Low self-esteem can be very damaging, causing people to doubt their basic worth and potential.
It often links back to early childhood trauma or negligence, but can also have cultural, social and body image roots.
Here’s how to spot a man with low self-esteem.
1) He apologizes all the time
The first of the telling signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he apologizes frequently.
Every second thing he says it seems like he’s saying “sorry,” or “if it’s not too much trouble.”
This can fall under the category of good manners and being polite, but if it’s happening excessively, these kind of endless apologies are usually a sign that he has a pretty poor image of himself.
It can sometimes even feel like this kind of guy wants to apologize for his own existence and needs!
2) His body language is droopy
Next up in the signs of low self-esteem in a man is that his body language is droopy.
He walks stooped over and hunched, but not for any physical reason.
He fidgets a lot and shuffles his feet nervously while talking to someone, often orienting his body away so as not to face someone face-to-face.
His shoulders are hunched and submissive and he often seems unsure what to do with his hands and keeps his eyes down.
Which brings me to the next point.
3) He avoids eye contact
Men with low self-esteem tend to avoid eye contact.
If they do make eye contact with you, they will generally look away soon after, as if ashamed of who they are or as if you will notice something about them that’s unworthy or disgusting.
This can often be tied back to early childhood trauma, bullying and other negative experiences.
Once somebody gets the idea that they are unworthy or “bad” imprinted on their psyche it can stick around for years, dogging them and causing behaviors like not meeting eye contact when somebody is talking to them or looking at them.
4) He mumbles a lot and speaks unclearly
The next of the signs of low self-esteem in a man is in his speech and verbiage.
A guy with low self-esteem tends to mumble a lot and speak very unclearly.
He will often trail off in the middle of a sentence and speak at low volume or without pronouncing words, as if ashamed to fully say what he wants to say.
He will also add many low self-esteem buzzwords into the statements he makes.
These are qualifiers that essentially weaken whatever has been said.
“I guess,” “maybe,” “kind of,” “like,” “I dunno.”
This brings up sign five.
5) He communicates indirectly
A man with low self-esteem usually communicates indirectly.
Generally, direct communication is associated with the masculine role, whereas indirect communication is associated with the feminine.
This is not because indirect communication is inherently low confidence, but because it is more subtle and lends itself to many women’s way of thinking and considering others.
But for a man of low self-esteem, indirect communication is just another way to essentially apologize for what he wants or needs.
Instead of saying “I’m hungry, what do you say we stop and get some food?” to his friend on a road trip he will say “Are you hungry? I guess we could stop for food soon. Or maybe later, if you want. I dunno.”
The difference is really stark when you start looking at it.
Which brings me to the next crucial sign…
6) He’s afraid to ask for what he wants
A man of low self-esteem is afraid to ask for what he wants.
He is the classic “nice guy” who often gets rejected by women and passed over for promotion and recognition.
The reason is that he’s excessively agreeable even when he’s not happy and is afraid to be direct and ask for what he wants.
Even something as small as being hungry or needing to go to the bathroom can be difficult for him as he feels he’s putting others out by making demands on them.
Even the smallest assertion of his presence makes him feel uncomfortable.
This kind of situation is done to great comedic effect in the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels when Steve Martin’s character hesitantly asks if he can go to the bathroom at a fancy dinner.
7) He’s surprised if his romantic interest is reciprocated
Next up in the signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he’s used to love not going his way.
If and when a partner returns his interest, he’s genuinely surprised.
He’s so used to rejection and disappointment that anything to the contrary is a huge bonus to him.
Don’t get me wrong:
Being happy about a new romantic opportunity is a healthy and reasonable reaction.
But this is different:
It’s a man who expects so much to be rejected that he practically rejoices when he’s not…
The result, sadly, is that all too often he then becomes over clingy, needy and intensely into the relationship right away, driving away the person who returned his interest initially.
8) He’s unaware or in denial about his talents
Another of the key signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he’s in denial about his talents.
If he’s a virtuoso violinist, he’ll brush it off as him just being “OK,” or simply shrug…
If he’s a scholar of Latin who’s blowing minds all over academia he’ll say he just likes “fancy words” and it’s really “not that amazing.”
This isn’t modesty.
It’s a guy who genuinely thinks his accomplishments aren’t much to talk about.
While he admires and appreciates others, when he looks in the mirror he doesn’t see that linguistic genius or that violin superstar, he just sees a loser.
The sad thing is that it’s very hard to convince a talented person that their talents matter if they won’t acknowledge or value them personally.
9) He believes he’s ugly and focuses on his flaws
The next of the signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he thinks he’s ugly and focuses on his flaws.
We all have some flaws, so he’s bound to have something, even if it’s that he thinks his nose is weirdly-shaped or that girls dislike him for his short height.
Could it be true?
Many people we meet throughout our day may like or dislike us for purely physical reasons.
The sad thing is that for the guy with low self-esteem his (true or untrue) beliefs about his physical drawbacks cause him to see himself in a very depressing light as a general belief.
10) He always backs down in business negotiations
Another of the signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he always backs down in business negotiations.
Instead of getting what he wants, he always settles and takes second best.
He ends up with the girl he loves after she’s had four kids and two divorces with various alpha males who abused her…
He ends up with a crappy entry level job years after his more dominant and confident friends are in the executive suite…
He just finds it so hard to stand up for himself and draw a line in the sand.
And it leads to very damaging results.
11) He doesn’t look after his hygiene or appearance
Another of the crucial and disturbing signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he doesn’t look after his hygiene or appearance.
At least not enough…
Sure, he’ll run a comb through his hair or trim his beard every week or two.
But he’s basically looking like a subway dweller and smelling close to it as well.
Low self-esteem that tells him he’s not worth the time and energy to spruce up and take care of.
12) He has a generally fatalist and pessimistic view of life
Lastly in the signs of low self-esteem in a man is that he tends to be a fatalist.
Life is suffering and there’s no hope.
Whether or not he’s religious or spiritual, his beliefs in these domains will often just fold into his overall disposition of hopelessness.
The truth is that when you think you’re not much good then hopelessness about life in general can often be the result.
The low self-esteem trap
The low self-esteem trap is simple and deadly:
The more you believe you’re not much good, the more you filter reality and events through this lens.
Changing low self-esteem to high self-esteem can be hard, particularly for men in modern times struggling to find masculine ideals and roles.
But the truth of the matter is that with an active and committed life a man can turn around low self-esteem and begin to realize his worth and value himself fully.