Self Esteem Journaling prompts

Self-Esteem Journaling Prompts

The world has become a dark place in the last few years with so much unemployment, drug addiction, casual dating, and whatnot. It can be hard to “Shine bright like a diamond” when we are surrounded by such negativity and toxicity. 

This is where self-esteem and self-love come in to save the day.

It’s important to value ourselves and feel confident in our abilities. Self-esteem has two main parts:

  • Feeling Lovable: Do you feel worthy of love and connection?
  • Feeling Capable: Do you believe in your skills and abilities to tackle life’s various challenges?

“Self-esteem isn’t just about feeling good. It’s about feeling good enough to conquer the world”

But “Self Acceptance is also a huge part of Self Esteem according to Dr. Kristin Neff

“To me, self-esteem is not self-love. It is self-acknowledgment, as in recognizing and accepting who you are.”

It’s about accepting imperfections and learning from them! Right?

Note: If you use paper-based journaling, it’s time to pick up your journal to write down the prompts as you read through the article. If you use digital apps for journaling you can download all the prompts at the end of the article!

Science of Self-Esteem:

Multidimensional Nature of Self-Esteem:

According to Susan Harter, self-esteem isn’t a singular monolithic construct but a multidimensional modal. So there’s domain-specific self-esteem like:

  • Academic Self Esteem
  • Social Self Esteem 
  • Physical Self Esteem

These exist alongside a global Self Esteem. Sounds pretty interesting right? And it makes a lot of sense too!

So a journaling prompt like “Describe a time you felt competent in your work or studies.”

More than just about Feeling Good:

Self-esteem is more than just about feeling good as it affects the quality and outcome of our lives. Higher self-esteem is tied to:

  • better health
  • lower depression
  • greater job satisfaction

Myth Buster: Higher Self-esteem does not cause academic or job success but the other way around. Being successful in many areas of your life will boost your self-esteem!

A journaling prompt for this would be:  “Write about a success, no matter how small, and how it made you feel about yourself”

Internal and External Contingencies:

Jennifer Crocker’s work dives deep into the external and internal factors that we base our self-worth on and the nature of self-esteem we develop based on it.

  • External factors like validation and appearance lead to fragile self-esteem
  • Internal factors like personal growth lead to a more stable self-esteem

Journaling Prompt: “Reflect on times you’ve grown as a person, regardless of external outcomes.”

Other Scientific Insights about Self-Esteem:

  • Medial Prefrontal Cortex: Journaling could activate the Medial Prefrontal Cortex which is connected to self-referential thinking and self-esteem. Lighting up areas of the brain tied to positive self-regard
  • Social Media: Passive Social media usage is linked to lower self-esteem but intentional engagement like sharing achievements can boost it. (Source)
    • Journaling Prompt: “Reflect on a time you shared something meaningful on social media. How did the interaction affect your self-view?”
  • Psychological Buffer and Resilience: People with high self-esteem had more resilience and strength during the Pandemic lockdown in 2020. This shows that pre-existing high self-esteem helps with reducing anxiety and depression during tough times in our lives. (Source)
    • Journaling Prompt: “How has your self-esteem helped you navigate recent global challenges?”
  • Cultural Influence: Your culture has a deep impact on how you perceive self-esteem. East Asian cultures universally de-emphasize self-esteem. There’s that age factor too. For instance, young South Koreans’ esteem comes from personal achievements when compared to “familial reputation” for the older generations. Makes sense right? (Source)
    • Journaling Prompt: “How do you think your cultural background uniquely shapes your self-esteem?”
  • Role of Age: Self-esteem tends to peak around the age of 60 and declines from there on because of health and relationship changes
    • Journaling Prompt: “Write a letter to your future 70-year-old self, highlighting qualities that no age can diminish.”

Note: Read about the widely used Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES)” 

Self-Esteem Journaling Prompts:

Intrinsic Worth:

Intrinsic worth is about valuing ourselves unconditionally. But we often have achievements and comparisons to base our self-esteem and self-worth on right?

Would you feel like a million dollars after spending a day sleeping? Probably not right?

But psychologist Carl Rogers calls intrinsic worth “unconditional positive regard.” and is essential to building good self-esteem.

  • Prompt: Draw a barometer. At the bottom, write “I am worthless.” At the top, “I am worthy.” Now, throughout your day, check-in and mark where you feel you are. Journal about what made it move up or down. The twist? End by writing, “My worth didn’t change. I’m always at the top.”

This is based on Rogers’ idea that fluctuations in self-esteem often reflect conditions of worth, not true self-worth.

  • Prompt:  Think of 5 people you unconditionally love (pets count!). Write why you love them—not achievements, but essence.

 Example: “Max (dog): loyal, joyful.” Now, write yourself in their words. “Richard (self): compassionate, resilient.” This changes the perspective of our inner critic by tapping into what psychologists Neff & Vonk (2009) in “The Journal of Personality” call “self-compassionate perspective-taking.”

  • Prompt: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Write non-stop starting with “I am enough because…” Don’t stop to edit. 

Research by Pennebaker & Chung (2011) in “Handbook of Health Psychology” shows expressive writing accesses deeper emotional truths after, circle statements that resonate most. These are your intrinsic worth touchstones.

These are my personal favorites as micro journaling can be so much more effective and insightful in revealing things to ourselves.

Growth Mindset:

  • Prompt: Write about a recent “failure.” Now, reframe it as an essential nutrient for growth. Also, detail 3 ways in which you can use this “nutrient”.
  • Prompt: Write a self-critical thought about a “flaw.” Example: “I’m so disorganized.” Now, write its growth-based flip side you’re grateful for: “I’m grateful my non-linear thinking sparks creativity.”

Self Compassion:

  • Prompt: “Write about a current struggle from your perspective. Now, rewrite it imagining a wise, compassionate figure (real or imaginary) narrating. What do they see that you don’t?”

This is a unique twist on Neff’s self-kindness component, blending it with the psychological benefits of the third-person perspective, as studied by Kross & Ayduk (2011) in “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.”

  • Prompt: Write a letter to yourself during a past struggle, but from your current self. Highlight how that pain has now become a strength. Then, write a letter from your future self (5 years hence) to current you. Let future you overflow with compassion for your current challenges. 

Reframing Negativity Prompt:

  • Prompt: Write about a small win today. Now, close your eyes and re-live it for 30 seconds. Feel the emotions in your body. Return to this entry often to rewire your negativity bias.

Our minds tend to dwell on and overthink negativity in our lives. Psychologist Rick Hanson’s “Taking in the Good” technique recommends we visualize and immerse ourselves in positive experiences and small wins we have in our day-to-day lives.

  • Prompt: Write down a negative thought. Now, imagine it’s 5 years in the future. Journal about how future-you might view this thought. 

Research by Brewer et al. (2016) in “Clinical Psychological Science” shows temporal distancing can reduce emotional reactivity.

  • Prompt:  List 3 negative traits you perceive in yourself. For each, write a ‘song’ (a short verse or even just a chorus) that turns it into a strength. 

Example: “Perfectionist” becomes “Precision, my superpower…” This taps into music’s ability to regulate emotions, as shown by Koelsch (2015) in “Frontiers in Psychology.”

Self-Esteem Archetypes:  

  • Prompt: Are you a ‘Growth Seeker,’ valuing learning, or a ‘Connection Craver,’ prioritizing relationships? Write a self-esteem story from your archetype’s perspective. Understanding your type personalizes your journey

It doesn’t make sense for everyone to use the same prompts as research by Susuan Harter and Carol Dweck suggests that we all have unique self-esteem profiles. There’s no one-fits-all solution for most problems since everyone is unique in their own way!

  • Prompt: Write about times you felt high self-esteem in different domains (work, social, physical). Look for patterns. Do you light up as a “Mentor” when helping others learn? Or as an “Explorer” tackling new challenges? Create your personal archetype. 
  • Shadow Archetype Integration prompt: We often ignore parts of ourselves that don’t fit our primary archetype. Write a dialogue between your main archetype and a “shadow” one.

For example, the “Achiever” talks to the “Rest-Seeker.” This draws from Jung’s shadow work and recent studies like Kang & Wheatley’s (2017) in “Journal of Personality,” showing that integrating disparate self-aspects increases authenticity and well-being

Cultural Roots and Self-Worth:

Prompts:

  • Personal Value vs Culture: Write a dialogue between your values and your cultural upbringing. Where do they align or clash regarding self-worth? 
  • Cultural Self-Esteem exploration: Draw a family tree, but instead of names, write self-esteem messages received. 

Example: Grandmother: “Education is your treasure.” Father: “Never show weakness.” Reflect on how these cultural scripts shape your self-worth. This is inspired by Chao et al.’s (2015) work in “Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology” on intergenerational transmission of self-esteem.

  • Self-compassion and growth prompt: Recall a setback. Write a compassionate letter to yourself, acknowledging shared human imperfection. Then, list three ways this struggle has made you more equipped to help others. This transforms pain into communal growth
  • Gratitude Reframe: Note three things you’re grateful for about your efforts or qualities, not outcomes. Like ‘I’m grateful I showed courage by…’ This self-directed gratitude is your unique worth, not external validation
  • Daily Journaling Prompt to Break Self Doubt: Set a 2-minute timer. Rapidly list self-doubts. When the timer dings, take a slow breath and write ‘These thoughts are not facts.’ Do this daily; it’s self-esteem micro-dosing.”
  • Prompt to visualize self-esteem changing through time: Write three entries: one as your 12-year-old self, one as current you, and one as 60-year-old you. What do they say about self-worth? This ‘self-esteem time capsule’ reveals growth and resilience
  • Prompt about the Self-Esteem Journey: After a week of self-esteem journaling, write about any changes you notice in your self-talk or emotional resilience

These prompts should give enough self-reflection to understand, accept, and grow your self-esteem!

Resources for Self-Esteem:

Books about Self Esteem:

Digital Journaling Tools:

  • “Jour” app: Designed with input from therapists, it offers daily prompts, some specifically for self-esteem and self-reflection.
  • “Reflectly”: An AI-driven journaling app that learns from your entries to provide personalized prompts, including ones for boosting self-image.
  • “Day One Journal”: While more open-ended, its “On This Day” feature lets you see growth over time, powerful for noting self-esteem progress.

Recommended Courses:

  • The Center for Journal Therapy (journaltherapy.com) – Founded by Kathleen Adams, it offers certification programs and resources on using writing for personal growth.
  • “Journal Talk” podcast – Hosted by Nathan Ohren, it often features experts discussing journaling for self-development.

Related Articles:

Additional Resource: 21 Day Journaling Challenge:

Are you up for a challenge? Information is useless if we don’t act on it. You did a great job reading through this article. It’s time for you to take action.

Spend a few minutes a day and feel great at the end of three weeks with renewed perspective and awareness in life.

21 Day Journaling Challenge

Are you up for a challenge to change your life? Make Journalling a habit in 21 Days!
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Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

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