10 signs you’re a role model for others, even if you don’t realize it

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“Who, me? A role model?” you might say. “That’s impossible!”

Yes, you. You might think you’re just cruising along, doing your own thing, not really being a powerhouse or a do-gooder and all that. 

Well, guess what? You might not know it, but you could actually be making a difference in someone else’s life. You might be a role model without meaning to! 

How do you know for sure? In this article, I’ll share ten signs your actions and presence make a real impact in the world. Let’s check them out! 

1) You’re a great listener

I think that listening is one of the most underrated skills ever. We place a lot of value on talkativeness, wittiness, and the ability to speak on different topics. 

On being quiet and simply listening, not so much. 

But there’s more to it than just being silent when others talk. When you really know how to listen, you’re giving someone the space to breathe, to stake their space as human beings. 

You never know how much of a difference your listening ear can be to someone who sorely needs it. 

I’ve seen this many times in my teaching career, especially for kids who come from troubled homes. 

Sometimes, just being able to open up to their teachers about what they’re going through can make them feel like there’s at least one solid presence in their lives. 

Many years later, they’d come back as successful adults and thank their teachers just for being there. 

2) People come to you for advice

When you know how to listen, I’m willing to bet you’re also a great counselor. So, you probably serve as the go-to person for people in need of some wisdom

I’ve noticed this in my own life, and it initially caught me off guard. After all, I don’t really think I have much to offer in the way of wisdom; I’m still figuring life out myself!

But then I realized, my friends wouldn’t turn to me if they didn’t trust my judgment. Or at least see me as a source of a different perspective. 

And you know what? Sometimes that’s enough. In fact, even though they might not take the advice you give, the mere fact that you’re offering a different perspective means you’re being an example of open-mindedness. 

3) You show people what it’s like to be empathetic

This is closely connected to the two points above. Listening and offering advice shows your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

You might say, “That? Psshh, anyone can do that!” 

Not so fast. Empathy is actually an elusive trait; it’s a quality not everyone possesses. Trust me, the people in your life appreciate the time and effort you put into understanding their situation.

Not only that, but the attention you give to one person is going to multiply. 


Because kindness begets kindness. When people feel understood and cared for, they naturally extend that same expansiveness to other people. It’s the ripple effect at work!

So, this ability of yours is pretty special, and it makes you a role model, even though you don’t feel like you are. 

4) You’re self-motivated

Let’s talk about motivation for a while. Motivation is behind everything we do. For some of us, the motivation might come from external factors like rewards, promotions, pay raises, etc. 

For others, it comes from within – an inner drive to excel, explore, and simply to keep learning and growing. 

It’s the latter kind that inspires others around you. Because they see that even when circumstances aren’t ideal, you keep going and going. 

Personally, I found that my own self-motivation was a reason why my kids did their homework without complaining and read books for leisure. 

I don’t mean to brag; I’m simply pointing out how we might not be aware that the way we push ourselves to grow can be fuel to other people’s fire. 

And it’s not just our work ethic that can be contagious, it’s our attitude, too, as the next section shows…

5) You maintain a positive attitude

Back in my 20s, I was quite a blasé person. And sarcastic. I had that whole cool, edgy thing going on. 

Until I went to work for an aunt of mine. She was the complete opposite of me. 

When I brought her a bag of oranges, she squealed in delight as if she’d never seen oranges before. When she saw someone wearing a nice pair of shoes, she said outright, “Those shoes are fab! Where did you get them?”

And no matter what was going on in her life (she was going through a divorce at the time), she was always, always optimistic. One of her favorite things to say was, “I can’t let anyone take away my joy.”

Strangely, without me realizing it, I was shedding my fake cool facade and becoming more and more open. 

That is the power of positivity. Truly. And if you’re being a positive person yourself, believe me, somewhere out there is a person who feels uplifted and inspired by your smile and your cheerful, hopeful attitude. 

6) You appreciate others and express it

I’ve touched on gratitude in my example above, but I think it bears repeating. 

You see, most of the time, we don’t think saying, “thank you” or “I appreciate you” means anything special. It’s just good manners, after all. 

But it actually goes beyond that. Expressing gratitude is tantamount to saying, “I see you.” 

These small acts of appreciation leave a mark on those who receive it. It makes them feel valued and happy. 

And as I mentioned earlier, kindness begets kindness. So, you can be sure that your appreciative spirit travels miles beyond the person you’ve treated well. 

7) You have strong values

If you’re someone who stands by your principles, that’s another sign you’re a role model though you might not realize it. 

Integrity, honesty, fairness – they’re not just words you read on a plaque. They mean something real to you, and your daily actions show that. 

For me, my mom was a solid example of this. She was the type who would refuse to lie for anyone. 

When she was asked to fudge a report at work, she stood firm and said no. Eventually, she decided to leave because she couldn’t stand working at a place where she’d be asked to compromise her values. 

I’m just so lucky to have such a good role model in my life. And who knows, if you’re the same way, you’re setting a powerful example for the people around you, too!

8) You handle stress well

How do you react to stress? Do you keep your cool and buckle down to solve a thorny issue? Do you step back and take a breather when you need it? 

If you’ve got good stress management strategies, then you’re being a role model. People are watching you tackle hurdle after hurdle and marveling at how you don’t crumble under pressure. 

But if this is a struggle for you, no worries. You can find your way to better stress management through these tips: 

  • Practice self-care. Exercise, eat healthy food, and get adequate sleep. 
  • Do breathing exercises and meditate regularly. 
  • Develop an effective time management system
  • Ask for help when you need it. 
  • Remember to rest and relax with hobbies that nourish your soul. 
  • Laugh! 

9) You have a zest for learning

I don’t know about you, but I find inspiration in anyone who loves learning. If you’re constantly seeking to enlarge yourself, it shows you’re passionate, curious, and open-minded. 

And that’s always inspiring and fascinating!

It tells people that you don’t believe we just have to stay where we are. That we can learn new skills and do things we’d never thought we could do. 

Just seeing how you venture out of your comfort zone could be enough to push someone else to do that, too! 

10) You are inclusive

Finally, we get to inclusivity, a trait that, whenever I see someone practicing it, definitely makes me want to do better myself.  

Being inclusive is all about respect. It means that you see the importance of diversity and the strength that lies within it. You don’t judge people based on their race, religion, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. 

In fact, you don’t just “tolerate” people’s different backgrounds and perspectives. You truly appreciate and celebrate them because you feel like they enrich your life so much. 

How does this make you a role model? Well, simply because when you’re inclusive, you’re teaching others about respect and open-mindedness. You’re opening their eyes to different ways of thinking and being! 

For instance, you may be the person at work who ensures everyone in the team has an opportunity to voice their opinions. 

You consciously challenge biases and stereotypes, not to shake things up but to lead people out of their preconceived notions. 

Or, within your circle of friends, you may be the one who unites different people who wouldn’t typically hang out together. 

These simple acts may be second nature to you, and so you find nothing unique about them. But to other people, those actions help change the way they think about the world. 

Final thoughts

Being a role model is not about being perfect or having all the answers. It’s about being authentic and showing up everyday with the right attitude, values, and the best intentions. 

You may not realize how much influence you hold over others. You could be sparking your own ripple effects with the thoughtful things you do out there. 

So, if you recognize any of the signs on this list in yourself, give yourself a pat on the back. You might think you’ve been cruising along all this time, but as it turns out, you’re actually making a difference! 

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