Can you tell just by looking at someone that they have the characteristics of high self-esteem?
Or can you recognize self-esteem issues a mile away?
Healthy self-esteem does have a way of making itself known to others, by tell-tale signs or in ways your intuition is more likely to pick up.
Maybe you notice something different in the way a friend carries herself or you feel a certain something when your eyes meet with a confident stranger.
According to related research, those who know how to have high self-esteem are in the minority.
Before we discuss what we can do about that, we need to understand what self-esteem is and why so many of us struggle with it.
What Is Self-Esteem?
According to a quick internet search, we can define self-esteem as “confidence in your own ability and value.” You have a solid belief in your own worthiness.
For good self-esteem, at least, that’s true enough. And it’s not hard to guess at a definition for the opposite.
But when it comes to high self-esteem vs. low self-esteem, it’s not always easy to tell when you first meet someone.
Arrogance, for example, isn’t the same as high self-esteem.
Arrogant people tend to put others down to make themselves feel better.
Someone with a high self-esteem though is more likely to build others up because they see the good in others just as they see it in themselves.
If you have a high self-esteem, you appreciate your strengths and look for opportunities to exercise them.
You know you can contribute in meaningful ways, and you look forward to new adventures, trusting that, whatever happens, you’ll turn it to good.
9 Characteristics of High Self-Esteem
Someone with high self-esteem can be recognized by one or more of the following characteristics:
1. Has Healthy Self-Love and Self-Worth
Those with high self-esteem like themselves. They are happy with who they are and view themselves as inherently worthy. They treat themselves with love, compassion, and respect.
2. Can Trust Their Own Judgment
When you have high self-esteem, you are your own best advocate. You rely on your inner wisdom and recognize that your judgment is solid. You don’t constantly second-guess yourself, but you also don’t hesitate to ask for input when you know it can helpful.
3. Can Nurture and Keep Healthy Relationships
Having solid relationships is the hallmark of someone who likes themselves. They maintain good relationships because they don’t feel insecure and needy. They are happy in who they are and have a lot to offer the people they care about.
4. Accepts Strengths and Weaknesses
Everyone has a healthy dose of both, but those who feel worthy don’t focus primarily on their weaknesses. They have a realistic sense of themselves and accept themselves, flaws and all. They play to their strengths and work on improving areas where they are weak.
5. Believes They Are Beautiful Just As They Are
This belief isn’t arrogant or self-centered. It’s the certainty that regardless of physical appearance, you are a beautiful person both inside and out. Your beauty stems from your uniqueness as a person and the inner light of your goodness shining through.
6. Will Take Calculated Risks
Someone with a healthy self-esteem doesn’t need to cling to their comfort zone. They are willing to take risks because they see failure as a growth opportunity. They don’t feel diminished or bad about themselves when a risk doesn’t work out. Rather, they enjoy the adventure and opportunity to learn.
7. Dresses to Reflect Positive Self-Concept
Those who like themselves dress in a way that plays up their assets and makes them feel good. The way they present themselves to the world signifies how they feel inside. Whether the style is classic or quirky, it shows someone confident and happy in who they are.
8. Feels Free to Express Opinions and Needs
Saying what you think and asking for what you need are traits of someone who feels good about themselves. Those with a sense of self-worth don’t need to be people-pleasers or diminish their thoughts and desires. They speak up confidently because they know they deserve to have what they need.
9. Can Easily Acknowledge The Successes of Others
When you feel strong in your core sense of worthiness, you have no problem recognizing the strengths and successes of other people. You don’t mind letting someone else be in the spotlight or giving them credit for an idea. You’re never a sore loser and don’t need to put others down to build yourself up.
High Self-Esteem vs. Low Self-Esteem
It’s usually not hard to spot these signs of high self-esteem because they’re less prevalent than signs of low self-esteem.
In fact, low self-esteem is so much a part of our human experience that the following facts probably won’t surprise you:
- 81% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat (or being seen as fat)
- 90% of all women want to change at least one thing about their face or body
- 25% of all college-age women have an eating disorder.
- Only 2% of women in this country think they are beautiful just as they are.
- Among high-schoolers, 44% of girls and 15% of boys are actively trying to lose weight.
9 Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem
For those with very low self-esteem, it’s not enough to voice positive affirmations in the bathroom mirror or give themselves a pep talk.
Their negative beliefs about themselves are deeply entrenched. Here are some of the traits of low self-esteem:
1. Feels Insecure and Has Self-Doubt
Someone whose self-worth is damaged constantly questions themselves and doubts their own judgment. They feel anxious about making decisions and often second-guess themselves. Their insecurities hold them back from expressing themselves or liking who they are.
2. Has a Sense of Inferiority Compared to Others
A sense of being “lesser than” defines a person with low self-esteem. All of their feelings of self-loathing make it impossible to view themselves with high regard. Because they feel so bad about themselves, they assume they are not as worthy or lovable as those around them.
3. Has Difficulty with Relationships
Low self-esteem doesn’t allow you to have healthy relationships. It robs you of the spontaneity, confidence, and security of a flourishing connection. Those who don’t feel secure in themselves are often needy, clingy, and jealous in their relationships.
4. Worries about the Opinions of Others
When you don’t like yourself, you are unusually focused on the way others see you. You can’t trust your opinion of yourself, so you constantly seek validation and reinforcement outside of yourself. When that validation doesn’t occur, you try harder to please — sometimes allowing other people to take advantage of you.
5. Can Be Harshly Self-Critical
No one is harder on the person with low self-worth than themselves. They berate themselves for every perceived flaw and foible. Their self-talk is negative, critical, and judgmental.
6. Has a Skewed View of Strengths and Weaknesses
You don’t have a realistic perspective of your strengths and weaknesses when you doubt yourself. You can’t accept weakness as a normal part of being human. You berate yourself for mistakes and imperfections and rarely feel proud of your accomplishments.
7. Won’t Take Risks to Avoid Failure
Fear of failure characterizes the person who doesn’t believe in themselves. Failure represents a deep character flaw, so they don’t stretch themselves or risk doing anything that isn’t guaranteed to be successful. Rather than learning and growing from mistakes and failures, they avoid them at all costs, remaining limited in their growth and self-awareness.
8. Lacks Confidence in Abilities
Low confidence goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. When you don’t like or believe in yourself, you assume you don’t have what it takes to be successful and accomplished. Because you fear failure, you hold yourself back, assuring that you don’t improve your abilities.
9. Has Difficulty Dealing with Life Challenges
Life difficulties are paralyzing to a person without self-worth. They already have limited inner resources to deal with the day-to-day, so a challenge can knock them to the floor. Their inability to cope further entrenches them in self-hatred and anxiety.
When it comes to changing self-perception, you must address the core issues at the root of your feelings and take baby steps to step out of your comfort zone.
Make that part of your daily vision, and use the following tips to keep growing in that direction.
How to Build High Self-Esteem: 9 Doable Tips
All of the following ideas will help you build good self-esteem.
Take them one at a time or incorporate a few in your plans for this week — and for the rest of today.
And don’t underestimate the power of small, consistent actions.
What you make into a habit changes the way your subconscious works. And it changes your self-perception.
1. Make a list of things you like about yourself.
Write a list of all the things you’ve noticed about yourself over the years that make you smile when you think of them.
Add to this list every accomplishment, however small, that has meaning for you.
And don’t forget to mention those shining moments when someone else recognized something in you that they admire.
Don’t filter out any good stuff by thinking, “Oh, that’s not worth mentioning.”
If you asked yourself, “What do I like about myself?” or “What have I accomplished,” and that came to mind, write it down.
2. Do more of what you love.
Spend more of your time doing things you love.
Make time for activities you enjoy, whether you’re doing them alone or with someone close to you.
The more you make time for something you enjoy — not because it will result in something of value but just because you enjoy it — the freer you feel just to be yourself and honor your own personal tastes.
3. Spend more time with people who love you as you are.
Invest time and energy working to strengthen the relationships most important to you, so you can share more of what you love with them and help them understand you better.
You’ll also get more chances to learn what animates them, so you can make time for activities they love.
And just as they build you up and remind you of what they love about you, you can do the same for them.
4. Develop your abilities.
Develop the skills and talents you have and look for ways to exercise them for the benefit of others.
Look for ways you can contribute while you continue learning and improving your abilities.
If you’ve only done what you thought others expected you to do, you may have neglected your natural talents or let valuable skills fall into disuse.
Rediscover what you can do better than most people and find avenues for their continued application and growth.
5. Set goals and make a habit of reaching them.
Every goal you set and reach is another accomplishment to add to your list.
They don’t have to be big goals, either. In fact, meeting small goals can help keep you motivated as you work on larger ones.
Creating a vision board can help you identify the goals you want to focus on — from the smallest to the largest.
You can use anything from poster board and pictures from magazines to a PowerPoint slideshow to a self-made YouTube “mind movie” video with motivational music for the background and inspiring messages superimposed on each image.
Make your vision board or movie about what you really want, though — not what you think you “should” want.
Your subconscious can easily sabotage goals based on “shoulds.” And even if you reach one, the satisfaction doesn’t go very deep.
6. Get Some Exercise
Don’t do it with the goal of losing weight or having a more attractive body. Do it to feel good.
If you don’t learn to love yourself as you are now, it won’t matter how much your body changes.
Because you’ll still be focusing on what you don’t like. You’ll still see what you’re used to seeing.
So, get some daily movement just to get those feel-good brain chemicals flowing.
Exercise to clear your head and boost your mood, not to get thinner or to find your six-pack.
Make the most of the body you have now and learn to love it as it is.
Exercise should be about loving your body – not torturing it.
There are women with bodies that other women envy who hate the way they look. And there are women whose bodies are outside those “ideal” parameters who love the way they look.
Who would you rather be?
7. Take Care of Yourself
Practice daily self-care to remind yourself you’re worth the trouble.
It’s too easy to cut this out of your daily routine — especially when you already feel as though “more important” things are already swallowing up your time.
This is true especially if you’re in the habit of thinking you don’t deserve anything beyond the bare minimum of self-maintenance.
It’s also tempting to see self-care as a reward you have to earn first, but it should be as much a part of your daily life as getting enough sleep and taking your vitamins.
Take some time out every day — even if it’s only a few minutes — to do something to remind yourself of your beauty and value.
8. Dress the Way You Want to See Yourself
Think of the person you want to be a year or three years from now.
How does this person dress and why? If you’ve gotten in the habit of dressing only for comfort, you’re not alone.
There’s a reason Amazon has over 50,000 listings for yoga pants (and it’s not just because yoga is a pretty huge deal).
Enclothed cognition describes the way in which what we wear affects how we think and even how our minds work. It can also change how we behave.
So, if you’re dressed like someone who doesn’t worry about what people think and doesn’t mind standing out, you’re more likely to act like that person.
If you dress like someone who prefers to blend in, you’re more likely to act like someone who prefers not to be noticed.
Wear what you love and what makes you feel attractive. If you look in the mirror and like the way you look, it has a tremendous effect on your mood and how you carry yourself.
9. Do Something that Scares You
If you’re not challenging yourself or opening yourself to challenges, you’re not growing.
So, if there’s something you could do that will most likely not result in death or dismemberment and could help you become the person you want to be, make a list of those challenges, and tackle one of them this week.
Even if it goes spectacularly badly, you’ll know you didn’t shrink from a challenge, and you (probably) learned something from it. That alone can boost your self-esteem.
Why Is Self-Esteem Important?
A healthy self-esteem is critical to a life well-lived.
If you’re constantly undervaluing yourself and your abilities, you’re less likely to go after what you truly want.
If you don’t believe you have as much right as anyone else to live a happy, fulfilling life, you’ll sabotage your efforts at every turn.
And when things come crashing down — as you swear they do every time — you might take that as evidence that the universe hates you and you’re doomed to failure and mediocrity.
But no one is doomed to that unless they choose it.
The effects of high self-esteem are what most of us want more of in our lives:
- Genuine happiness
- Greater peace of mind and soul
- Improved relationships
- Healthier habits and lifestyle
- Improved energy levels
- More accomplishments of lasting importance
If high self-esteem is essential to a happy and fulfilling life, how do you go about laying that foundation?
Are you working toward high self-esteem?
Now that you have a better idea of what high self-esteem entails and how to build one, what will you do today to give your self-esteem a boost and feel more like yourself again?
It’s good to be reminded that your value doesn’t depend on your usefulness to others but is innate, and nothing can diminish it.
You are important and precious and amazing just as you are, and it’s time you got better acquainted with yourself.
May your creativity and self-compassion influence everything you do today.