People who have low self-esteem but still manage succeed in life usually display these 9 behaviors

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Almost everywhere you look, everyone seems to be saying that low self-esteem is a hindrance to success.

After all, if you have a poor opinion of yourself, how on earth will you ever get people to believe in you?

Besides, doesn’t low self-esteem make it extra hard to be excellent at anything, with all the second guessing and self-doubt?

Well, you might be surprised that  there are actually many people with low self-esteem who are successful—from tennis superstar Serena Williams to music icon David Bowie.

So how do they do it?

Whether consciously or not, people who have low self-esteem who manage to be successful do it by displaying these behaviors:

1) They focus on what they’re good at

Some people have poor self-esteem not because they suck at what they do, but because they want to be good at EVERYTHING. 

But no one person can be good at everything—we all know this—and yet, for whatever reason, they think they should be!

The difference between people who have low self-esteem who are successful and those who are not is that the latter fixate on their flaws and they take them very seriously.

The successful ones, through self-awareness, have realized that even if they suck at a lot of things, they only need to be good at least one thing.

And they focus on that one thing.

My friend is an excellent artist because she just accepted early on that she wasn’t good at anything else since childhood, so she focused all her energy on her craft.

She’s accepted that not everyone can be a Renaissance person who is excellent at everything.

If you try this strategy, trust me—you’ll also likely succeed.

2) They work harder than the average person

Because they think they lack the ‘natural’ talent, they make up for it by working harder than everyone else.

And what’s funny is that…perhaps it’s all in their mind!

Perhaps they’re actually good and yet they’re too blind to see it because they have incredibly high standards or they grew up in a critical household.

And so what happens?

They either become good (or even great) at what they do through the combination of effort, practice, and discipline.

Because their poor self-image keeps them from resting on their laurels, they are always striving and improving.

And sooner or later, this leads them to success.

3) They take calculated risks

They feel like they’re not good enough, but they’ll take risks anyway—as long as they’re calculated.

And you know what?  This might be the reason why they’re successful!

Confidence is great to have but too much confidence and optimism can actually be a bad thing, too—even dangerous!

Optimism bias, the strong belief of positive outcomes, can make us spend so much time, effort, and energy on things just because we can’t imagine things could fail.

My father got bankrupt because of his optimism. 

My friend got into an accident because he overestimated his capacity to ski well.

Good thing people with low self-esteem don’t have this problem. They’re more self-aware and rational than most people. 

And while many of them don’t become millionaires overnight, a lot of them eventually achieve success the slow and steady way because they’re not making risky decisions.

4) They believe in teamwork

People who have low self-esteem don’t believe they’re the best, nor that they can do it all on their own.

But while those who don’t become successful would just wallow in self-pity until the end of their life, those who succeed choose to lean on teamwork instead.

They believe that even if they don’t have all it takes, it’s okay because they can collaborate and ask for support.

  • They work with a mentor
  • They hire a trainer or an advisor
  • They collaborate with partners
  • They ask advice from experts
  • They even truly enjoy working with a team

What’s funny is that they’re probably already good at those things but because they’re insecure, they work with people who are better than them. In the end, they’re able to deliver exceptional work.

5) They hang out with the dreamers

They may think they’re not particularly exceptional, but they’ll hang out with greats anyways—even if they feel like a pony beside racehorses.

They don’t mind being the least brilliant person in the group, but only as long as they’re with the greats.

They know they stand to benefit the most by learning, growing, and being constantly inspired.  

So yes, they might have low self-confidence but because they don’t have the egotism to compete with winners, they end up becoming successful at what they do, too.

After all, we are the sum of the people we surround ourselves with.

So if you raise the stakes, even the average is still excellent.

6) They don’t take failure personally

People with low self-esteem feel like they don’t have what it takes to become successful.

But those who are able to succeed anyway are the ones who expect to fail. 

“Wait! Don’t you need to believe in yourself to be successful?,” you might ask.

Let me explain:  while other people have long given up, people with low self-esteem are still working at it.

They don’t see themselves as gifted, so they see failure as just a normal part of life. 

How do they do this?

They stay grounded in reality.

Instead of idealizing stories of overnight successes, genius discoveries or instant billionaires, they read story after story of people who’ve succeeded after several failures.

They study about resilience and grit, and they keep learning from each failure until they eventually succeed. 

7) They keep learning

People who have low self-esteem don’t think they’re exceptional in any way whatsoever.

In fact, they always question themselves and they’re ashamed of just expressing what’s on their mind.

But the ones who still manage to succeed don’t just stop at feeling incompetent.

They take the necessary steps to become better by learning. 

So if they think they suck at investing, they’d geek out about it.

If they want to learn a musical instrument, they don’t expect to play like Beethoven after a few classes and instead block off time for regular practice.

They know they’re not a genius but because they continually try to learn, they end up becoming better than the laidback confident person who thinks they’re already great.

And of course, they beat those who remain idle just because of their low self-esteem.

8) They get inspiration from others

People with low self-esteem look up to others.

But while most of them think “Why can’t I be like them?”, the people who manage to succeed are the ones who see them as inspiration rather than competition.

They’ll say things like “I’ll be as good as them one day” or “I can publish my work too!”

When they see an artist who is better at the craft, rather than getting demotivated they give themselves a reasonable timeline and resources.

And because of this, even if they think they’re not good enough, they’re generally more motivated, positive, and most importantly, proactive.

9) They continuously work on their self-esteem

They might still have low self-esteem…but they’ve actually improved a lot!

Once upon a time, they couldn’t even express their ideas even to one person. But now?

They’re able to talk in front of a small group.

As a kid they couldn’t even talk to anyone on the phone, but now they’re able to give presentations, even though they still get major jitters. 

Isn’t that progress?

Those who end up unsuccessful because of their self-esteem are the ones who don’t do anything about it.

But the ones who manage to succeed in life are the ones who recognize that while having low self-esteem can be a big obstacle to success, it’s not the end of the world.

Still, the best way to fast-track success is developing confidence in oneself.

And that’s what they proactively try to work on.

Final thoughts:

Now you know that you don’t have to “fake it till you make it.”

Even if you have low self-esteem, you can still have an authentic life that fully honors your capacity while still priming yourself for growth and expansion.

Plus, having low self-esteem also has the benefit of making people want to support you because you never look arrogant or overconfident.

So take a look around because even when you feel like you’re not so popular, you’re likely surrounded by people who are rooting for you.

You’ve got the charm of the underdog who works quietly and never gives up.

Ethan Sterling

Ethan Sterling has a background in entrepreneurship, having started and managed several small businesses. His journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship provides him with practical insights into personal resilience, strategic thinking, and the value of persistence. Ethan’s articles offer real-world advice for those looking to grow personally and professionally.

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