Do Less, Not More, to Build Self-Esteem

October 28, 2020 Jessica Kaley

When self-esteem is low, we often think we need to work harder and get more done to be a valued person, but the truth is, your self-esteem will grow when you find the beauty of doing less, not more. When I learned this lesson, nobody suffered from me doing less, and my self-esteem blossomed because I was more likely to successfully fulfill my commitments.

The trick is learning how to choose what you will and will not do. It requires thinking about your life goals and a willingness to try acting differently and to be open to the outcome. Doing less, not more, takes practice. It took me several years to get good at saying no to requests in a way that was respectful to both myself and the person asking before I reaped the benefits. It was worth the effort as I look back today.

Doing Less Makes You Choose How to Best Spend Your Time

Consider these things to find the balance between what you want to do, what you need to do, and what you don't t really have to do.

  1. Only do things that support your personal goals. This step requires that you have a set of life goals that define your personal vision of success. Knowing where you want to end up is the best way to start any journey. This first step is often the hardest for many to accept. It does not mean you need to become a heartless and selfish person. You may have a goal that describes your charitable work and one that describes your relationships with loved ones. You probably don't have one that says you must always agree to watch your neighbor's dog when they go on vacation. Applying this filter to your to-do list will show you places you can do less instead of more.
  2. Get real about time management. Time is the only resource we have that can't be replenished, so using it wisely pays off in every aspect of our lives. When I learned how to be realistic about how long things took for me to accomplish, I saw that doing less was necessary to stay sane. Start writing your commitments in your calendar and block out the amount of time you need. Don't forget to include traveling time and meal breaks and the things we don't think about, like dropping off clothes at the dry cleaners. Be kind to yourself, because, in the beginning, you will probably underestimate. It's a learning curve, and the more you practice, the better you will get.
  3. Practice saying no. Start by finding phrases that feel comfortable in your mouth. I always want to be civil. Don't feel bad about turning people down. You might be surprised when you decline politely with a valid reason, and this is accepted without question. You can try these phrases and tweak them as you feel suits you.
    • I'm sorry, I won't be able to do that now, but I will be able to do it on Tuesday afternoon if that works for you.
    • I'd like to help you, but our budget doesn't have room this month.
    • That's a great opportunity, but I don't think I'm the best fit for that task.

Doing Less, Not More, Helps Build Better Boundaries

As I practice doing less, I find it easier to differentiate between the things that make me stronger and those that distract from living my best life. Little by little, I see that I am beginning to surround myself with boundaries that protect my self-esteem. I remind myself that doing less, not more, gives me space to do more things better the first time, and that is a great way to bolster self-esteem and relieve the stress of an over-filled calendar.

How does your to-do list look? Are all the items on it leading you to your personal vision of success and your best life? What about your calendar? Is there enough white space there to allow for errors, traffic, or the unexpected? Where can you start trying to do less, not more? Share in the comments what you are ready to try to build stronger self-esteem.

APA Reference
Kaley, J. (2020, October 28). Do Less, Not More, to Build Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Jessica Kaley

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