Self Esteem Exercises
Living Tree Self Awareness Activity
Interpretation Guide

The Living Tree Activity is one of a few self esteem exercises on this website that offer a way to increase your self awareness.

Use the guidelines below to help you interpret your Living Tree drawing. Have some paper and a pen to hand when following the guide.

small tree pencil sketch, by

What the Living Tree Activity Does:

As you draw your tree, your attention is brought to various aspects of your life. It's like shining a light into a corner - you might see things you didn't notice before, or see something about yourself more clearly.

Memory and Emotion

Memories and feelings might come up while you are doing the exercise. This is information you can use. It can help you see yourself or your life from different angles and expand your self awareness.

Understanding yourself better allows you to make choices that support you and help you live your life more effectively. This is the foundation of good self esteem. That is why many self esteem exercises focus on building self insight or self awareness.

The memories or feelings that might come up could be happy or sad. Whatever they are, simply:

1) notice them
2) name them
3) write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal or notebook.

These emotions and thoughts are clues about yourself that can help you understand yourself better. Having effective ways of dealing with emotions is part of having healthy self esteem.

Here is some info on Understanding Emotions some Tips for Managing Emotions and a self esteem exercise for Understanding Anger.


If you plan to use this exercise with a group, please read the important information below.

Pointers & Questions to Help You Interpret your 'Living Tree'

1. Use one word to describe your tree. Just one. Don't think about it - be spontaneous

How does the word you chose relate to you and your life? Is there any connection?

2. How would you describe the trunk? What does it look like?

bendy tree pencil sketch, by

Is there something about you or your life that this might represent?

3. What did you feel when you drew the pictures for the roots?

Did any feelings stand out? Who did it relate to?

4. What memories came up while drawing the pictures for the leaves, flowers and fruits?

Were there any that you had not thought about in a while? Did any memory or feeling stand out? Who or what did it relate to?

5. Did drawing any of the pictures make you see something new about yourself or your family?

What did you see? What did it make you feel?

6. Is anyone or anything missing from your drawing?

Why did you leave them out? What feelings did you have when deciding to leave them out? (Did you even notice?).

7. Is there anything in your drawing you didn't really want to add, but did?

Who or what was it? What do you feel about the person or event?

8. Are any of the pictures much bigger or smaller than the rest? What does this mean to you?

big small tree pencil sketch, by


For some people drawing something bigger means it is more important, or is 'on their mind' more than other things. It could also mean that the feelings connected with that person or thing are much stronger than with the others.


Drawing something much smaller could mean that it is something you find harder to look at, or something that is less important, or something that you want to keep to yourself for now. Drawing something really small, or not having a drawing at all might also mean something. What does it mean to you?

You might think the size is just accidental, but even accidental things can have meaning.

These are not hard and fast rules - your tree and its symbols are personal to you - only you can say what they really mean.

9. Does your tree have many or few branches?

twig tree pencil sketch, by

Are some of them are cut or broken off? If so, is there anything in your life that feels the same way?

10. What do you feel about this tree as a whole?

green heart tree pencil sketch, by

Are you fond of it / hate it / couldn't care less about it....?

How does this relate to how you feel about yourself? Is it similar or different? How do you think this might relate to your self esteem?

Everything about this tree is a reflection of some aspect of you. Because you created it using only pictures and symbols - it has a 'symbolic' language personal to you.

The images you used contain information about you. Try understand what the symbols or pictures mean. If it isn't clear straight away, let your mind mull it over and see what comes up.

Note to teachers or facilitators wishing to use these self esteem exercises with a group:

Because this exercise focuses on life events, the content is of a personal nature. When working in a group, protecting participants privacy is important.

The structure of the exercise allows some privacy because, by leaving out words, only the participants know what their drawings mean. People should not be forced to share or explain their drawing unless they want to do this freely and voluntarily.

It should be made clear before you start, that sharing is NOT required and that the exercise is for each person alone, unless someone volunteers to discuss the results afterwards. No pressure of any kind should be placed on partipants to share information.

Usually this is a gentle exercise, but sometimes it can allow feelings to come up unexpectedly. If any circumstances exist where you feel the participant might have an emotional reaction - be sure to be supportive of each person and allow them to discontinue the drawing if this is what they wish.

Please request permission if you plan to use this exercise with a group, rather than for yourself (see Terms of Use and Privacy Policy ). These self esteem exercises do not constitute therapy or claim to provide therapy of any kind. They are meant for the purpose of helping individuals to develop self insight and self awareness.

If any of these self esteem exercises are put to use within a therapeutic setting, the use and outcomes are the responsibility of the therapist or professional who is using them and no claims or liability of any kind can be made against the originator of the exercise.

Return from Self Esteem Exercises: Living Tree Interpretation Guide to Doorway to Self Esteem

Return from Self Esteem Exercises: Living Tree Interpretation Guide to Self Esteem Activities

Living Tree Self Awareness Activity

New! Comments

Your feedback is welcome:
Do you want to link to this page? Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Created 15 Sept 2009  (updated 13 Nov 2010)