For some, self-esteem and self-confidence come naturally. For others, not so much. They have to work a lot on their image and their abilities.
And then, we have those with no or low self-esteem. Usually, you can tell who they are when they blame themselves, compare themselves to others too much, or apologize a lot, even when it’s not their fault.
There are many more cues that put a huge neon sign over them that says, “I have low self-esteem.”
Learning these cues is important so we don’t make the same mistakes and go through life more confidently.
So, let’s begin!
1) They often put themselves down and highlight their perceived flaws
People grappling with low self-esteem have a rich and perpetual internal dialogue that dissects and magnifies their perceived flaws and errors.
It’s like a skilled surgeon cutting out each flaw or error they ever made and showing it to the operating theatre that is their mind.
This self-critical mindset often becomes so ingrained that they dismiss any success or positive feedback, overshadowing it with a relentless focus on faults.
This negative self-talk is so ingrained that many with this mindset ignore positive feedback and focus only on their faults.
And most importantly, this contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2) They rely heavily on others for validation and reassurance
With so much deep-seated insecurity about their own worth, they develop an incessant need for external validation.
That’s why they often ask for compliments and reassurance about how they look or what they’ve done.
For instance, they frequently ask questions like, “Do you think I did well?” or “Do I look okay?”
They also constantly want validation from others before making choices, fearing that their decisions are wrong or unacceptable.
I’ve known some who struggle to accept constructive criticism because it challenges their fragile sense of self.
They react defensively or take even well-intentioned feedback as a personal attack, highlighting their need for positive reinforcement.
3) A fear of failure or inadequacy is holding them back
Fear of failure can have a powerful impact on how people make decisions and interact with others.
It’s like this overwhelming force that’s always there, influencing everything they do. This fear can be so intense that it literally stops them from taking risks or going after opportunities.
They’re constantly on edge, expecting criticism or disapproval from others.
For me, this meant withholding my ideas in classrooms and, later, at work, in meetings or discussions.
I’ve constantly not only worried but feared that my suggestions would be criticized, so I chose to stay quiet to avoid potential disapproval and mockery.
Of course, it didn’t help that I had a couple of classmates and later colleagues who were real assholes and just waited for someone to slip up to tear them a new one.
Because of this fear, I ended up missing out on opportunities that could help me reach my full potential.
It’s like a cycle – you’re scared to try, so you don’t, and then you miss chances to learn and grow. This cycle keeps repeating, and it becomes a barrier to your success and happiness.
4) They can’t say no to others
Having difficulty saying no to others is often linked to low self-esteem. It means finding it hard to decline requests or set boundaries.
This difficulty can create a pattern of constantly putting others’ needs before their own, leading to a cycle of self-sacrifice.
The fear of disappointing others can be so intense that the person ends up overcommitting and neglecting their own well-being.
This pattern can result in burnout, increased stress, and a sense of unfulfillment as personal goals and needs inevitably take a back seat.
5) They always compare themselves to others
People with low self-esteem love comparing their own lives, achievements, and looks to others.
It’s like they have a mental measuring stick that they use to evaluate how they stack up against the people around them.
Of course, they only focus on the positive aspects of other people’s lives and only on their successes. They look at others and think, “I wish I had that.”
At the same time, when it comes to their own achievements, those with low self-esteem downplay or diminish their successes.
They think, “Well, what I did isn’t as impressive as what they did.”
6) They blame themselves
When someone has low self-esteem, blaming themselves becomes a common response.
This means they take on too much responsibility, even for things that aren’t entirely their fault.
They have this habit of pointing the finger at themselves, whether it’s for mistakes, problems, or even external events beyond their control.
But they also internalize negative events, seeing them as proof of their own inadequacy. It’s like they wear a distorted pair of glasses that magnify their faults and downplay any positive aspects of themselves.
For example, some feel personally responsible for global issues, saying, “I should be doing more to save the environment. It’s my fault the planet is suffering.”
But let’s continue in the same tone, shall we?
7) They say sorry excessively, even for minor things
Do you over-apologize, even for small things? If so, this habit of over-apologizing often comes from a desire to avoid conflict and gain reassurance from others.
The person constantly says sorry as a way to make sure everything is okay and to seek approval.
Apologizing too much can make you seem less confident and can even undermine your credibility.
But even worse, it creates a cycle of self-blame, where you feel like you’re always wrong, even when it’s not necessary.
8) They prefer to be alone
Feeling more comfortable being alone is a way for people with low self-esteem to protect themselves from potential judgment.
It’s like a shield they use to avoid feeling exposed or criticized by others. However, this choice to be alone can make their feelings of loneliness and inadequacy even stronger.
When they avoid social interactions, it creates a barrier. This barrier stops them from forming deep connections with others and asking for the support they need.
So, by choosing solitude as a way to cope, they unintentionally make it harder to break out of the cycle of loneliness and find the support that could actually help boost their self-esteem.
9) They have mood swings due to insecurity and self-doubt
Feeling all over the place emotionally is a common thing when someone has low self-esteem.
It’s like there’s this ongoing struggle inside them between not feeling good enough and really wanting others to tell them they are.
This internal conflict causes their moods to swing back and forth unexpectedly.
So, one moment they might seem happy and okay, but then something triggers those self-doubts, and suddenly their mood takes a nosedive.
This not only affects how they feel about themselves but also how they relate to people around them.
Their emotional ups and downs can influence how they react to others, making their relationships a bit like riding waves – sometimes smooth, sometimes turbulent.
10) They rely on others to make them happy
I already mentioned how people with low self-esteem depend on others for validation. But they also depend on others to make them happy.
This means they almost can’t be happy on their own. It’s like they don’t have a strong inner happiness generator.
Instead, they often look to other people or relationships to feel good about themselves and find a sense of purpose.
They turn to others, like friends or partners, to flick the switch for them. This puts a lot of pressure on relationships because the responsibility for their happiness falls on the people around them.
Low self-esteem isn’t set in stone. If you have low self-esteem, you can improve by reflecting, being positive, and seeking support.
Personal growth is a journey, and with dedication and the right mindset, you can gradually overcome the challenges associated with low self-esteem.