8 signs a man has low self-esteem in a relationship

If you’re a guy wondering why things are bumpy in your love life, or if you think your partner might be struggling, then this is for you.

Remember, everyone has some doubts and worries, but constant low self-esteem is a whole different thing.

It can make both people in the relationship unhappy.

So what are the signs that a guy has low self-esteem?

Let’s jump into the 8 key things to look for.

1. He’s Always Seeking Approval

When a guy has low self-esteem, it’s like he’s carrying around a “please like me” sign without even knowing it.

He might constantly ask if you love him or if you find him attractive.

It’s not just a cute “Do you love me?” once in a while; it’s more like he needs to hear it all the time to feel okay about himself.

Sure, everyone likes a little pat on the back or a compliment now and then, but if it feels like he can’t make a decision or take a step without your thumbs-up, that’s a red flag.

His need for approval can turn into a draining cycle, where no amount of assurance seems enough.

Over time, this can get exhausting for both him and you.

2. He Compares Himself to Others—A Lot

We’ve all been there, right? Scrolling through social media and thinking, “Wow, that guy has it all. What am I doing with my life?”

It’s human to compare ourselves occasionally, but when it becomes a habit, it’s a real problem.

If your guy is always sizing himself up against others—whether it’s the ripped guy at the gym, a co-worker who just got a promotion, or even one of your exes—he might be wrestling with low self-esteem.

“Why can’t I be more like him?” is a thought that plays on repeat in his head.

When I was younger, I had a friend who did this all the time.

Trust me, it didn’t make him any happier.

Instead, it made him anxious and unhappy because he was always chasing an impossible standard.

If your guy is doing the same, it can add stress to your relationship and make him feel inadequate, no matter how much you reassure him.

3. He Puts Himself Down

We all have moments when we feel like we’ve goofed up and say something like, “Ah, I’m such an idiot!”

But when you’re dealing with a man who has low self-esteem, this kind of self-criticism isn’t just occasional; it’s a soundtrack that plays in the background of his life, every day.

This is self-sabotage in action. If he’s constantly belittling himself, calling himself names, or downplaying his own achievements, he’s not just being modest or self-deprecating.

He genuinely feels he’s not good enough.

Hearing someone you care about rip themselves apart is heartbreaking, and let’s be real—no amount of “No, you’re amazing!” from you is going to silence that inner critic of his.

Until he addresses his low self-esteem, that nagging voice in his head is going to keep chipping away at both him and your relationship.

4. He Overcompensates by Acting Overconfident

Hold on a minute—shouldn’t someone with low self-esteem seem, well, less confident?

Sometimes guys with low self-esteem puff themselves up like a peacock.

They talk big, act like they’re the king of the world, and seem like they have it all together.

Ironically, this can be a defense mechanism.

He’s wearing a mask of overconfidence to hide his insecurities.

You might catch glimpses of his true feelings when that façade cracks—like when he reacts poorly to criticism or gets overly defensive.

I knew a guy like this in college. He was the life of the party, always boasting about his achievements and showing off.

It took a long time for me to realize that underneath it all, he was deeply insecure.

His bravado was just a smokescreen, and once you saw through it, it was pretty clear he was battling some serious self-esteem issues.

So if your guy is acting like he’s God’s gift to humanity, but something just feels off, it might be worth digging deeper.

Chances are, that inflated ego is actually a balloon ready to pop.

5. He’s Extremely Jealous and Possessive

A tiny bit might seem flattering at first—like he really cares about you, right?

But when it crosses a line, watch out. If he’s checking your phone, questioning you about where you’ve been, or acting like you’re on trial for hanging out with other people, that’s not love—it’s a sign of low self-esteem.

In his mind, every time you talk to another guy or spend time with friends, it’s a threat.


Because he’s scared. Scared that he’s not good enough for you and that you’ll leave him for someone “better.”

This kind of jealousy isn’t just annoying; it’s unhealthy.

It puts you in a position where you feel like you have to defend your actions all the time.

Nobody needs that kind of stress.

6. He Avoids Serious Conversations About Your Relationship

You know how some people hate going to the dentist?

They know they should, but they put it off because they’re afraid of what the dentist might find.

That’s how some men with low self-esteem feel about serious relationship talks.

Back in the day, I had a buddy who would break out into a cold sweat whenever his girlfriend said, “We need to talk.”

Not because he didn’t care about her or the relationship, but because he was terrified of hearing something that would confirm his deepest fear—that he’s not good enough or that he’s failing as a partner.

If your man sidesteps deep conversations about your future, commitment, or how he feels about you, it might be because he’s scared of facing his insecurities.

The irony? Avoiding these conversations usually makes the issues worse, not better.

It’s like ignoring a leaky faucet; sooner or later, you’re dealing with a flood.

7. He Undermines Your Achievements and Goals

This one hurts, but we need to talk about it. When someone loves you, they should be your biggest cheerleader.

But if your guy has low self-esteem, your successes might make him feel even more inadequate. Instead of lifting you up, he might make snide comments, belittle your achievements, or even discourage you from pursuing your goals.

It’s like he thinks there’s only so much success to go around, and if you’re getting your share, it must mean he’s missing out on his.

This is a deep-rooted issue, and it’s as raw as it gets: He’s tearing you down to lift himself up.

And let’s be real—nobody deserves that. You shouldn’t have to dim your light so someone else can shine.

If he can’t stand to see you succeed, the problem isn’t with you; it’s with his self-esteem and that’s something he needs to fix.

8. He Goes Overboard with Gifts and Gestures

Sometimes, a man with low self-esteem uses extravagant gifts or over-the-top romantic gestures as a way to “buy” your love or approval.

You’d think a guy confident in himself and his relationship would feel secure enough to show love in simple, genuine ways.

But when self-esteem is lacking, sometimes men feel like they have to go big or go home.

It’s as if he’s trying to make up for his perceived inadequacies by wooing you with that expensive necklace or surprise weekend getaway.

I had an uncle who did this all the time with his partners.

He thought splurging on lavish gifts was the way to secure love, but it always felt like he was trying too hard.

It made you wonder what hole he was trying to fill.

Don’t get me wrong, gifts are great, and who doesn’t love a romantic gesture?

But when it feels more like a performance than a heartfelt act, that’s a red flag.

Your love and commitment shouldn’t have to be “earned” with a price tag.

5 Practical Tips to Help Your Man Boost His Self-Esteem

Alright, so we’ve talked about the signs that your man might have low self-esteem.

Recognizing the issue is the first step, but what can you actually do about it?

If you love this guy and want to help, it might feel like you’re walking on a tightrope.

You don’t want to make him feel even more self-conscious, but you also can’t ignore the problem.

So here are 5 quick and practical tips to help your man tackle his self-esteem issues.

These aren’t magic bullets, but they can make a positive difference if you approach them with love and understanding.

1. Communicate Openly and Honestly

Talk to him about what you’ve observed without making it sound like an attack.

Use “I” statements, like “I’ve noticed you often doubt yourself,” rather than “You always seem so insecure.”

Open dialogue could be the first step in acknowledging the issue.

2. Offer Compliments, But Make Them Count

Compliments can go a long way, but only if they’re genuine.

Instead of vague praise like “You’re awesome,” try being specific about what you love or appreciate about him.

For example, say, “I really admire how dedicated you are at work” or “You’re really good at making people feel welcome.”

3. Encourage Him to Seek Professional Help

Low self-esteem can be a deep-seated issue, and sometimes love alone can’t fix it.

Suggest that he speak to a therapist or counselor. It’s not a sign of weakness but a step toward better mental health.

4. Be Supportive, Not a Crutch

There’s a fine line between being supportive and becoming a crutch.

Be there for him, but don’t enable his low self-esteem by constantly reassuring him or taking over tasks he doesn’t feel confident about.

He needs to build his self-esteem on his own; you can’t do it for him.

5. Keep Boundaries and Maintain Your Own Well-being

While it’s natural to want to help your partner, don’t neglect your own needs.

Helping someone with low self-esteem can be draining, so make sure you’re also taking time for yourself and maintaining your own sense of self-worth.

These are quick and straightforward tips, but they can make a world of difference if applied with sensitivity and care.

Remember, you can be supportive, but ultimately, he has to take the steps to improve his own self-esteem.


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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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