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Using a Self-Esteem Journal to Thrive

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: June 19th, 2020

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Self-esteem isn’t just thinking highly of one’s self. It’s developing a deep, respectful relationship with yourself, and taking time to acknowledge your efforts and accomplishments. This article will show you how to use a self-esteem journal to truly thrive.

If you commit to the process, a self-esteem journal is a wonderful tool for improving mental health. By writing in your journal each day, you examine the hard work you’ve done towards achieving your goals, improving yourself, and overcoming struggles. Your journal can also serve as a safe place to write out, and work through painful things that could be impacting your self-worth.

Let’s explore some techniques to help you benefit the most from using your self-esteem journal. These techniques are especially helpful if you want to journal but feel ‘stuck’.

What is a Self-Esteem Journal And How Can You Use It?

Simply put, this is a journal that you keep with the specific goal of building your self-esteem. It’s a great tool for acknowledging the positive things that you’ve done (see this article on Huffington Post). For example, you can commit to writing a daily entry about one thing you did that day that was brave. Some people prefer to find daily writing prompts for their journals. You can also write about negative situations where you learned important lessons or did the right thing in the face of adversity.

You can also use your journal to set self-esteem related goals and track your progress towards those goals. One thing you can do is come up with a handful of goals such as reducing fear, spending less time with negative people, or taking better care of yourself. Then create action items to help you accomplish those goals.

Imagine that you chose self-care as one of your goals. Your action items might range from removing your makeup and following a beauty routine each night to setting and keeping medical appointments. Then, one entry per week could be dedicated to your goals and action items, and how you feel about your progress.

How do You Start a Self-Esteem Journal?

The first step is obvious but quite important. You have to choose a journal. Just keep in mind that your journal should be appealing to you. Buy one that you like. You can also decorate yours to make it attractive and personalized. Since journaling has become increasingly popular, you definitely have a lot of choice. You can select a standard notebook with lined paper, a bullet journal, or even a sketchpad if you find lined pages too limiting.

The next thing you’ll want to do is make a commitment to yourself. Remember that this journaling process is for you and about you. Consider your needs, and how much work you need to do to get to where you want to be. Also, keep in mind that this journey is supposed to make you feel good about yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always reach your goals in terms of keeping up with your journal.

What Belongs in Your Journal?

If it’s something that helps you boost your self-esteem, it belongs in your journal. That means your journal entries shouldn’t include self-shaming. Stream of consciousness style writing or creative writing exercises may not be a good fit either.

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Other than that, anything goes. Write poems, lists, draw pictures, or maintain a standard diary format. 

Here’s an example of a self esteem journal page and the kind of things you might include on a daily basis to build your self esteem.

What Kind of Journaling Will Build Self-Esteem?

There are really two ways to build your self-esteem. First, you have to counteract any negative self-talk or programming that causes you to doubt your worth. Second, you have to do things that are esteemable. This is complex because you are probably completing esteemable acts all the time. You just aren’t noticing or acknowledging them.

So, before you write something in your journal, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does this help me to reframe things that are negatively impacting my self-esteem?
  • Am I writing something that allows me to focus on acknowledging my esteemable acts?
  • Does this journal entry help me to create or accomplish goals that will increase my self-worth?

Self-Esteem Journaling Ideas And Prompts

This is a very purposeful type of journaling. You may find that it’s difficult to decide what to write, and to be sure you stick to writing topics that are related to your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are several ideas and writing prompts that you can use to keep up with your writing goals, and stay focused. Here are a few of them:

Create a Brag List

This is a simple, ‘fill in the blanks’ exercise to get you to recall positive things about yourself. Try a few of these, then think up some of your own:

  • People seek my advice about ___________.
  • I’ve learned a lot about ___________ in the past year.
  • My friends like spending time with me because I_________.

You get the idea! Hopefully, you can come up with a few more of your own that are personalized for your situation.

Counter Your Inner Critic

Most of us have an inner critic who finds fault in everything we do, even criticizes who we are as people. This also known as negative self talk. This journaling exercise allows you to get those critical thoughts on paper, then write something to counterbalance those words.

The format here is simple. You start by writing a negative statement. Then, you cross that out and create a new or rephrased statement designed to improve self-value. For example:

You’ve wasted years of your life.

I’ve learned valuable lessons, and am better prepared to pursue the life I want from here on out.


I haven’t achieved my life or career goals.

I am a work in progress, and I am taking active steps such as using flashcards to better retain information at work, taking online courses, and participating in meetup groups to improve my social life.

(In the above example about learning to improve yourself, flashcards are small cards that contain information that you need to remember. Here is an example of some flashcards, on Subjecto, a helpful website for learning).

Acrostic Poem

This is a bit of a creative exercise. It’s not for everyone, but the challenge of writing a poem could create a self of accomplishment.

An acrostic poem incorporates the letters of your name into a poem. Basically, you write a positive, affirming sentence that begins with each letter of your name.

Tell a Story of Accomplishment

Write a very short story about something very meaningful that you’ve accomplished in your life. Choose an event that truly reminds you of your capabilities.

Try Some of These Journal Prompts For Inspiration

  1. Write about a unique talent of yours.
  2. Write down five positive things you did today. Nothing is too small.
  3. Detail at least three reasons you deserve to be treated well and valued.
  4. Define the word confidence. Then, write a paragraph on what it means to you. What can you do to become more confident? What have you done?
  5. You’ve got goals, now it’s time to write a plan. Spend a page or two journaling about how you can accomplish those goals. Forget about roadblocks or difficulties. Write as if you are sure you can do whatever it takes.
  6. What do your friends love about you? Write a positive journal entry about yourself from the perspective of a good friend.
  7. Focus briefly on a negative thought. Now, write out a strategy for banishing that thought.
  8. Have you conquered a fear? What did it take to accomplish that? How proud are you for having done that.
  9. Write about a change you’d like to make. Be sure to frame it in a positive way (e.g.: getting into better shape vs. not being fat anymore). Now, write an action plan with SMART goals to get started.
  10. Make a page of inspirational quotes. Take some time to explore the internet to find great quotes from inspirational figures. Write those down as a journal entry, or use them to decorate the cover of your new journal.
  11. Create a safe support list. This is a list of friends and family members that you can count on to encourage you, and remind you that you are valued.
  12. What can you do to create a more positive life?
  13. What do other people envy you for?
  14. Write about a meaningful compliment you received, and how it made you feel.
  15. Have you ever been rewarded or simply acknowledged for an accomplishment or contribution? Write about that.
  16. Talk about a recent mistake you’ve made in terms of the lessons and insights you gained from it.
  17. Write a letter of apology to yourself for a time that you treated yourself poorly, or allowed someone else to do so.
  18. Write down three goals that you plan to accomplish in the next year.
  19. Jot down a list of five things that make you feel grateful. Consider doing this exercise daily, or at least once per week.
  20. Write a letter of thanks to your mind and body for what it does for you.
  21. Name five kind things you have done for others.

The great thing about many of these prompts is that you can repeat them on a regular basis. It’s always helpful to check in with yourself to write about your blessings, accomplishments, and victories.

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Website Author and Editor Bio

Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLC Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.