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  • Linda DuToit, LPC

How To Increase Self-Esteem by Living Consciously

There are many pillars that hold up our self-esteem. Living consciously is one of them. Healthy self-esteem requires identifying and modifying ways in which we are thinking because our thought life greatly impacts our self-esteem. We become what we think about. If we want to be successful, we use our thoughts and intelligence in positive ways that move us forward. The appropriate use of our thoughts and consciousness is an act of choice, according to author, Nathaniel Branden (How To Raise Your Self-Esteem, 1987).

We can live on autopilot, or we can take the controls and steer the plane. We can choose to sleepwalk through our lives, or become more active, aware participants in our lives. How much self-respect and self-confidence can we gain if we are going through the motions and living life in a fog? We will not gain much self-esteem, if any, by living this way. At any point during the day we can choose to be more conscious of where we are, what we are doing, what we are thinking, and how we are thinking.

Bring Your Thinking From Your Subconscious to Your Conscious Mind

Many people live in the back of their head – where the unconscious mind resides. Conscious thinking pays greater attention to thoughts – we start to look for them and pay attention. As we become aware of these thoughts, they move from the subconscious mind (back of your head) to the conscious mind (front of your head/prefrontal cortex). It is in our conscious mind where we can make actual change. We cannot change what we are unaware of. We have to seek out what we are thinking, then decide if and how to change our thoughts so that they work better for us, and do not hold us back. Awareness of our thoughts and what is happening in our lives improves conscious living. Self-esteem will increase when we become active participants in our own lives rather being a trance.

Determine the Appropriate Level of Awareness For the Situation

Living consciously means becoming more aware of what we think, feel and do. It involves experiencing each moment while being fully present in it, and deciding the appropriate level of mental attention we should give to what is happening at that time. Do we have to be fully present and aware every moment of the day? Definitely not. We can assess the appropriate level of consciousness depending on what we are doing or what is happening. Not all activities require a high level of awareness – meditation, relaxing, playfulness, erotic sensations, for example. The context of what we are doing will dictate the appropriate level of awareness or state of consciousness required in those moments.

Acknowledge Reality

Another aspect of living consciously is to acknowledge reality. Fighting reality results in psychological distress. One part of our brain is fully aware of the reality of each circumstance. Another part of our brain often fights reality by saying things like, “Why can’t my boss (parents, spouse, friends) be different?” “This is so unfair.” “I wish ….” “I should have ….” “Why didn’t I …?” We try to change or influence the past by thinking about it over and over, wishing for a different outcome. That keeps us stuck. Living consciously means respecting, acknowledging, and accepting reality.

Living Consciously In Action

Living consciously is paying attention, taking responsibility for your life, and being proactive. Living consciously is living life on purpose. Conscious living is also described by these concepts: thinking, awareness, clarity, respect for reality, respect for truth, independence, being active (rather than passive), honesty, willingness to take appropriate risks, living in and being responsible to the present, self-confrontation, willingness to see and correct mistakes, and reason (Branden, 1987). Consciousness is considered a survival mechanism. We have the choice whether or not to be aware, focused, and reality-seeking. When we do not bring the appropriate level of conscious living to our activities, our self-esteem will suffer. We can’t feel competent and confidence if we are sleepwalking through our lives. Be aware of everything that impacts your actions, values, purpose and goals, and act on what you see and know. Become an active participant in your own life and watch your self-esteem improve.



Branden, N. (1987). How to raise your self-esteem. New York: Bantam.

Branden, N. (1994). The six pillars of self-esteem. New York: Bantam.

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