Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And How To Overcome It

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Do you struggle with confidence and feeling comfortable with yourself? See for yourself with these signs of low self-esteem and tips to overcome it and feel better.

Deep down inside your heart, you know you’re worth much more. But you constantly deny it. Is there something you can do to change your knee-jerk reaction to praise and attention?

You don’t deserve praise. You shouldn’t speak your mind because your ideas are no good anyway.

Or should you?

Can you really break through the invisible shackles of low self-confidence so you can finally speak your mind? Are their ways of overcoming low self-esteem that don’t involve cheesy positive reinforcements?

The Internal Battle Of Low Self-Esteem

“No! I freaking don’t have low self-esteem!”

“My coworkers have more experience, so I should just shut my mouth during meetings. What could I possibly say that they don’t already know?”

“My boyfriend was born into money and went to an Ivy League school. Of course, he’s amazing, and I’m lucky to have him! Who cares if he doesn’t always listen to what I say? At least we’re together….”

“My sister’s job is so cool! I couldn’t have accomplished what she did. She’s just smarter than me. No wonder she’s dad’s favorite. I could never compete with her.”

Have you ever said these things to yourself?

Has someone ever told you that you’re such a pushover? A doormat? Needy and clingy?

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Did you know that low self-esteem can negatively impact your mental health? It can also lead to depression and anxiety and the development of unhelpful habits that people use to cope with their low self-esteem.

Self-esteem also plays a vital role in our ability to pursue goals and develop healthy relationships as men and women.

First, identify the signs AND accept that you exhibit these symptoms and may have a self-esteem issue.

You Watch People’s Words and Actions Towards You Like a Hawk

Everyone wants to feel loved and understood.

What causes low self-esteem in most people? In a word: uncertainty. You often question other people’s feelings, words and actions toward you

You have a certain negative belief of yourself – that you’re unworthy and unlovable. And you go out of your way to observe others around you. You pay attention to their tone of voice, choice of words, and mannerisms and mentally keep score of how they treat you.

Of course, your conclusions usually confirm the worst about yourself and create a negative self-image. But how can you be so sure of your conclusions if it’s all in your head?

You won’t learn how to overcome low self-esteem issues unless you talk to the people you’re observing. Ask them, “What do you think of me?” or something specific, “What do you think of (your actions/appearance/)?”

You Compare Yourself To Others, Even If There’s Nothing To Compare

You have a habit of comparing yourself to others: your siblings, parents, boss, colleagues, classmates, friends, and even random strangers.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, the excessive and unfair comparisons will bruise your already fragile ego.

Resist the urge to compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. Even if you share the same age or background, you still don’t know everything about them. Tons of unseen variables are at play here, so comparing yourself to them is useless.

Next time you catch yourself comparing, redirect your focus to your own journey. Consider these questions:

  • “Where am I now?”
  • “Why am I comparing myself with this person?”
  • “Is there a concrete basis for my comparisons?”

Instead, make it a habit to focus on your own positive qualities.

You’re Defensive… To A Fault

You get defensive about everything.

A coworker asks you a question about the project you’re working on, so you answer him. You clam up when you hear a “no” or a “but” from him. You sob and cry in the bathroom stall, whining about your mean coworkers. Why are they picking on you?

You get in a row with your friends when they criticize the guy you’re going out with. Then you cry at night before sleeping. You begin questioning yourself and your friends’ loyalty. Why can’t they just understand you?

In reality, your friends and coworkers are just concerned about you. But you fail to see that because you think everyone’s out to get you.

They’re not. Next time someone criticizes you or questions your choices, try counting to three before you respond. Consider the other person’s point of view before formulating a response. Repeat this to yourself: They’re not out to ruin your job or sabotage your happiness.

You Try to Avoid Conflict By Pretending Everything’s Okay

Your everyday conversations are filled with white lies. Lots of them. Your friend asks what you think of her dress, so you say it looks great even if it doesn’t fit her. Your partner asks you if it’s okay to get Thai food for dinner, and you say yes—even if you’re sick of Thai food.

Afraid of pissing off your friends in social situations, you say whatever will make them happy. Your fear of confrontation and desperate need for acceptance suppress your true identity.

If telling the truth scares you, start with something small and say things in a non-confrontational way, like, “I don’t think that shirt suits you, but maybe this will.”

By beginning your truth with “I think” and ending it with a suggestion “but maybe ___ will,” you emphasize what you’re saying is just an opinion and not a personal attack. Adding a possible alternative also softens the blow.

In reality, your friends won’t think too much of what you say. To them, it’s just a simple statement of opinion, not a scathing attack worthy of a fight. Try it and see for yourself.

You Say “Sorry” Way Too Much

How can you tell if a person isn’t confident about themselves? They say “sorry” too much, even for things that are not their fault.

Apologizing is important, but you should reserve it for your mistakes. And by your mistakes, I’m not referring to when someone bumps into you, you sneeze, not having a lighter or pen when someone asks for it, and sending your soup back to the restaurant.

You Often Call The Fruits Of Your Labor “Good Luck” or a “Blessing”

What’s your immediate reaction when someone praises your work?

“I was just lucky”

“It’s God’s blessing!”

“My team did all the hard work”

God might have blessed you, and your team might have helped you, but you contributed, too. You deserve the credit.

People with low self-esteem don’t handle compliments well. The reason for this is twofold.

  • You have a low opinion of yourself; therefore, anything you could do that’s worthy of praise must’ve been successful because of somebody else’s doing.
  • You blow your failures out of proportion to the point that it’s already ingrained in your identity. You often rehash past failures in your head, “I can’t finish what I start,” “I can’t lose weight no matter how hard I try,” “I’m going to fail this exam again!”

It’s tough and depressing to live a life like this with all the negative thinking.

Next time someone praises you, accept it. Don’t think about whether you deserve it – don’t go there. Immediately say “Thank you” instead.

And when you fail, think of it as a temporary setback, like one failed battle in a year-long war. Whatever that failure is, it’s nothing and not part of your identity.

You Put Others Down And You Enjoy It

This is the ugly side of having low self-esteem. Because you don’t feel good about yourself, you make fun of people weaker than you to make yourself feel better.

Because you don’t feel confident enough to work alongside tenured employees at work, you hang around with the newbies. And you bully them. You belittle them due to their lack of skills or experience at work.

You’re passing off your insecurities to them.

Ask yourself, what do you get out of bullying someone obviously lower than you in the food chain?

You get nothing! So why bother?

Help them instead. It’ll make you feel better about yourself, and they’ll also look up to you. That will boost your self-esteem ten times more than any insult you can throw at them.

More Signs Of Low Self-Esteem for Women

Now that we have covered some more generalized signs of poor self-esteem in people, let’s focus on the signs of low self-esteem in a woman.

There have been many studies over the years regarding age and gender differences when it comes to self-esteem in men and women. These studies have shown that men have higher self-esteem than women, but both show age-graded increases in self-esteem.

Low Confidence

Confidence and self-esteem go hand in hand as one often nurtures the other. If a woman has low self-esteem, likely, her self-confidence suffers as well. This can prevent a woman from moving forward in life. It can prevent academic achievement, produce a poor self image, and encourage negative thinking.

Becoming Hostile

Again, becoming overly defensive about something can signify low self-esteem in anyone, especially a woman. Some women fear inadequacy and tend to become aggressive, especially when it comes to what should be constructive criticism.

Focus on positive change and healthy boundaries. This will help improve future social interactions in which criticism is being offered.

Loss of Control

When a woman has low self-esteem, it also feels like she has lost all control. If she lacks power and control over herself and her surroundings, it creates instability. She no longer feels anchored to anything.

Problems Get In The Way

With low self-esteem, women let their problems stand in their way. They are stuck in their own head and feel like nothing, but bad things can happen to them. However, in reality, there are people in a worse situation. It comes down to perspective.

Being Overly Sensitive

Women also get overly sensitive, especially when it comes to criticism. Instead of reacting positively to move forward, a woman with low self-esteem will look at criticism and react negatively. They take everything being said extremely personally.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Men

Upon further research regarding self-esteem in men and women, researchers also found gender differences for every one of the ten aspects of personality they reviewed.

For example, on average, women scored higher than men regarding enthusiasm, compassion, politeness, orderliness, withdrawal, and openness. On the other hand, men scored higher than women in terms of assertiveness.

Makes Himself The Punchline of Jokes

A man may use self-deprecating humor and attribute it to just a part of his charm. However, nothing is charming about a man putting himself down.

When a man jokes and makes himself the punchline, he may not feel worthy of love. He makes jokes at his own expense as a way to share his vulnerable side.

Focuses on Mistakes

Instead of focusing on achievements and successes in life, a man with low self-esteem tends to focus more on the mistakes they make along the way. They could win a contest prize but still feel down about it because it wasn’t first place. Not allowing himself to give credit for his achievements is a sign of low self-esteem.

Always Looking for Validation

Even though a man may appear successful in life, one with low self-esteem is constantly searching for validation. This includes compliments and accolades from those around him, especially from his partner.

Displays Feelings of Jealousy

A man with low self-esteem also shows jealousy and possessiveness toward romantic partners. This jealousy can even change how they view others around them, including other men, coworkers, and even family members.

Overly Competitive

Men with low self-esteem are often insecure and tend to be highly competitive. They hate to lose and make that fact very apparent. They compete in everything they do in their lives, from their relationships at home to those at work.

How To Develop Healthy Self-Esteem

The journey from low self-esteem to confidence and healthy self-esteem is not easy. It is a path filled with obstacles and challenges and requires support from those around you.

However, it is possible to improve your self-esteem and here are a few ways to do so.

Related Reading: How to Build Self-Confidence and Value Yourself More

Positive Self-Talk

You know yourself best. Once you recognize the signs of low confidence and self-esteem, set out on the journey to change it. You need to become your best friend and give yourself positive reinforcement. Avoid negative self talk and, instead, find ways to better your mental health.

Be Kind To Yourself

Be kind and love yourself. Take the time for self care, practice positivity, and think of ways to build your confidence, which will result in higher self-esteem.

Practice mindfulness and self-awareness, identify negative thoughts, and practice coping with criticism and negative beliefs.

Start recognizing what you are good at and build positive relationships with those around you.

Stop The Comparisons

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Our inner critic can prove to be our downfall. It is unfair and does nothing positive for your mental health and well-being.

Your best friend may be an amazing baker, but you aren’t. And that’s okay. Your sibling may be great in social situations, and you aren’t. That’s okay too.

Focus on what you are good at and approach it with nothing but your best.

Final Words on Positive Reinforcement

Research findings show that positive reinforcements like repeating, “I am a lovable person,” actually made those suffering from low self-esteem feel worse.

Constantly showering someone with attention and praise when they already feel bad about themselves won’t work either. It will just make them feel worse once they see through the superficial compliments.

Confront your emotions instead. I know it sounds unbelievable, but the baby steps described here will teach you how to deal with low self-esteem. It’ll also give you a better sense of reality—what people think of you—instead of all the negative assumptions you’ve cooked up in your head.

No more endless comparisons. No more white lies to avoid conflicts. No more senseless apologies for mistakes you didn’t make. You can finally feel confident in yourself.

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Natalie Seale

Natalie Seale is a writer, researcher, and editor for She holds an MA, MSc, and PhD in History from the University of Edinburgh, and has started two businesses since 2011. Natalie is an avid reader, a keen traveller, and enjoys cooking and walking with her English Spaniel. Her posts focus on inspiring others to live healthy, happy, and active lives.