7 Habits that Chip Away at Our Confidence and Self-Esteem and How to Break Them

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7 Habits that Chip Away at Our Confidence and Self-Esteem and How to Break Them

By Milissa Aronson | Confidence and Self-Esteem

Posted: April 22, 2024 

Photo of a woman with her head in her hands and multiple thought bubbles sending her negative messages, showing how thoughts and habits can wear down our confidence and self-esteem.

Confidence and self-esteem are common buzzwords related to personal development. Yet, these terms are more than just catchphrases; they are the foundation for feeling fulfilled with our lives and helping us achieve our goals.

The Difference Between Confidence and Self-Esteem

Imagine a life where we believe in our abilities, enthusiastically embrace challenges, and resiliently navigate obstacles. That's the power of confidence and self-esteem in action. Confidence is the belief in oneself and one's abilities. It's the fuel that drives us to take on something new, step out of our comfort zone, pursue a dream, or move forward in the face of a setback. On the other hand, self-esteem relates to our overall subjective evaluation of our worth. Self-esteem influences how we perceive ourselves; our relationships and interactions with others are the overall subjective emotional evaluations of our worth. It influences how we perceive ourselves, our achievements, and how we interact with the world. While our early experiences (childhood, parents, etc.) planted roots for our confidence and self-esteem, maintaining this in our lives is not innate. It takes practice and work!

Impact of Habits on Confidence and Self-Esteem

Here is a list of 7 common habits that many people engage in that negatively impact confidence and self-esteem. The good news is that with awareness and focusing on more positive behavior, we can change our habits and positively impact our confidence and self-esteem.

Habits play a significant role in shaping our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which, over time, will influence confidence and self-esteem. Habits are automatic behaviors we perform repeatedly in response to specific cues. When practiced repeatedly, habits will impact how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world around us. Over time, habits become ingrained in our neural pathways and influence how we think, feel, and act in different situations. Sometimes, habits become so ingrained that we lose awareness of them. It would be great if the habit were something that would benefit us. However, when we unknowingly engage in detrimental habits, we could be damaging our confidence and self-esteem without even realizing it!

HABIT #1: Negative Self-Talk

Self-talk refers to the internal dialogue that runs through our heads. We engage in self-talk almost non-stop throughout the day, and many times, we aren’t even aware of it. Whether we're aware of it or not, this self-talk can affect how we think, what we believe about ourselves and the world, how we perceive things, our interactions with others, and the approaches and actions we take to things -including the way that we tackle life’s problems. It can make or break our confidence in a situation and has lasting impacts on our self-esteem. It can influence our emotional well-being, performance, and our behavior. Examples of negative self-talk include: “I can’t do this,” “I’ll mess up,” “I’m not (good/pretty/smart, etc.) enough.”

What To Do About Negative Self-Talk

The key to breaking any habit is first recognizing it as it occurs. Ideally, we may get to a point where we will notice the cues triggering the negative self-talk, but if we can catch it in the moment, we can still make progress. Try to recognize negative self-talk as it occurs and take time to examine and replace it. 

  •  Challenge Negative Thoughts: Question the validity of negative thoughts. Ask yourself, "Is this thought based on facts or assumptions?" Based on what?
  • Positive Affirmations: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, instead of thinking, "I can't do this," say, "I am capable and competent."
  • Focus on Strengths: Acknowledge and focus on our strengths and achievements rather than dwelling on weaknesses.

HABIT #2: Comparisons

Comparing ourselves to others is another habit that can negatively impact our confidence and self-esteem. Comparisons often focus on perceived shortcomings and what is lacking rather than concentrating on unique qualities and strengths. This constant comparison can lead to anxiety and depression and feed several other habits on this list, such as negative self-talk, perfectionism, and avoidance.

Break the Comparison Habit

  • Practice Self-Compassion: Instead of being harsh on yourself when we notice you're comparing, practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as we would treat a friend.
  • Focus on Our Strengths: List our strengths, accomplishments, and qualities that we appreciate about ourselves. Focus on these instead of dwelling on perceived shortcomings.
  • Limit Social Media Use: Reduce the time spent on social media platforms that trigger comparison. Remember that people often present a curated version of their lives online.

HABIT #3: Perfectionism

Perfectionism can certainly erode confidence and self-esteem over time and significantly impact mental well-being. Perfectionistic habits lead to unrealistic expectations, which inherently set us up for falling short and deplete our confidence. This habit also cycles into a fear of feedback and failure, as these are threats to an image of perfection, which will lead to another detrimental habit on this list—avoidance. Perfectionism is also fueled by self-criticism, which feeds into the cycle of negative self-talk.

Breaking out of Perfectionistic Habits

  • Challenge Our Beliefs: Start by challenging our belief that we must be perfect to be worthy or successful. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that it's okay to be imperfect.
  • Recognize the Difference Between Excellence and Perfection and Set Realistic Goals: Instead of striving for perfection, set realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate our progress.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself, especially when you make mistakes or face setbacks. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation.

HABIT # 4: Avoiding Challenges

Avoiding challenges cumulatively chips away at confidence and self-esteem, even when a challenge is avoided in an attempt to preserve fragile confidence or self-esteem. Several negative consequences can emerge when someone consistently avoids facing challenges or difficult situations.

Facing challenges often leads to acquiring new skills and knowledge. By avoiding challenges, we miss opportunities to develop and enhance our abilities. Over time, this can lead to stagnation and a lack of growth. Facing challenges also builds resilience. When this isn’t strengthened, rebounding from setbacks is more complicated, leading to less confidence and lower self-esteem. Over time, repeatedly avoiding challenges will lead to a negative self-perception. We may start questioning our abilities, further decreasing our confidence and self-esteem.

Addressing the Issue of Avoiding Challenges

  • Embrace a Growth Mindset: Shift your mindset to believing that new skills and abilities can be developed through hard work and the potential for failure creates a new opportunity to learn.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Setting achievable yet challenging goals so that you can gradually step out of your comfort zone and build confidence.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Instead of avoiding challenges due to a fear of failure, view mistakes and setbacks as valuable learning experiences. Reflect on what went wrong, what could be done differently next time, and how to improve.

HABIT #5: Overthinking

Overthinking often leads to a cycle of negative thoughts and self-criticism. Constantly replaying scenarios in our minds and focusing on potential mistakes or failures can lower our self-confidence, increase stress and anxiety, and cause decision paralysis.

Strategies to Fix Overthinking and Boost Confidence:

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness can help us become aware of our thoughts and break the cycle of overthinking.

HABIT # 6: Neglecting Self-Care

Self-care can refer to the attention we dedicate to our physical and emotional health or where we list ourselves on priorities. Neglecting self-care can have a profound impact on one's confidence and self-esteem. Ignoring any of these items will directly and indirectly impact our confidence and self-esteem.

Building Habits to Promote Self-Care

  • Prioritize Physical Health: Recognize that our physical well-being provides a foundation for mental and emotional health and incorporate exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep into a routine.
  • Emotional Self-Care: Develop strong relaxation and stress management techniques, and take time to nurture social relationships. If stress is overwhelming, seek professional help from therapy.
  • Personal Growth: Set aside time for personal development activities, whether reading, learning a new skill, or pursuing a hobby. Setting and achieving goals can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment.

HABIT #7: Seeking Constant Reassurance/Approval

When we constantly seek approval from others, we rely on external validation to feel good about ourselves. This can lead to discounting or neglecting our feelings, beliefs, and values, making us less confident in our judgment and creating insecurity over time.

Fixes for The Need for Constant Reassurance/Approval

  • Self-awareness: Recognize when seeking approval and try to understand the underlying reasons for this behavior.
  • Build Self-Esteem: Focus on building our self-esteem from within rather than relying on external validation. Engage in activities that make you feel competent and accomplished, and celebrate our achievements, no matter how small.
  • Set Boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries with others. Understand that it's okay to say no and prioritize our needs and well-being.

It Is Possible to Develop New Habits to Foster Confidence and Health Self-Esteem

Understanding the habits that erode our confidence and self-esteem is the first step towards building a stronger, more resilient self-image. These subtle behaviors and thought patterns often go unnoticed, yet they wield significant power in shaping how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world. From negative self-talk and comparison to others to perfectionism and avoiding challenges, these habits can sneak into our daily lives, chipping away at our confidence bit by bit. However, once you start to develop an awareness of these habits, you are well on your way to improving your situation. Replacing these habits with positive, empowering behaviors can transform our self-perception and enhance our overall well-being.

Building confidence and self-esteem is a journey, not a destination. It requires patience, reflection, self-reflection, and consistent effort. With determination and the right mindset, we can break free from these limiting habits, cultivate stronger self-esteem and confidence, and embed new habits to foster this over time.

As you begin this journey, remember that you didn’t develop these habits overnight, and change may take time. Practice self-compassion along the way. Remember that you will have some setbacks and aren’t alone in making mistakes or overcoming difficulties. Everyone is on their own journey; you don’t have to go alone. You can always seek support from friends, family, or a therapist for additional insight, advice, or support in your journey!


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