How to Build Self-Esteem in Recovery

Self-Esteem Helps Recovery

Table of Contents

Self-Esteem in Recovery

There are plenty of “self-” words that you must have heard: self-love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-care. All of these words are used to describe how we feel, think, and act toward ourselves. There’s another “self-” word that’s especially important for addiction recovery: self-esteem.

Self-esteem is a critical part of the recovery process. In fact, psychologists have long believed that working on one’s “inner life” is key to obtaining long-term sobriety. You may be thinking, “it sounds good, but how do you build self-esteem?”

Here’s everything you should know about self-esteem, the connection between low self-esteem and addiction, and seven tips for how to build self-esteem in recovery.

What is Self-Esteem?


A key component to improving self-esteem is strengthening self-respect. Self-respect means having confidence and pride in yourself.

It can also be described as the feeling that you are living a dignified and honorable life. When people have self-respect, they respect their beliefs and values, body and boundaries, and failures and weaknesses.

It’s thinking that you’re a good person but not to the point of arrogance or narcissism. People with high self-respect don’t have to be the smartest person in a group, be more successful than their peers, or use alcohol or drugs to solve their problems.

Sense of Self

Your sense of self is your perception of yourself and an awareness of who you truly are.

Your likes and dislikes, personality traits, moral code, and the things that motivate you — these all contribute to your unique identity as a person.

Having a sense of self helps you lead a purposeful life and develop healthy relationships, leading to overall good emotional health.


If self-respect comes from what you do, esteem comes from how you think and feel about yourself.

It refers to an individual’s overall subjective feelings of personal value and self-worth. People with high self-esteem are generally more optimistic, learn from their mistakes, don’t need approval from the rest of the world, understand their limitations, and have confidence in themselves and their abilities.

On the other hand, people with no self-esteem often critique themselves, always feel like they’re underperforming, and sometimes even believe that they don’t deserve to exist.

Self-esteem is crucial to a person’s well-being. It can affect many areas of life, including substance use and recovery.

What are the Effects of Low Self-Esteem?

Sense of Self

Your sense of self is your perception of yourself and an awareness of who you truly are.

Your likes and dislikes, personality traits, moral code, and the things that motivate you — these all contribute to your unique identity as a person.

Having a sense of self helps you lead a purposeful life and develop healthy relationships, leading to overall good emotional health.

Can Low Self-Esteem Cause Addiction?

Self-esteem, once learned, is very resistant to change.

When at a low level, it becomes a source of pain in a person’s life. For example, it may present as having trouble overcoming negative thoughts or have a very pessimistic view of their future.

The Mental Health and Counseling Center of the University of Texas also reported that low self-esteem could lead to a lack of development and a tendency toward drugs or alcohol consumption.1

Living with low-esteem is dangerous as it can lead to developing unhealthy habits, such as drug use, alcohol abuse, and smoking, in an attempt to cope with feelings, even if the relief is only temporary.

Depression and Self-Esteem

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, low self-esteem often co-occurs with depression. Depression on its own can lead to substance abuse, and the link between low self-esteem and substance abuse may be due to feelings of depression, or at least in some part.

How Does Addiction Hurt Self-Esteem?

People living with addiction often deal with self-blame, which worsens their low self-esteem. For example, a person suffering from an addiction can feel embarrassed and judged by their family or friends who have never abused drugs or alcohol.

Moreover, addiction can affect judgment and impulse control, leading to saying and doing things that are regretful later, which can further diminish self-esteem.

How to Build Confidence in Recovery?

How to be More Confident?

Positive thinking, practice, training, knowledge, and talking to other people are all great ways to boost your confidence levels. Confidence comes from accepting your body and mind, feelings of well-being, and belief in your own ability, skills, and experience.

Some ways to build more confidence include:

  • Practice positive thinking
  • Know what you find worth fighting for and pay attention to that
  • Make your own decisions
  • Learn a job skill that enables you to earn a living
  • Learn skills of all sorts, such as cooking, sewing, gardening, coding, coaching, etc
  • Establish goals and work toward achieving them
  • Know how to stand up for yourself
  • Use criticism as a learning experience
  • Listen and learn from others
  • Accept compliments and compliment yourself
  • Find yourself a confidence role-model

How to Improve Self-Esteem in Recovery?

Whether you’re thinking about seeking treatment or are already on the road to recovery, here are seven ways for how to build self-esteem in recovery and increase your chances of achieving long-term sobriety:

Ways to Improve Self-Esteem


Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Even though comparison can lead to higher motivation and growth, it can also intensify feelings of self-doubt.

Research has found that comparing yourself to others can lead to feelings of envy, low-self-confidence, and depression.2

Comparing yourself to others often happens unconsciously. What you can do is start paying more attention to your thoughts. Every time you catch yourself comparing, cut off the thought, and replace that thought with something more positive.


Keep a Gratitude Journal

One study found that people who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives than those who wrote about daily irritations. In addition, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians.3

Other studies have discovered that giving thanks and counting blessings can lead to better sleep, a drop in stress levels, and improved interpersonal relationships.4, 5

In fact, most of the studies published on this topic show a strong connection between gratitude and a person’s well-being.


Set Small Achievable Goals

Confidence often comes by achieving success. Generally, people with low self-esteem have very high and unrealistic expectations of themselves. For instance, they may expect themselves to learn how to play an instrument professionally in seven days. By doing so, they’re setting themselves up for failure.

Instead, they should focus on setting smaller, achievable goals.

One such goal would be to learn all the piano notes by next week. Every time you achieve these smaller goals and set up new ones, you’ll feel more confident in yourself.


Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is a widely practiced self-care technique that can improve well-being and reduce stress.6

If you regularly practice loving-kindness meditation, you’ll manage to increase your capacity to accept yourself, forgive, connect with others, and more.


Help Others in Recovery

Helping other people in recovery tends to take the attention off yourself, which can be significantly beneficial. Instead of focusing on your problems and your struggles in recovery, your attention will shift toward the other person. Moreover, the gratitude you’ll receive for your efforts can help you improve your own happiness and well-being.


Change Self-Talk

There’s a wide range of benefits that come with positive thinking, such as lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, better psychological and physical well-being, and improved coping skills during hardships and times of stress.7

Start by being gentle to yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, analyze it rationally, and replace it with a positive thought.

For example, if you start thinking, “I’m a failure,” replace that thought with “I have achieved a great deal of things. I’ve graduated from high school, found a good job, and became a parent.”


Find Room for Self-Forgiveness

Forgiving yourself for your mistakes and learning how to learn from them is crucial for mental health and well-being.8

Self-forgiveness means that you accept what has happened, and you are willing to move past it and live your life without looking back on these past events.

It involves four key actions, including:

  1. Accepting your addiction and being kind to yourself
  2. Understanding you are not a bad person for making mistakes
  3. Apologizing to people you have hurt
  4. Trying to learn from the experience and improve as a person

How Feeling Better About Yourself Helps Recovery

The Positive Effects of Feeling Better About Yourself

Addiction can make it challenging to feel good about yourself and your abilities. Self-esteem is a critical component of the recovery process as it can lead to more positive thinking, higher confidence, and satisfaction from your successes.

Finding ways to change the way you feel about yourself can make it easier to appreciate your efforts and strengths and take pride in your progress.

The Importance of Self Esteem in Recovery

Low self-esteem in recovery can affect the ability to find happiness and reach sobriety. Lack of confidence in recovery and a lack of self-worth can prevent some people from working to improve their life.

Moreover, if low self-esteem continues after recovery, it will increase the risk of relapse. When recovery does not feel satisfactory, there is frequently an increased temptation to return to substance use to numb any negative feelings.

A life free from substances is possible with the correct support and effort. If you or someone you love is dealing with substance abuse and is looking for a better way to live, reach out today.

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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