for embracing the ongoing scientific paradigm shift in the field of mental health. Find Sean on Facebook, X (Twitter), LinkedIn, and their site

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