10 signs a man has low self-esteem, according to psychology

It’s not always easy to tell if a man has poor self-esteem.

It could be that he’s simply shy or he’s just bad at handling people. These behaviors do not necessarily mean someone has low self-esteem!

Thankfully, there are still little obvious tells that you can look out for.

Here are 10 signs that a man has poor self-esteem, according to psychology.

1) He’s painfully self-deprecating

Social psychology has linked self-deprecation or “negative self-evaluation” with poor self-esteem. 

If you hear someone use self-deprecating humor, chances are that they’re either extremely confident or they’re the exact opposite.

Confident people are easy enough to identify. The mood stays light even when they drop a self-deprecatory joke or two.

A man with poor self-esteem, on the other hand, will make things awkward very quickly once he starts poking fun at himself.

He goes too far. 

He gets too specific. 

And he degrades himself with so much sincerity that you can’t help but go “uhhh, are you okay?”

When confident people poke fun at themselves, it’s because they’ve accepted their flaws. When a man with poor self-esteem does the same, it’s because he’s actually ashamed of his flaws.

2) He avoids risks like the plague

He really, really, really does not want to do anything unless he’s 100% sure that he can do it—especially when there are risks involved.

It doesn’t matter even if the risk is, objectively, very minor.

He might say “no” when his best friend asks if he could cook for a party, for example. He might not be half bad, but he’s sure that he’s going to be a disappointment regardless.

And if he’s nominated to be a team leader at work, it doesn’t matter how many people vouch for him—he’ll turn the nomination down.

According to a study, courage and self-esteem go hand-in-hand. 

The study concluded that the way we were raised by our parents happens to have a significant impact.

Anxious and avoidant parents in particular raised children who had less self-esteem and, in turn, less courage. 

So…are they scared of taking risks? And are their parents anxious or avoidant? 

Then he’s probably suffering from low self-esteem.

3) He’s needy and clingy

Does he text too much? 

And when you don’t reply, does he go “Where are you? Didn’t you get my texts?”

When you go out, does he go “But what time will you come home?”

Men with poor self-esteem can’t stand feeling like they’re being ignored or left out. 

They’re afraid that people will realize just how “worthless” they are and leave them if they aren’t always there.

This is called the anxious attachment relationship style, and according to a study it often comes in a package with low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. 

4) He’s incapable of trusting others

You might have been married for years. Or maybe you’ve been best friends since you were kids.

You might have always been genuine with him and stood by his side whenever he’s down and in need of a helping hand.

But it doesn’t matter.

As I mentioned before, he’s completely convinced that he’s worthless—a failure of a man who’s bound to be abandoned by everyone.

You may think that he’s not worthless. Hell, he might even be the world to you.

But he won’t ever be able to understand… not until his self-esteem gets better, at least. 

This is supported by a study which concludes that paranoia and an inability to trust coincide with negative self-esteem.

5) He overcompensates

That is to say, he tries to hide his low self-esteem by overcompensating and acting like he’s the best and the greatest.

He puts on a brave face and brags. 

He throws his weight around and acts haughty.

Sometimes that bluster is linked to his insecurities. 

A man who’s insecure about his career success might try to overplay just how rich he is, for example.

But it might just as well be some positive trait that he’s latched on. 

If he feels absolutely worthless but has been praised once or twice about being “smart”, he’ll style himself a genius on the same caliber as Einstein.

6) He can’t handle criticism

This one is damning. 

People with poor self-esteem tend to take criticism badly.

But insecure men? They take it extremely badly.

It’s not because they’re men, not exactly. It’s because of how men are raised—they’re told that they should be “strong”, that they should lead, and that their worth as a person depends on it.

So when he gets criticized (especially by a woman), all he sees is that people want to tear him down.

And while you might find a guy here and there who becomes withdrawn as a result, most men instead get mad and lash out. 

Can’t blame them. It’s what they’ve been taught since they’re born.

7) He’s extremely defensive

He’s the kind of person who might seem calm at a glance. But say the wrong thing and he’ll go off on you!

Being around him makes you feel like you’re walking on glass. You can’t even know if something’s going to set him off or not until it happens!

Did you complain that you don’t like spicy food? Unfortunately for you, he loves spicy food and decided to take your words as a personal insult!

It doesn’t make sense, but emotions don’t really make sense. That’s why they’re emotions.

There’s a reason why men with poor self-esteem are so defensive and fragile. 

They don’t like themselves so much and believe that the world is out to get them.

8) He craves approval

He’s needy and clingy, yes, but this goes beyond that!

He needs someone—you!— to keep telling him that he’s doing a good job. 

He needs to be told over and over that he’s great, that he’s a good person, and that he’s not as horrible or worthless as he himself believes.

But no matter how much praise he gets, it’s never enough.

 It’s almost like he’s a black hole that feeds on praise and approval!

Our self-esteem is based both on external and internal sources. But he’s a little imbalanced.

He gets so little from the internal (he doesn’t like himself), he’ll try to get more from his external sources.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that this isn’t exactly good for his mental health.

What it does is leave him forever hungry for praise that will never linger overlong. He might even get depressed for not getting his supply.

And he’ll stay that way until he learns to be kind to himself and get himself that internal validation that he’s always needed.

9) He puts others on a pedestal

He looks up to others with such reverence that it’s a bit frightening.

It could be his partner, a friend, or some random celebrity that he doesn’t know personally.

It’s normal to look up to and admire a couple of famous people here and there, or for us to adore our partners.

But usually we simply admire them. We acknowledge their flaws and merits both. Unfortunately, men with poor self-esteem don’t do that.

Instead, they worship their favorite people’s strengths.

It doesn’t matter to him that you yourself struggle with your own self-doubts, and that you have failed to do the right thing more than once.

He’ll only ever see what he wants to see.

10) He struggles to make decisions

Should he go buy a new toothpaste? 

Should he buy a more expensive brand, or look for something cheaper?

These are all relatively no biggie, but for someone who struggles with self-esteem, these choices suddenly become a lot more challenging.

I know—I’ve been there. 

And I know exactly why.

He isn’t used to making decisions and he doesn’t trust his own judgment (after all, he has low self-regard), so he ends up overanalyzing things.

Every single decision ends up being a far bigger deal in his head than it actually is in reality.

A small misstep most of us just brush off has him wondering if everyone’s finally learned to hate him.

Final thoughts

It’s not easy dealing with men who have as much self-esteem as a cup completely drained of water.

But it’s best to try to be understanding. Not all of us are fortunate enough to grow up in a healthy environment.

If he happens to be someone that actively puts you in danger—like if he has severe anger issues and has broken a chair or two in his time—then by all means, keep your distance.

But if you’re sure that they’re not going to ever harm you mentally or otherwise, don’t be afraid to help them get better. 

Be there for them.

Tell them they’re awesome.

Give them company. 

Encourage them to take therapy.

All these things add up, sooner or later. 

And who knows? 

It might just help him break free of his self-esteem issues.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

If you’ve had these 9 experiences in life, you’re gaining wisdom and strength

8 phrases a master manipulator will use to trick and mislead you