We all have insecurities, but when do they become a sign of low-self esteem? How does that show up in men? And what can we do about it?
We’ll start with some of the more worrying signs of low self-esteem and then look at the unexpected ones.
Read on to find out more.
1) He is frequently jealous for no reason
It’s normal to get jealous from time to time, in fact some relationship therapists think that it’s healthy.
But what isn’t healthy is when low self-esteem leads a man to keep questioning his partner about other people.
It doesn’t matter how honest or faithful you as the partner are.
A man with very low self-esteem will suspect that he isn’t really good enough for you. And that you’ll be jumping on the next person who shows interest in you.
If your partner keeps getting angry at you with unjustified jealousy, it’s time to sit them down and have a compassionate talk about your relationship, self-worth, and boundaries.
2) He can’t be wrong
I once dated an older guy who COULD NOT be wrong.
If you challenged him or offered another idea he would get extremely angry.
Obviously, he didn’t start out that way with me. But that’s how things ended up. (Although I had noticed his wrath towards other people early on, a red flag was missed!)
On one occasion I had to walk in the wrong direction from his hotel in a city late at night because it was easier than contradicting him. Generally, I just had to let him make his own mistakes and realize by himself. He was ok with being wrong if he figured it out. No one else was allowed to though!
Ultimately this unfortunate gentleman was plagued by covert narcissism. And so his inner buried lack of self-esteem manifested in various insidious ways like this.
When confronted with criticism, men like this become defensive almost instinctively. He would shield his vulnerable self-esteem from perceived attacks. And he saw attacks everywhere!
This sensitivity to judgment, coupled with preexisting self-doubt, makes men like him reactive to any hint of disapproval.
This defensiveness is there as a self-protective mechanism. It usually stems from a traumatic event in the past. But if they remain unself-aware it hinders their growth and openness to constructive feedback.
3) He puts you down
This is an escalation of the narcissism. Since the guy’s whole defense strategy is based on hiding his low self-worth from himself and everyone else – he puts you down.
The (sad and troubling) reason behind it is that they subconsciously know/hope that if they lower your self-worth, it will make you less likely to leave them.
Again, many narcissists stay nice for a few months or just enough to reel you in. If someone dramatically changes and incessantly criticizes you and gets angry, take a step back.
You may wish to chase that amazing feeling you had at the start, but the chances are, that person that made you feel that way was a persona. The person you long for is never coming back.
Harsh truths, but better to realize sooner rather than later. I know, because I’ve been there.
Now above are some particularly troubling ways that a lack of esteem can show up in, here are some others:
4) He has difficulty accepting compliments
Do you know a man who is always brushing off compliments or not believing positive feedback from others?
I dated a gorgeous guy many years ago, and a very lovely person and a talented musician. When I would tell him how handsome or talented he was, he couldn’t believe it!
I thought that was great at first (kind, handsome talented, and not arrogant!) But later I realized it pointed to a lack of self-esteem.
Men like my ex may find it challenging to internalize kind words or praise, leading them to dismiss or downplay the significance of such gestures. Their minds become filled with doubt and skepticism.
They question the sincerity behind the compliments, almost as if they cannot fathom being worthy of genuine admiration.
The tricky part of this situation lies in the contradiction between their yearning for validation and their inability to accept it when it comes. They crave external affirmation to soothe their inner insecurities, yet they remain guarded against any glimmer of positivity directed their way.
This creates a continuous cycle of seeking and rejecting validation, leaving them emotionally unfulfilled and their self-esteem diminished.
This can also lead to the next point:
5) He frequently compares himself to others
Men with low self-esteem are very likely to be comparing themselves to others.
The constant comparison to others adds to their inner turmoil.
Whether in terms of achievements, appearance, or success, they feel inferior to their peers. They may also feel unworthy of a romantic partner who they perceive to be doing better than them.
This tendency to measure their self-worth against external benchmarks intensifies the burden of low self-esteem.
It can lead some men to a never-ending quest for unattainable perfection, whether at the gym or in their work, leaving them trapped in a cycle of self-criticism and dissatisfaction.
6) He shows a lack of assertiveness
What does a lack of assertiveness look like?
Some signs include struggling to express needs and opinions clearly, and frequently prioritizing others’ preferences and needs over their own. He puts his desires on the backburner to maintain a semblance of harmony.
This self-sacrifice may temporarily appease those around him, but it perpetuates a cycle of self-neglect and unmet emotional needs.
I knew a guy (yes, another ex!) who felt so unassertive it was like he didn’t believe that his own wants mattered. He once was accosted by a sales street person who forced him to go to the bank and withdraw money to support something he didn’t believe in. Why? He just didn’t know how to say no!
7) He may avoid eye contact
In social settings, you may notice that his discomfort with maintaining eye contact is evident.
It is as if he fears that his eyes are a window to his vulnerability, and meeting someone else’s gaze exposes the fragility they try so hard to conceal.
This unease in making eye contact creates an invisible barrier between him and others, hindering genuine connections and reinforcing their feelings of isolation.
It can also make people perceive him as weak or shifty.
8) He gets passive-aggressive
When confronted with issues, some men may resort to passive-aggressive behavior, expressing frustration or anger indirectly rather than openly addressing the problem.
Additionally, they may become defensive easily, feeling sensitive to criticism and reacting defensively to protect their fragile self-esteem.
Take Adam. Have you met someone like this at work? He’s a 30-year-old software developer who’s talented, hardworking, and dedicated to his job.
However, beneath his seemingly confident exterior, Adam struggles with low self-esteem.
He constantly doubts his abilities and compares himself to his colleagues. He secretly believes that he’s not as skilled or competent as they are.
Because of his low self-esteem, Adam tends to avoid confrontation and expressing his feelings directly. He often finds himself resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors as a way to cope with his emotions.
For instance, during team meetings, when a coworker suggests a new idea, Adam might give a half-hearted nod and say, “Sure, we could try that,” but then proceed to undermine the idea behind their back to other colleagues.
With people like Adam, communication becomes veiled with innuendos and subtle jabs, avoiding direct confrontation. This masks their true feelings, adding an air of unpredictability to their interactions.
Their volatile emotions, hidden beneath the surface, occasionally erupt in subtle yet meaningful ways, causing confusion and tension for those around them.
Low self-esteem – the takeaway
If you or someone you know is suffering from low self-esteem – don’t worry, there are many ways that you can work on this. Start with self-compassion and Dr. Kristen Neff. She has some great Ted Talks and free guided meditation mp3s for self-esteem.
If you’re dating, be aware that some of the points above (particularly those that involve anger and jealousy) can be difficult for long-term relationships. If so, it’s important that he is on a journey of self-growth, and that you realize that self-work takes time. Never accept bullying or bad behavior whatever the reason.
Only you can decide if you can support someone on their journey, but if you aren’t sure, it may be better to be friends and see if they are willing to work on themselves.
On the other hand, sometimes a couple both focused on growth can make wonders together.
Whatever you choose, do share this article with anyone that you think needs to read it!