You probably don’t need me to tell you that the world isn’t fair. If you’re an adult, and you’ve been keeping your eyes open even a little bit, you’ve probably noticed that the happiness and success people enjoy in life doesn’t have a whole lot to do with whether or not they deserve it on a personal level.
And often, the nicest and kindest people are those who suffer the most.
In fact, it gets worse.
Sometimes, being a kind and thoughtful person is a direct result of the hardships you’ve faced in the past and the psychological damage it has done to you.
Sometimes, being a good person comes from a sense of not valuing yourself all that highly.
In other words, it’s possible to be a truly kind person, and yet not feel great about yourself.
Here are some signs that you are a genuinely kind person, even if you don’t have the self-esteem to recognize it.
1) You are generous
One of the most obvious signs of a kind person is that they are generous.
That may mean being generous with their money, generous about giving gifts, or generous with their time and willing to help others.
That’s a good thing. But in the case of people with low self-esteem, it often comes from a darker place.
People with low self-esteem are often generous because they want people to like them. Since they lack the ability to value themselves, they may seek the approval of others by being overly generous.
2) You have a hard time accepting compliments
Do you feel awkward or embarrassed when people compliment you?
It doesn’t matter what it is. It might be a compliment on your looks or appreciation of something you’ve done well. But whatever it is, you struggle to accept it.
In fact, you may even deflect it, downplaying your achievements and arguing with the person giving you the compliment.
Some people see this as a positive trait such as modesty. But it can be a sign of low self-esteem.
Psychologist Mark Tyrell writes that, “no matter how factually based a compliment is, a client with low self esteem seems to find a way to dismiss it.”
So deflecting or disagreeing with compliments may not be about modesty at all. Instead, it may be a sign that you are a kind person with low self-esteem.
3) You avoid or deflect attention
Just as someone with low self-esteem will often try to deflect compliments, they may also try to deflect any kind of attention from themselves.
Lots of people feel uncomfortable in the spotlight. But that’s especially true for people with low self-esteem, who often feel that attention will uncover their flaws and failings.
This may mean that you are reluctant to speak up in meetings at work. It may mean that you hate being praised for things you’ve done, especially in public.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that belongs in many ways to people who are willing to blow their own trumpet. Avoiding and deflecting attention, especially positive attention, can often end up hurting you in the long run.
4) You over-apologize
Apologies are an important social ritual, and a necessary thing to do when you’ve done something wrong.
But beware of apologizing too much.
“Remember that the act of apologizing should be significant,” writes psychologist Valeria Sabater. “This means it shouldn’t be a continuous and obsessive exercise, as this shows a lack of confidence.”
“Sorry, but can I ask a question?”
“Sorry, but I was sitting there.”
“Sorry, but I think we should try something else.”
There are lots of occasions in life where an apology is a good idea. But there are just as many where it isn’t necessary, and can actually backfire, making you seem unconfident and lacking authority.
5) You try to keep everyone happy
In many ways, people-pleasing is the curse of those with low self-esteem.
We all want people to like us. But since people with low self-esteem struggle to find value in themselves, they have an unfortunate tendency to seek it from others.
This can lead to them placing too much importance on other people’s opinions of them. And this, in turn, can lead to people-pleasing.
Simply put, people-pleasing means putting other people’s needs before your own. It means neglecting your own boundaries in favor of what other people want in order to make them like you.
It may mean doing unpaid overtime at work to make sure your boss thinks more highly of you. It may mean helping relatives with something you really don’t want to do just to avoid them being mad at you.
From the outside, these actions can look like you’re being kind. But in reality, it may be more a sign of low self-esteem than anything else.
6) You are indecisive
Indecision can be another sign of low self-esteem.
That’s because people with low self-esteem don’t trust their own ability to make a decision. So often, they will allow others to make decisions for them.
It could be something as simple as choosing a restaurant, or something big like choosing a city to live in.
But when you lack self-esteem and self-confidence, it just seems easier to avoid making decisions and let other people make them for you.
You may also second-guess your own decisions when you do make them. Even after you have made a choice, you tend to think over all the different factors that went into the choice and wonder if you made the right decision.
7) You seek reassurance
Because they don’t have a good sense of their own self-worth, people with low self-esteem have to get it from others.
This often leads them to seek reassurance from other people to counteract their own often negative opinion of themselves.
Because of this, you may often find yourself doing things the way you think other people would want you to do them. Or, you may actively draw other people’s attention to your achievements and things you’ve done in the hope of validation and reassurance from others.
This can even apply to acts of kindness. It’s always good to be a kind person, but when you do nice things in the hope of other people telling you how nice you are, it’s a good indication that it’s really your low self-esteem that is driving you.
8) You are self-critical
This is one of the most obvious signs of low self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem are highly critical of themselves and their actions. Even when they do something good, they often look for the bad sides of it.
They will tell themselves they could’ve done better, or that they did something for the wrong reasons.
Unfortunately, this kind of self-criticism only helps low self-esteem to grow.
9) You take criticism hard
Because they tend to seek validation from others, people with low self-esteem are also very bad at taking criticism.
Instead of seeing criticism from other people as an inevitable part of life, a person with low self-esteem may take that criticism personally. They may believe that if people don’t approve of their actions, it means they are a bad or unworthy person.
The result of this is that people with low self-esteem often try to avoid criticism at all costs. Unfortunately, this can often backfire.
Trying anything new or ambitious opens you up to the criticism of others. But when you avoid that, you settle for a life of less than you are capable of.
10) You are reluctant to chase your own goals
Finally, people with low self-esteem have a hard time living a self-directed life.
Because they second-guess every thought they’ve ever had, these people don’t have faith in their own dreams. Plus, they often lack faith in their own ability to pursue the life they want.
Add that to a tendency to be overly scared of criticism, and you have a recipe for a life lived according to what other people think is good, instead of following the goals of the person whose life it is.
The signs of low self-esteem
It’s possible to have low self-esteem without necessarily realizing it. But if you notice these signs in yourself, it’s a good sign that your self-esteem needs some work.
Not only is it possible to be a truly kind person with low self-esteem. But often, kindness can come from a lack of self-belief.
However, it’s also totally possible to have a healthy level of self-esteem and still be a nice person. So keep an eye out for these signs of low self-esteem in yourself and work on your confidence.
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