People with low self-esteem display these 10 behaviors (without realizing it)

Navigating through life with low self-esteem can be like walking through a minefield blindfolded. You’re never quite sure of your worth, and you often undervalue yourself without even realizing it.

Low self-esteem isn’t something you choose, it’s a mindset that’s often deeply ingrained and hidden. It’s tricky to spot, but there are certain behaviors that expose it.

These behaviors are like tell-tale signs, shining a light on those moments when we’re not giving ourselves the credit we deserve. And the first step to boosting our self-esteem is recognizing these behaviors.

Let’s delve into 10 common behavioral patterns that people with low self-esteem exhibit (often without realizing it).

1) They frequently apologize

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to apologize for everything? Even when it’s clearly not their fault? That’s a classic sign of low self-esteem.

People with low self-esteem often feel like they’re walking on eggshells, trying not to upset anyone. They worry that their actions or words might have caused discomfort, so they resort to constant apologies to smooth things over.

Apologizing is deeply ingrained in their behavior, it’s like an automatic response. They might not even realize they’re doing it, but this habit clearly signals their lack of self-confidence.

2) They struggle to accept compliments

I can still remember when my friend complimented my new haircut. She said, “Your hair looks fabulous!” My immediate response wasn’t “thank you,” but rather, “No, it’s a mess. I didn’t have time to style it this morning.”

This is another common behavior of people with low self-esteem. They have a hard time accepting compliments because they don’t truly believe they deserve them. Rather than graciously accepting the praise, they might downplay it, dismiss it, or deflect it back onto the other person.

It took some time and self-reflection for me to realize this about myself. Now I make a conscious effort to simply accept compliments with a smile and a thank you. It’s a small change, but it has made a big difference in how I see myself.

3) They often engage in negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is like a dark cloud that follows people with low self-esteem. They often berate themselves for minor mistakes, or even for imagined faults, creating a cycle of self-deprecation.

Psychologists have found that our thoughts have a profound impact on our emotions and behaviors. In other words, if you consistently tell yourself that you’re not good enough, you’ll start to believe it and behave accordingly.

Breaking free from this cycle involves becoming aware of this negative chatter and replacing it with positive affirmations. It’s not easy, but it’s a crucial step towards building a healthier self-esteem.

4) They avoid expressing their needs

People with low self-esteem often struggle to express their needs or desires. They fear that doing so might inconvenience others, or worse, lead to rejection. So they tend to bottle up their feelings and put others’ needs before their own.

This behavior might seem selfless on the surface, but it’s a form of self-neglect that can lead to resentment over time. Learning to express one’s needs is an essential step in building self-esteem. It’s about acknowledging that your feelings and needs are just as important as everyone else’s.

5) They strive for perfection

People with low self-esteem often have an unrealistic expectation of perfection. They believe that if they’re not perfect, they’re a failure. This pressure can lead to extreme stress and anxiety.

The fear of making a mistake or not meeting high standards can paralyze them, keeping them from taking risks or trying new things. This perfectionist mindset is a defense mechanism to avoid criticism or rejection, but it’s a trap that keeps them stuck in a cycle of self-doubt.

Understanding that nobody is perfect and that making mistakes is a part of growth is a vital step in overcoming this behavior.

6) They struggle to make decisions

Making decisions can be a real challenge for people with low self-esteem. They fear making the wrong choice and facing potential criticism or rejection. They may overthink even the simplest decisions, constantly second-guessing themselves.

I’ve seen this play out with a dear friend of mine. She would spend hours deliberating over a menu at a restaurant, anxious about making the wrong choice. It was heartbreaking to see her agonize over something so simple.

It’s okay to make mistakes. Each one is an opportunity to learn and grow, and no single decision defines who you are as a person.

7) They often compare themselves to others

There was a time when I would look at my peers and feel a pang of envy. They seemed more successful, more confident, just…more. It was as if everyone else had it figured out, while I was left behind.

This is a common trait among those with low self-esteem. They compare their lives with others and judge themselves harshly for not measuring up. Social media only amplifies this issue, presenting carefully curated highlights that can distort reality.

The key is to remember we all have our unique paths and struggles. Instead of comparing, focus on your journey and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

8) They tend to be people-pleasers

You might imagine that people with low self-esteem are withdrawn or antisocial. But oddly enough, they’re often the exact opposite. They go out of their way to please others, sometimes to their own detriment.

This behavior stems from a desire to be liked and accepted. They fear that if they upset someone, they’ll be rejected, so they bend over backward to keep everyone happy.

But constantly prioritizing others’ needs over your own can be draining and detrimental to your mental health. Learning to set boundaries is an essential step towards building self-esteem.

9) They have difficulty accepting constructive criticism

Constructive criticism is meant to help us grow and improve. However, for people with low self-esteem, it can feel like a personal attack. They may take it to heart, seeing it as proof of their perceived inadequacy rather than a means to improve.

Their reaction to criticism may range from defensive behavior to withdrawing completely. This is because they already view themselves through a critical lens, and any additional criticism only amplifies their self-doubt.

Learning to interpret criticism positively and use it as a tool for self-improvement is a crucial step in boosting self-esteem.

10) They dismiss their achievements

People with low self-esteem have a tendency to downplay their accomplishments. No matter how big or small, they often attribute their success to luck or external factors, rather than recognizing their own skills and hard work.

This behavior keeps them in a cycle of self-doubt, as they never fully acknowledge their potential. It’s important to celebrate every achievement – it’s a testament to your abilities and proof that you are capable. Acknowledging your accomplishments helps build confidence and reinforces your self-worth.

Embracing the journey towards self-esteem

Understanding the behaviors associated with low self-esteem is just the beginning of a transformative journey. It’s about recognizing these patterns and actively working to break free from them.

Remember, each of us has inherent worth that is not defined by our achievements, appearance, or the approval of others. The path to a healthier self-esteem starts with self-acceptance. It’s about embracing our strengths, acknowledging our flaws, and realizing that we are enough just as we are.

Psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This powerful insight illustrates the importance of self-acceptance in our journey towards self-improvement.

Take a moment to reflect on your behaviors. Are there any you recognize in yourself? Remember, recognizing these behaviors is not an end, but a beginning. It’s the first step towards cultivating a healthier relationship with yourself.

As you navigate this journey, be patient and kind to yourself. After all, self-esteem is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace it.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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