What Does Healthy Self-Esteem Look Like?
Can you tell just by looking at someone that they have 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 the high self-esteem definition?
According to a quick internet search, we can define self-esteem as “confidence in your own ability and value.”
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.
What are the characteristics of high self esteem?
Someone with high self-esteem can be recognized by one or more of the following characteristics:
- Healthy self-love and recognition of their self-worth
- Belief that they are beautiful just the way they are
- Willingness to take risks, because they see failure as a growth opportunity
- Tendency to dress in a way that plays up their assets and makes them feel good
- Tendency to walk with confidence and go after what they want
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.
For those with very low self-esteem, it’s not enough to voice positive affirmations at their reflection in the bathroom mirror.
If the words are a stark contradiction to what they’ve gotten used to believing about themselves, they ring hollow and only amplify the painful false beliefs.
This doesn’t mean it’s useless to look yourself in the eye and point out what you do like about yourself.
When it comes to changing self-perception, baby steps like that one can be more effective than using affirmations you don’t believe.
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?
How to Build High Self-Esteem
All of the following 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.
How do you want to perceive yourself?
Make that part of your daily vision, and use the following tips to keep growing in that direction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.