Subtle Signs of Self-Esteem You May Being Missing

September 5, 2019 Britt Mahrer

What are the signs of self-esteem? What does it feel like to have healthy self-esteem? Is it unconditional adoration of yourself? Is it the confidence you can do anything? Is it the belief that you're beautiful, both inside and out? In an ideal world, we would feel all of these things. But realistically, our relationship with ourselves is complicated–we all have things we like and things we wish weren't a part of us. A completely positive self-view is overly idealistic and, frankly, inauthentic. So, if self-esteem isn't all sunshine and daisies, what is it? And how do we know if we have it--what are the signs of self-esteem?

Signs of Self-Esteem 1

You Manage the Negative and Cultivate the Positive

All gardens have weeds–managing them is an important part of a garden's success. But as every gardener knows, even if every waking hour was spent weeding, by morning new ones would have sprouted. A gardener learns to compromise, to create a balance between time spent pulling undesirables and time spent on plants he wants. He trusts his knowledge and his garden flourishes. 

We too learn to do this as we build self-esteem. While there are parts of ourselves we don't like, obsessively working to eliminate them is rarely successful. Instead, a sign of self-esteem occurs when we create a balance between minimizing our flaws and nurturing our strengths. We learn that the positivity we gain from focusing on aspects we like becomes a powerful tool against the negativity from things we don't.

Signs of Self-Esteem 2

You Do Things Even If You're Bad at Them

My father is a master at giving off this sign of self-esteem. As a 71-year-old swimmer (which in my opinion makes him a genuine badass), his skills are far less than his younger teammates. But instead of letting this get him down, he has adopted a mantra which he repeats when he feels himself getting frustrated. "At least I'm nice to the barista," my old dad tells himself.

This is not only his way of slipping humor into his workout (and reminding himself he gets to enjoy a tasty post-workout coffee) but it's also his way of remembering that swimming is just something he does, not an indicator of his worth. He knows that he is a person he enjoys being, even if he can't swim the way he wants.

When we note our ability to separate skill from self-worth, we are seeing a sign of self-esteem in action. We learn to loosen our grip on only doing things we are good at and to release our fear that being bad at something means we are a bad person. We know that mastery is not how we find self-love–we've gone deeper into ourselves and found where it really lives.

Signs of Self-Esteem 3

You're Comfortable Being Multi-Faceted

Simplifying our identity feels safe. We declare ourselves a rebel, a parent, or a businessperson, and tell ourselves we understand that role, sinking into the mold of the identity. Yet we are multi-layered beings–trying to describe ourselves in a single identity (or even two) is downright impossible,

One sign of self-esteem is when we realize that establishing new parts of identity does not reduce old aspects of identity. For example, I experienced strong anxiety at the thought of going back to school for a master's degree unrelated to my undergraduate one. Was I abandoning my identity as a musician? It took time and reflection (and the experience itself) for me to understand that while human beings can change, we more often enhance. (Alcoholics Anonymous is a good example of this–members understand that they do not stop being alcoholics, they simply grow to be alcoholics with the skills to manage their addiction.)

To conclude, may we all someday find the self-love and adoration we crave. But in the meantime, I hope these more subtle signs of self-esteem can matter to you. 

APA Reference
Mahrer, B. (2019, September 5). Subtle Signs of Self-Esteem You May Being Missing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Britt Mahrer

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September, 8 2019 at 2:47 pm

Hi Lizanne, thank you for your comment. When we release the need to be good at things, not only do we open ourselves up for growth–we also open ourselves up for fun!

Lizanne Corbit
September, 8 2019 at 2:41 pm

Wonderful read! I particularly love this recognition: "When we note our ability to separate skill from self-worth, we are seeing our self-esteem in action. We learn to loosen our grip on only doing things we are good at, to release our fear that being bad at something means we are a bad person.". How important this is! It can be so easy for us to want to tie ourselves up in the things we do, and then as you go on to say, only do things we're good at, but what a wonderful practice to go beyond what we do! Thank you for sharing.

September, 11 2019 at 9:41 am

Agreed, it's a very important point. The strongest self-esteem can come from feeling content about oneself regardless of skills or being good or bad at something. Simply wanting to try something out or learn something new is important in realising self-worth as well.

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