Rate this statement on a scale of one (disagree strongly) to five (agree strongly): “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem.”
If five wasn’t your go-to answer, you’re not alone. In a study of more than 985,000 people in 48 nations, researchers found that, on average, men consistently report higher self-esteem than women in every single country. What’s more, the confidence gap was wider in Westernized countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada), while it was narrower in southeast nations, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Confidence is famously elusive, but there’s a bright side to that: People have spent countless hours on research and self-improvement books meant to help others move past self-esteem shortcomings. Here are eight to consider.
You Are a Badass (Jen Sincero)
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What We Love: In the first paragraph of her book, Sincero writes, “What little I knew about the self-help/spiritual world I found to be unforgivably cheesy… At the same time, there was all this stuff about my life that I desperately wanted to change and, had I been able to bulldoze through my holier-than-thouism, I could have really used some help around here.” If this hits home, give You Are A Badass — written by a #1 New York Times bestselling author and success coach — a try. In three parts, Sincero’s book outlines “How You Got This Way,” “How to Embrace Your Inner Badass,” How to Tap Into the Motherlode” and, finally, “How to Get Over Your B.S. Already.” In chapters with titles like “Love The One You Is” and “Your Brain Is Your Bitch,” she dives into concepts like self-perception, spirituality, healthy views of money, meditation and purpose, all via accessible language and actionable how-tos.
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘Stop what you are doing and get this book… This was the last book I read in 2017. The timing of it was perfect, because it helped me to formulate my goals and resolutions for 2018. This book helped me come up with my theme for the year: Love yourself.’ Another says, ‘Her writing style does not feel like a self-help book at all. It’s like having real-talk with a self-loving, educated girlfriend.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $9.59 on Amazon
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Brené Brown)
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What We Love: There’s a reason why a speech by Brené Brown ranks in the top five most popular TED Talks of all time. She’s a research professor and bestselling author, and this book contains guidance for living “wholeheartedly” — something Brown equates to living your life from a place of worthiness. Through the book’s ten guideposts — with titles like “Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think” and “Cultivating Creativity: “Letting Go of Comparison” — Brown aims to teach readers to view themselves as “enough,” to let go of productivity as self-worth and to move away from self-doubt and the need to feel constantly in control.
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘I initially avoided this book out of concern that it was one of many under-evidenced self-help titles. Changing my mind on reading this was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am a much better person for it… I think I can guarantee that something in this book will profoundly change you.’ Another says, ‘The author talks a lot about how making a major change in your life isn’t something you wake up and do one day, it’s something you practice every single day. And most will struggle with it, but without the struggle, we lose out on so much. I will have far fewer regrets on my deathbed having read this book.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $8.70 on Amazon
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman)
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What We Love: In this book, broadcast journalists Katty Kay (BBC and NBC News) and Claire Shipman (ABC’s Good Morning America) draw practical advice from their own life experiences, as well as those of other prominent women in media, business and politics. They combine these ideas with research in genetics, behavior, cognition and gender to arrive at self-esteem advice for women of all ages. “The newest research shows that we can literally change our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age,” the authors write. “A substantial part of the confidence code is… our choice. With diligent effort, we can all choose to expand our confidence. But we will get there only if we stop trying to be perfect and start being prepared to fail.”
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘I was expecting a touchy-feely book about how girls should have more confidence and drop everything to pursue your dreams, but I was incredibly pleasantly surprised in how scientific this book is.’ Another says, ‘This book mentioned so many things that I used to do myself… I could see how I’m stacking the deck against myself without even knowing it. I read it before a salary negotiation, and as a result, I upped my initial asking number (and they gave it to me)!’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $14.89 on Amazon
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Gretchen Rubin)
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What We Love: There’s a reason why this book topped The New York Times’ Best Sellers list — and why its author, Gretchen Rubin, has had her works translated into more than 30 languages. Rubin’s writing and analytics put her at the forefront of research on habits, human nature and happiness. The latter was sparked by a simple question she asked herself on a rainy afternoon on a city bus: “What do I want from life, anyway?” In this book, Rubin outlines her own resolutions for the year she spent working on her own “happiness project.” She focused on a different area each month, like vitality and boosting energy for January — this meant goals like an earlier bedtime, better exercise and simply acting more energetic. Rubin’s angle here isn’t telling readers to do something — rather, it’s to share her own experience in hopes of inspiring readers to think differently about their own happiness.
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘The quirkiness of this twelve-month plan for a focus on happiness distinguishes it from other self-help books. It allows for a plan that can be modified to fit any individual.’ Another says, ‘A realistic, genuinely practical (but not easy), lifelong approach to making the constant adjustments we know we need to be our best selves.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $9.00 on Amazon
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field (Nathaniel Branden)
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What We Love: This 1994 book is an oldie but goodie. In it, Nathaniel Branden — a pioneer in the self-esteem movement — answers four questions: What is self-esteem? Why is it important? What can we do to raise our levels of self-esteem? And what role do others play in influencing our self-esteem? He also addresses six self-esteem cornerstones in turn: the practices of living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, purposefulness and integrity. Branden outlines steps for success in each of these areas, and he cautions that the task of sustaining them falls on each individual. “No one — not our parents, nor our friends, nor our lover, nor our psychotherapist, nor our support group — can ‘give’ us self-esteem,” he writes. “If and when we fully grasp this, that is an act of ‘waking up.’”
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘As someone who is pretty self-aware but only just now dabbling into my deeper issues (self-esteem being my core struggle), I found this book to be supremely helpful. It offered me a ton of ‘Aha!’ moments on how I relate to myself and others. It put into perspective that self-esteem isn’t the prize at the end of treatment or work — it’s the actual work you do.’ Another says, ‘I’m a psychotherapist, and I have gotten a lot out of this book personally and have recommended it to a lot of my clients.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $10.57 on Amazon
Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (Rachel Hollis)
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What We Love: Rachel Hollis may have started out as a Hollywood party planner, but she switched gears when she founded The Chic Site, an online platform focused on helping women improve their lives in the form of small, actionable steps. Her book takes the same approach when it comes to diving into the mindsets that get in the way of self-esteem and how to turn them around. Hollis begins each chapter with a specific lie she once believed about herself, then analyzes it and provides tools for like-minded women to stop believing it. One chapter begins with the lie, “I’ll start tomorrow,” followed by the ways Hollis found the motivation to always keep promises she makes to herself.
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘I honestly believe this book can help every woman grow. Personally, it has helped me focus on the one person who is the last to get my attention and effort: myself… She writes as if she’s your bestie giving advice and sometimes tough love over a VLC (vodka la croix).’ Another says, ‘This book rocked my world. I feel as though I’ve been picked up, thrown upside down and shaken around with all of the thoughts running through my brain since I started reading.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $13.79 on Amazon
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person (Shonda Rimes)
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What We Love: Shonda Rimes may have had three shows on television, but she didn’t have it all — especially when it came to confidence. Six words from her sister at a 2013 Thanksgiving dinner changed her life: “You never say yes to anything.” Rimes realized she consistently said no to public appearances, interviews and events for one simple reason: fear. Self-esteem, unhappiness with weight and social anxiety all prompted her to decline any invitation that scared her in the least. And although it terrified her, she decided to change that in the hopes that embracing new things would lead closer to happiness. In this book, Rimes chronicles the year she spent saying yes to every single thing that scared her — and inspires readers to do the same.
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘She’s funny. Like laughing out loud in public funny. Like people changing seats on the bus because you’re smiling and snickering to yourself funny. Like spitting up coffee and pastry on the Kindle screen funny… In addition to being funny, she’s pitch-perfect in her capacity to convey authenticity, vulnerability and confidence all within the same paragraph.’ Another says, ‘I felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities: work, school, mom, wife, trying to be everything to everyone… By the end of the first chapter, I was ready to start saying yes to more things in life.’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $5.05 on Amazon
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life (Gary John Bishop)
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What We Love: If you’re stuck in your head when it comes to self-confidence and you respond well to tough love, look no further than Gary John Bishop’s book. “Here’s what you’ve forgotten: You’re a fu*king miracle of a being,” he writes. The author also serves up a fresh wake-up call for those who believe they’re not in control of all aspects of their life, transparently reminding the reader that other people and circumstances aren’t what’s standing in their way — it’s their own negative self-talk. In that vein, Bishop also provides strategies to boost self-esteem, as well as “assertions” for readers to repeat until they believe — for example, “I am not my thoughts; I am what I do.”
What Readers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘With the help of Gary’s words, I realize that I am my hero and, ultimately, this is really good news for me. I was so busy waiting for things to get better that I wasn’t in action about living a happy life… I feel like I am finally awake after an extended nap.’ Another says, ‘One of the best books I’ve read. He doesn’t just talk about changing your life but he lays out clear steps to make it happen. Must read!’
Best Place to Buy: Currently listed at $11.54 on Amazon