Illness & disability
Ways to build self-esteem
Having healthy or high self-esteem means that you feel good about yourself and are proud of what you can do. Having high self-esteem can help you to think positively, deal better with stress, and boost your drive to work hard. Having high self-esteem can also make it easier to try new things. Before you try something new, you think, "I can do this," and not, "This is too hard. I'll never be able to do this."
If you have an illness or disability, how does it affect your self-esteem? Do you find your self-esteem is affected by how you think others see you? Do people put you down or bully you? This can put your self-esteem at risk. If you need a self-esteem boost, take these steps:
- Ask yourself what you are really good at and enjoy doing. Everyone is good at something. When you're feeling bad about yourself, just think, "I'm good at art" (or computers or playing an instrument or whatever you're good at). You might make a list of your great traits and talents, too. And remember that it’s okay not to be great at everything.
- Push yourself to try new things. If you try something new and fail, that's okay. Everyone fails sometime. Try to figure out what went wrong, so you can try again in a new way. Keep trying, and don't give up. In time, you'll figure out how to succeed.
- Always give your best effort, and take pride in your effort. When you accomplish a goal, celebrate over a family meal or treat yourself to a fun outing.
- If you need help, ask for it. Talking to a parent, teacher, or friend can help you come up with different ways to solve a problem. This is called brainstorming. Make a list of your possible solutions. Put the ones that you think will work the best at the top. Then rehearse them ahead of time so that you'll know exactly what you're going to do or say when the problem comes up. If your first plan doesn't work, then go on to Plan B. If Plan B doesn't work, go on to Plan C, and so on.
- Join a support group. Finding out how other kids deal with illnesses or disabilities can help you cope. Ask your doctor, teachers, or parents for help finding a support group in your community or online. Check out these options for chatting with other kids online. Make sure to get your parent’s permission first.
- Volunteer to do something at school or in your community. For instance, you could tutor a younger child or take care of the plants in the community center lobby. You might also volunteer to do some chores at home.
- Look for ways to take more control over your life. For instance, every student who has needs related to an illness or disability in school must have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. Your IEP describes your goals during the school year and any support that you'll need to help achieve those goals. Get involved with the development of your IEP. Attend any IEP meetings. Tell your parents, teachers, and others involved in your IEP what you think your goals at school should be and what would help you achieve them. It's your education, and you get a say in what happens! Learn more about the Individualized Education Plan.
- Speak up for yourself. This can be difficult if you're shy. But it can get easier with practice. Learn to communicate your needs and don't hesitate to ask for something.
- Work on trying to feel good about how you look. Everyone has some things they like and don’t like about their bodies. It pays to focus on the positives since your body image, or how you feel about your looks, can affect your self-esteem. And remember that real beauty comes from the inside! If you like makeup and clothes, ask for help dealing with any obstacles your illness or disability might present.
- If you still find that you are not feeling good about yourself, talk to your parents, a school counselor, or your doctor because you may be at risk for depression. You can also ask the school nurse if your school offers counseling for help through tough times.
- For tips on building self-esteem from other kids with illnesses and disabilities, see Relish is for More than Hot Dogs: A Student's Guide to Making Your Own Sweet Success (PDF - 305KB) .
- For general tips on building self-esteem, see our Feeling good about yourself section.
- How you feel about yourself can help you through tough times when other kids aren’t so nice. To learn more about teasing, bullying, and the self-esteem connection, visit Stop Bullying Now!
Content last updated February 16, 2011