8 behaviors men display when they lack self-esteem

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Men can be complicated creatures.

Trust me – I am one!

Like everyone else, we face stereotypes and expectations of our roles and responsibilities. 

Ideally, men are supposed to be strong, brave, and confident, right?

Well, that seems to be what’s expected of us. So what happens when a man doesn’t fit perfectly into this picture?

What if a man doesn’t have the confidence and self-esteem that’s expected of him? What does that look like?

For some people, it’s not so easy to tell. That’s why I’m going to highlight these eight behaviors men display when they lack self-esteem.

They’ll help you be able to identify men with self-esteem issues so you can do what you can to help.

1) They slouch

Hey, I work at a keyboard most days, so I know my posture isn’t the best.

But my slouching is due to hunching over the keys all day, whereas many other men slouch for another reason.

They have poor self-esteem.

This means they don’t see a lot of value in themselves and their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and abilities.

You’ll see men like this around, looking dejected. They have their shoulders hunched forward and their backs curled over into what looks like an uncomfortable posture. 

And it is!

This posture puts all the strain of a man’s weight on his spine rather than on his muscles, and it causes aches and discomfort, too.

When a man stands up straight, he seems a lot more proud, confident, and capable, as moms everywhere will be happy to tell you!

2) They’re often depressed

When we understand exactly what low self-esteem is, we can quickly understand why men who have it tend to show signs of depression.

According to the American Psychological Association, self-esteem is “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive … low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are common depressive symptoms”.

This includes a person’s degree of accomplishments and capabilities, how they live up to them, as well as how others view them.

When all this adds up to a pretty low score, a man feels like he has little value, and that can certainly make him depressed.

He may show very little energy and certainly little to no “joie de vivre”. This can also be called anhedonia, which is an inability to experience pleasure or joy.

Instead, their lives can be overtaken by feelings of sadness, lack of energy, hopelessness, and a total lack of motivation.

3) They’re self-deprecating

When you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s easy to start saying negative and critical things about yourself.

This is a behavior you’re very likely going to see in a man with low self-esteem.

He’ll say things like “I’m no good at that,” “I do everything wrong,” or “I’m such a failure.”

Is this all genuine, or is it aimed at getting people to sympathize with him, try to cheer him, and tell him it’s not true?

Well, I’d say both.

When someone feels like this and says it out loud, the feelings are probably genuine, but the statements are designed to get people to notice them. In other words, they’re looking for some external validation – for someone to say, “Don’t be silly. You’re not a bad guy.”

This shows that the man is really struggling and is reaching out for help. But the truth is, self-esteem is something he’ll have to find within himself and build up over time. So, asking for help in this way is just a Band-Aid solution.

4) They’re often negative

In case you thought that a man with low self-esteem would confine his negative thoughts and feelings to himself, you thought wrong.

When a man has such negative feelings about himself, they start to spread outward and color all of his experiences with the outside world.

He starts to see everything through glasses that are anything but rose-tinted, and this negativity becomes evident in all of his behavior.

He’ll be critical, pessimistic, and just have a generally unhappy demeanor.

The really unfortunate thing is that the more negative he is, the more he’ll push other people away. This social rejection will confirm to him that he’s not a good person with a lot of value and will bring his self-esteem down even further.

5) They lack confidence

It should be no surprise that men who have low self-esteem also lack confidence.

You might even ask what the difference is between these two concepts.

We’ve already covered self-esteem, which is an assessment of a person’s own value.

Self-confidence is the person’s trust or faith in their capacities, abilities, and judgment.

So low self-esteem is saying, “I don’t have any value,” and low self-confidence is saying, “I’m not good at anything,” or “I can’t do it.”

They’re very much related concepts.

When a man lacks self-confidence, he constantly puts roadblocks in his own way.

Should he interview for that great job? No, they’ll just choose someone better anyway.

What about quitting his day job and focusing on his side hustle? Naw, it’ll probably fail.

This is how men’s low confidence affects their choices and their lives.

6) They try to please others

With their own opinion of themselves being very low, some men try to please others in an attempt to get some external validation.

They might seem to go out of their way to do favors for friends or coworkers and will even volunteer to do things without asking.

They’ll also keep their opinions and beliefs to themselves if they conflict with the things other people are expressing.

They’ll put other people’s needs before their own in an attempt to make people like them and get that validation they’re not able to give to themselves.

In the end, though, they usually end up being used. Other people will quickly recognize their people-pleasing behavior and start to take advantage of them. 

They’ll ask for favors that they wouldn’t dare ask anyone else and generally take advantage of what seems like their kindness. 

Then, the men with low self-esteem are trapped.  

They have to choose between being used or saying no and risking looking like bad people.

7) They don’t create and defend their boundaries

Boundaries are very important in the formation of a personality.

Each of us has things that we don’t like, don’t feel comfortable doing, or don’t have time for. To protect ourselves from these things, we create boundaries that represent the extent of what we can tolerate.

Let’s think of them like the borders of a country.

If you don’t have any borders, anyone will be able to come in and do what they please, right?

It’s the same with boundaries.

If you don’t have any or don’t enforce them, other people will walk all over you. They’ll ask you for favors when you don’t have time. They’ll pressure you to do things that you find uncomfortable or even immoral, and you’ll end up going along with them.

This is the situation most men with low self-esteem find themselves in.

And because they don’t define or enforce their own boundaries, they also often end up in relationships with users and manipulators.

These people look for men they see as weak and unable to defend their boundaries effectively. They’ll move in and start using them for money, work, and favors, and may even subject them to emotional or even physical abuse.

8) They try to pressure their partners for sex

Here’s a really common behavior in men with low self-esteem.

Because they don’t feel like they’re really valuable, they’re always looking for external validation, and one big source of that is sex.

What’s more validating than when someone you like has sex with you?

The problem here is that they feel good about themselves when they get sex, but they feel bad and rejected when they don’t.

So, they begin to pressure their partners to have sex even when the partners aren’t interested or turned on. 

This is usually emotional manipulation. They’ll usually say things to suggest that if they don’t have sex, their partners don’t love or care about them.

It stops being about attraction and passion and starts to become coercive.

You can see why this tends to end up badly.

The partners feeling pressured will start to feel turned off and less likely to want to have sex. That makes the men feel even more rejected and apply even more pressure.

On and on, the cycle goes until it usually ends in a break-up.


These eight behaviors men display when they lack self-esteem are a lot more widespread than you may think. These are common patterns because low self-esteem eats away at people in predictable ways.

If you know a man in your life who you think might suffer from low self-esteem, these signs can help you be sure and then take steps to try to help. 

Communication and support are your best tools to help motivate someone to build their self-esteem.

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