15 Best Self-Esteem Books 2021 (Self-worth and Acceptance)

These are my top recommendation on how to improve your self-esteem.

As a behavioral scientist, I read a lot about self-esteem. I’ve also reviewed what people think about the books online, and compared that with my own experience. I’ve done this to create a comprehensive guide to help you choose the right self-esteem book for you.

Also, see our separate book guides specifically for self-confidence and social anxiety.

Top Picks


Top pick overall

1. The Self Confidence Workbook

The Self Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem

Author: Barbara Markway

This is my top recommendation in this guide. No questionable ideas – the entire book is based on methods that have been shown in studies to increase self-esteem. Barbara Markway is a renowned psychiatrist in the field. Even though it’s a workbook it’s not dry but encouraging and positive.

Because it is a workbook there are lots of exercises and step by step-guides. (No weird out of your comfort zone exercises, etc, though).

I can’t really come up with anything negative to say about this book even if I’d would want to for the sake of a nuanced review. If you want to improve your self-esteem, this is my top pick.

Do get this book if…

You want to improve your self-esteem.

Do NOT get this book if…

You don’t like a workbook-format. Instead, get The Gifts of Imperfection.

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You want something focused more on self-acceptance. If so, get The Confidence Gap.

4.8 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Top pick self-acceptance

2. The Confidence Gap

The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt

Author: Russ Harris

This book is my colleague David’s top recommendation in his reviews of confidence books.

It’s also my top recommendation on how to be more accepting of yourself.

Do get this book if…

If your biggest struggle is self-acceptance and that you’re harsh on yourself, I’d recommend this book over the Self Confidence Workbook.

Do NOT get this book if…

Your main challenge is that you want to improve your self-esteem but you’re already able to be compassionate with yourself. If so, get the Self Confidence Workbook first.

Read David’s full review of the book here.


Top pick non-workbook

3. The Gifts of Imperfection

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Author: Brené Brown

This is a good book on self-esteem and improving self-image. However, it’s written from a mother’s perspective so some might have a hard time relating, even though the principles are universal.

There’s a lot of talk about herself and less focus on the reader.

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It is a well-liked book, but In my opinion, workbooks give better results if you are serious about improving your self-esteem. Therefore, I recommend you to first read the books by the start of this guide.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


4. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field

Author: Nathaniel Branden

This is a highly applicable and step-by-step book on how to increase your self-esteem. It’s not as to the point as books higher up in this guide and you can skip some chapters that become more philosophical if you want to cut straight to the chase. The book came out in 1995 so the way of writing is a bit dated. Still today, this is a valuable book.

However, it’s not as to the point as The Self Confidence Workbook.

Do get this book if…

  • You are fine with an older language and want to learn more about self-esteem rather than just how to improve it.
  • You dislike workbook-formats.

Do NOT get this book if…

  • You want something that’s ONLY about how to improve your self-esteem (and no backstory and philosophy). If so, get The Self Confidence Workbook.

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


5. The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Author: Don Miguel Ruiz

This is a cult classic on how to overcome limiting beliefs, and that’s why I cover it here. It gives you a set of rules for how to not worry about what others think and be yourself.

However, it’s not a workbook, and it doesn’t give you strategies for how to internalize a new mindset. If you have self-esteem issues, it’s unlikely to make a lasting impact like more recent books can.

I recommend you to read it, but don’t let it be your only book on self-esteem. Read the two first books of this guide first. Then, if you want more flavor to the idea of self-esteem, you can read this one.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


6. The Psychology of Self-Esteem

The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding that Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology

Author: Nathaniel Branden

This is the second book from Nathaniel Branden on this list.

This is another cult classic on self-esteem. However, there are better books if you just want a step-by-step plan for self-esteem. This one teaches you all the underlying principles that you don’t HAVE to know. This is the perfect second or third book on self-esteem, but I wouldn’t recommend it as the first one.

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


7. Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem : Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques

Author: Melanie Fennell

While being somewhat repetitive and lengthy, this book provides actionable advice and exercises to deal with low self-esteem and other issues that surround it, such as depression and anxiety.

Buy this book if…

  1. You don’t mind repetitive writing and exercises
  2. You’re okay with reading dry and clinical text

Skip this book if…

  1. You’re fairly familiar with Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  2. You want a light read

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Top pick for teens

8. The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens

The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals

Author: Lisa M. Schab LCSW

This book uses a scientific approach to self-esteem. In fact, the underlying psychology is the same as other self-esteem books that use scientifically researched techniques like CBT and ACT, but this one is for teens: The exercises are adapted to teens’ situations and minds.

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Because it is a workbook, your teen has to be motivated to put the work in to improve.

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


9. Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving, and Maintaining Your Self-Esteem

Author: Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning

This book explains how self-criticism works and uses mindfulness, affirmations, mantras, and other exercises to change the way you talk to yourself with your inner voice.

The writing style is a bit dry, but it is easy to read nonetheless.

Buy this book if…

  1. You want to understand where the negative self-talk comes from
  2. You want tips on how to combat the negative self-talk
  3. You want to read about the author’s own experience

Skip this book if…

  1. You’re very familiar with the Cognitive Behavior Therapy approach to self-esteem

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Honorary mentions


10. Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Author: Elizabeth Gilberg

This is NOT a workbook with exercises or steps for you to improve your self-esteem. It’s more a memoir of Elizabeth’s way of being creative without being held back by fear. This book is aimed specifically at women.

Do get this book if…

You prefer the biography format over the workbook format.

Do NOT get this book if…

You want something actionable for more self-esteem. Instead, go for The Self Confidence Workbook or The Confidence Gap.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


11. Revolution from Within

Revolution from Within

Author: Gloria Steinem

Somewhat similar to the previous entry, this is a book mainly aimed at women. It contains parts self-help, feminism, and autobiography.

It deals with questioning the status quo, the author’s experiences with sexism in the 60s, and has practical exercises to help with one’s self-esteem.

It doesn’t claim to provide all the answers in the world, sometimes raising a question and pondering it, without giving a clear “why” or “how”.

Buy this book if…

  1. You want a woman’s perspective on self-esteem
  2. Sexism is an issue you can relate to
  3. You want practical exercises

Skip this book if…

  1. You want a strictly clinical approach
  2. A feminist angle might be a turn-off for you

4.7 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


12. Healing Your Emotional Self

Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame

Author: Beverly Engel

It does a good job at explaining the causes of self-esteem issues that stem from childhood trauma.

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The information is presented as a new form of therapy but is mostly borrowed from Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy.

On the negative side, the writing style and the exercises are somewhat repetitive and there are a couple of instances of pseudoscience in the text.

Buy this book if…

  1. You’ve experienced trauma or abuse in your childhood
  2. You want a book with a clinical approach
  3. You want a balance of theoretical information and practical exercises

Skip this book if…

  1. You’re already familiar with CBT
  2. Your self-esteem issues aren’t that severe
  3. You don’t want to do a lot of exercises

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


13. Ten Days to Self-Esteem

Ten Days to Self-Esteem

Author: David D. Burns

While you can read and use this book alone, it is a workbook mainly designed towards being used with a therapist, so the ten days from the book’s title will likely stretch into a much longer period of time.

It explains the causes for depression, anxiety, and low esteem, but mostly focuses on actually remedying those problems.

On the negative side, the writing style can feel dated and clinical, with the author often talking down to the reader and continually selling the book.

Some important diagrams are unreadable in the kindle version, so get a physical one if you’re interested in trying it out.

Buy this book if…

  1. You like journaling
  2. You want to try using this book with your therapist

Skip this book if…

  1. You don’t like workbooks
  2. You aren’t ready to commit to practical exercises and a lot of writing

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


14. The Self-Love Experiment

The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself

Author: Shannon Kaiser

The focus of this book is to help like yourself so that you feel worthy. If you don’t, you risk self-sabotaging. This book is also aimed specifically toward women.

Unfortunately, this book is not as good as it could be. The Confidence Gap is a much better book to develop self-love – that book contains loads of strategies that are proven to be more self-compassionate. This one doesn’t.

4.1 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


15. The Power of Self-Esteem

The Power of Self-Esteem: An Inspiring Look At Our Most Important Psychological Resource

Author: Nathaniel Branden

This is a later book by the same author as the book with the similar name “The Psychology of Self-esteem”. I think Nathaniel wrote this one later as a more actionable book as his previous one was criticized for being too theoretical. Not as comprehensive as the 6 pillars of self-esteem, so I’d recommend getting that one first and this one as your second read.

However, The Self Confidence Workbook and The Confidence Gap are more up-to-date books on the topic.

4.7 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


Books to be cautious about

These are books that have little evidence of working.


Bradshaw on the Family

Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem

Author: John Bradshaw

Mainly aimed at married people with families, this book isn’t very well written or organized. It contains a lot of pop psychology, not backed up by research.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


Unstoppable Confidence

Unstoppable Confidence: How to Use the Power of NLP to Be More Dynamic and Successful

Author: Kent Sayre

Personally, I’m not in love with NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) because it contains a lot of pseudoscience. Also, this book is a bit trivializing for people who have confidence issues.

If you’re a fan of NLP, check it out. But I would prefer the guides by the start of this guide over it.

3.8 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


Also, you might be interested in our other books guides on the following topics:

  1. Best books on self-confidence
  2. Best books on social skills
  3. Best books on conversation skills
  4. Best books on social anxiety
  5. Best books on making friends
  6. Best books on body language

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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