😞 Signs Of Low Self Esteem – And How To Help Someone With It

 May 17, 2020

By  Matt Tavarez

Everyone experiences low self-esteem at some point in their lives. 

Whether you work hard toward your goals or you've generated success, you can suffer from a lack of confidence for several reasons. You may not, for example, have faith in your skills.

By recognizing the signs of low self-esteem and incorporating some coping mechanisms when your esteem is taking a hit, you can begin to improve how you perceive yourself and your life in general.

What is Self-Esteem?

For many, self-esteem is a complicated mental health topic that is difficult to grasp fully. Self-esteem refers to your overall sense of self and it can include anything from how you feel about yourself to your insecurities and your achievements. Those with high self-esteem will feel more pride and will celebrate their accomplishments more than those who don't have good self-esteem.

It should also be noted that there are two ends on the spectrum when it comes to self-esteem. Those with very little self-esteem will often find daily life more stressful, however, those with self-esteem that is too high on the spectrum can find it difficult to maintain friendships and relationships.

Why do People Have Low Self-Esteem?

Some folks might exhibit signs of low self-esteem for several reasons and these reasons will frequently vary from person-to-person. Some experience an intersectionality of several issues and others have a small number of profound experiences that impacted their self-confidence. Still, there are a few causes of low self-esteem that are more common than others. Below, we've listed three of these causes.

Life Experiences

One of the main reasons that some folks lack confidence is because of trauma and life experiences. This can include things like bullying, parenting style, etc. Life experiences can especially impact confidence when multiple traumas and life experiences are occurring simultaneously in a person's life. 


This might not be the most obvious trait on our list, but those who lean toward perfectionism frequently feel the need to have everything perfectly figured out before taking action. This can lead to low self-esteem because, realistically, we can't have everything figured out. As a result, perfectionists may feel like they've failed or like they need to try harder. This can create a continuously trying harder to achieve perfection and, over time, your confidence can be severely impacted.


Uncertainty plays a big factor in a lack of confidence because the world around us is uncertain. This can cause anxiety because we can't guarantee what's going to happen next and managing our own confidence in an uncertain world is difficult. For some, being unable to predict what's going to happen next is crippling and can severely impact confidence. 

How to Build Confidence

If you're experiencing signs of low self-esteem, you're likely wondering how you can build your confidence in order to improve your daily life. You should identify how your lack of confidence is impacting you and those around you by reflecting on your behaviour and by asking your loved ones. This will allow you to reduce those behaviours and will allow you to work directly on your confidence. Below, we have a list of the various signs of low self-esteem, as well as tips and tricks to help you build your confidence when these behaviours emerge.

Signs That You're Lacking Self-Esteem

  • You Can't Accept a Compliment

People who have low self-confidence tend to reflect on themselves when someone pays them a compliment. They may, for example, as themselves if the person is being genuine or they may simply not believe that they merited the compliment in the first place. They may also believe that they only achieved something because of luck and they may not recognize their own role in the achievement.

These are signs of low self-esteem because those with high self-esteem have enough confidence to know that the compliments are genuine and they feel pride when they're given a compliment. If the first situation sounds like you, you're not alone. The good news is that there are some things you can do to improve your self-esteem when you're finding it difficult to accept a compliment.

One of the best tips we have is to remind yourself that you're worthy of love and that you're worthy of the compliment being given.

  • You Lash Out

We've all heard that bullies are actually insecure about themselves. This is largely true. People with low self-esteem are more likely to lash out at the people around them because those with low confidence may find comfort in making someone else feel bad. Of course, quite a few people do this subconsciously and many don't realize that they're lashing out when it's happening. 

You can lash out by being more controlling or by getting angry more easily. In relationships, for example, those who lack confidence or self-esteem are more likely to monitor their partner closely compared to those who have high self-esteem. You may, on the other hand, find yourself retreating from your friends or social situations. This is because it's sometimes easier to remove ourselves from a situation than it is to face our insecurities. 

If you find yourself losing patience for those around you, you may want to reflect on why this is happening. It could simply be because you're lacking sleep or you didn't eat enough, however, it could also be a sign of something deeper.

  • You Can't Say No

This is something that a countless number of people struggle with daily. We all like to make people happy, but this trait can be found in extremes among those with low self-confidence. Whether your boss is asking you to do something or your friend needs a favour, you may find yourself saying yes in the moment and regretting it later. This is a definitive sign of low self-confidence and can result in a lack of boundaries that will negatively affect both professional and personal relationships. 

One of the best ways to manage this is to practice saying no with people outside of your entourage. When we have an emotional connection to someone, it becomes all that much harder to say no to them. So, practice with acquaintances or with people you don't know. When you build enough confidence to say no, you can move on to saying it to your friends, family, and coworkers.

  • You Can't Make Decisions

Those who lack confidence will often have a harder time making decisions. They may, for example, avoid making decisions because they don't want to make the wrong decision. On a deeper level, though, those who lack confidence may not want to make decisions because they have a profound belief that their needs aren't a priority compared to others. 

Understanding that your opinion and your needs are just as important as those of the people around you is fundamental in gaining self-confidence and in building your self-esteem. If you're known as being indecisive in your group of friends, you may want to reflect on why you're known for this and why you avoid making decisions.

Our best tip to help you become more assertive is to remind yourself that your opinion matters and that being assertive isn't the same as being aggressive. You're only responsible for your needs and you can express these needs while maintaining respect for those around you.

  • You Don't Take Responsibility

This isn't an obvious trait of those who lack self-esteem, however, it is incredibly common. Identifying whether this applies to you does take a significant amount of self-reflection and honesty, however, it can do wonders in helping you to build your confidence and in helping you to build more sustainable relationships.

If you're lacking confidence, you may avoid taking responsibility because you take your mistakes very seriously, and, as such, you can confuse the mistakes you make with who you are. Those with good self-esteem welcome their mistakes as much as their successes because they know that we are made of a combination of both. It's important to remember that you're allowed to make mistakes and that they don't define you as a person.

When you find yourself blaming other people, you should reflect on what your role was in that situation. You may have played a bigger part than you first thought.

  • You're a Compulsive Shopper

During times of high stress or when we experience certain signs of low self-esteem firsthand, we're more likely to shop. We may feel the need to change some part of our lives to appease another part that we're unhappy with. If you're feeling insecure about your appearance, for example, you may be more likely to buy clothing to gain more pride in the way you look. 

If you find yourself shopping excessively, it may be because you're unhappy with something. You may want to shift your perspective to one of abundance. List 10 things you have that you're grateful for before buying shopping compulsively.

  • You Avoid Promotions and Opportunities

Those with a lack of self-esteem may avoid applying for promotions because of the belief that they aren't qualified enough to get the job in the first place. If you find yourself feeling this way, you may be avoiding new opportunities altogether because you feel unworthy in some way. This can manifest into imposter syndrome, which occurs when you experience stress because you don't think you fit into a particular setting. Students who are accepted into a new program, for example, may feel that they don't fit in with other students because they don't share the same opinions or values.

Our biggest tip is to look over the requirements listed for different opportunities. If you meet all of the criteria and you're interested in the position, it can't hurt to at least apply.

  • You Fidget

One of the many ways low self-esteem can manifest is in the form of fidgeting. We've all been there-you're in an uncomfortable situation and you start to fidget with the closest thing to you. This applies to you if you often find yourself clicking pens, reaching for your phone to check for texts, etc. 

When you feel yourself reaching for your phone during the day, identify why you're doing so. If you're constantly looking for new messages, repeat the following mantra in your head: "I am worthy of love." 

  • You Always Say Sorry

There's nothing wrong with apologizing, however, if you find yourself doing this continuously, it's a definite sign that you're lacking in confidence. This doesn't apply to apologizing for bumping into people at the grocery store or apologizing for saying something offensive, rather, people with low self-esteem have the habit of saying they're sorry for things that aren't their fault or will repeatedly apologize for the same thing. 

Those who say sorry because of a lack of self-confidence will also apologize because of a sense of guilt. You may feel like you're taking up too much space, but try to remember that everyone in the room is taking up space as well and that taking up some space in a room won't prevent anyone else from being able to take up space.

  • You Can't Stand Your Ground

This ties in nicely with saying you're sorry excessively. Those who have low self-esteem also have a more difficult time standing their ground and expressing their opinion. Likewise, you might avoid giving your opinion in a conversation or during an argument. You might even have a hard time forming a definitive opinion on subjects. This applies to you if you often find yourself second-guessing whether you should speak during a conversation or if you often shift your opinion when someone opposes you. 

To manage this, start focusing on your breath. It may be difficult at first and it's okay if your mind wanders, however, taking a few breaths for yourself in those moments will give your system a break and will help you to clear your head.

  • You Reject Criticism

Not many people genuinely enjoy criticism, however, if you suffer from a lack of confidence, you're more likely to take this criticism personally and you're more likely to become defensive when being given constructive criticism. This can apply to your job, to your group of friends, or even to your family and it can lead to conflict between you and the person giving you criticism.

One of the best ways to deal with this is to count to yourself before you respond to criticism. This will give you time to process what was said and it will give you time to think of what to say. 

Final Thoughts - Finding Your Confidence

Finding the courage to face daily life with confidence isn't easy. Whether you lack self-esteem because of previous life experiences, perfectionism, etc., life is made that much harder when you're questioning your every move and the actions of those around you. That's why you need to identify the various signs associated with low self-esteem. From there, you can take the appropriate steps to build your confidence and to improve your overall quality of life. 

If you have low self-esteem, we want to know how you're managing it!

Do you have specific coping mechanisms?

Do you see any of the above signs in your behaviour?

Matt Tavarez

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