Watching another person struggle with low self-confidence can be painful.
Watching your partner deal with this issue can be one of the hardest things on earth.
You almost want to grab them by the shoulders and give them a shake and a slap, telling them to snap out of it.
You want them to see themself as you do, with all their positive qualities shining through and more than canceling out the negative ones.
But it’s just not that easy. I wish there were a quick fix for a lack of confidence, but there just isn’t one.
Like most things worth doing, this, too, requires time and work.
But you can help by supporting your partner and giving them positivity whenever possible.
The first step is usually recognizing the problem, and that’s not always easy.
So, to help you, here are eight signs you’re in a relationship with someone low on confidence and self-worth. These examples can help you pick out and point to specifics that could be a starting point for a conversation.
1) Your partner doesn’t like to go out
One clear sign of low self-worth is hiding away from the world.
That’s because putting yourself on display when you think you’re worthless is seen as a way to do yourself even more harm.
After all, everyone would just see what you see, which is all the negatives about yourself.
Does this sound like your partner?
We have to be careful, though, because there are other reasons some people don’t like to go out.
These can range from frugality to illness. And some people are simply introverted and have to recharge their batteries by being alone.
At the same time, if your partner avoids going out like the plague and doesn’t want to meet people, new or known, basically ever, it can be a sign that they don’t have very high self-worth.
2) They’re extremely self-critical
What you have to understand is that, for most people like this, the behavior is learned.
They probably had people and circumstances in their life that gave them negative feedback, and they’re just continuing this pattern.
Many people have critical parents or teachers, and they learn to internalize that criticism until it becomes second nature to criticize themself.
This generally means they have a really skewed way of judging themself, which you might not understand at all.
Like my school friend Alice, who had really strict, pushy parents, they drove her to study hard and get into medical school, not to mention becoming basically a genius on the piano.
But any time she did worse than expected, which for her meant not getting 100%, she’d be really disappointed in herself and treat herself like an idiot.
Despite her high achievement, she wasn’t able to build up the confidence that should have gone with it.
3) They engage in negative self-talk
Alice would always call herself a dumb dumb.
I never thought anything of it. If anything, it didn’t seem harsh at all. I thought it was kind of cute.
But now I realize this was her way of abusing herself, and there’s nothing cute about it at all.
We all talk to ourselves, some more internally than others. But almost all of us have an internal monologue that expresses our real thoughts.
When we mess up, most of us say something like, “That was dumb,” to ourselves. But some people take it a lot farther.
They’ll engage in self-talk that is so negative and even abusive that it’s really hard to even understand.
When they mess something up, they attack their own value, telling themselves things like, “That was idiotic. Yet again. You’re such a f*$%ing useless waste of space!”
So, how would you know if you’re in a relationship with someone who does this? Often, internal monologues leak out.
They may write notes to themself or mutter these abusive words aloud so you can hear them. They’re not meant for you, but they can be sure signs of the state of their confidence and self-worth.
4) Their opinions of themself don’t match yours (or reality)
As in my example with Alice, someone who is low on self-worth is going to have a self-concept that doesn’t line up with your concept of them.
Alice would get 98% on an exam and think she was a disappointment, while everyone else knew she was super-bright and capable. Her assessments of herself were way out of touch with reality.
This was actually the one area in which she really wasn’t intelligent!
If your partner is always being critical of their own skills or actions while you see them in a much more positive light, it’s probably because they’re low on confidence.
5) You always need to encourage them
People who have a lot of confidence can motivate and encourage themselves. After all, they feel like they’re going to do well, so they don’t need so much help from outside to believe it.
But if you’re in a relationship with someone low on confidence and self-worth, you’ll find that you need to be really vocal in encouraging them to do things.
I don’t mean nagging – that’s a whole different issue.
I’m talking about trying to get them to do things that they’re good at – that you know they can do – or else they won’t do them.
They’ll have excuses ready for you like “I’m terrible at that,” or “I messed it up so badly last time.”
And you might find that this is a real emotional drain on you because you have to combat their negativity with so much positivity.
6) They can’t make choices
One easy sign of someone with low confidence and self-worth is that they’re crippled by indecision.
They find making choices really intimidating because they don’t have any faith in their own capacity to make the right ones.
They feel like they’ve made mistakes in the past, and right now, they’re no better, so they’d really rather not choose.
So what happens is that they go out of their way to avoid making decisions, at least big ones.
They’ll avoid, procrastinate, ignore deadlines, and just do anything that keeps those dreadful decisions at arm’s length.
7) Your partner is a people-pleaser
Wait, isn’t it lovely to make other people happy?
Well, yes, it can be, but not at the expense of your own happiness.
But this is exactly what people pleasers do. They go out of their way to make everyone around them happy all the time, all the while ignoring their own needs.
This often happens to people who lack confidence and self-worth. They can convince themselves that what they think and feel is unimportant.
They might also have all of their self-worth based on extrinsic factors, like what others think of them, rather than building it up intrinsically.
8) They always compare themself to others
People low on confidence and self-worth do this automatically.
I guess we all do to some extent.
They form negative opinions of themselves by comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking.
The problem with this logic is that they’re different people.
It would be easy for me to think I’m a terrible person because I can’t run as fast as Usain Bolt or sing as well as Beyoncé. But these unrealistic comparisons are unfair and set for failure from the outset.
Self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem
It’s easy to confuse all of these self-concepts.
We usually use them interchangeably, though if you want to take a deeper look, their meanings are slightly different.
Self-worth is really a core estimation of the value someone places on themself as a person. In other words, do they think they’re the most important person in the world, completely worthless, or, more likely, somewhere in the middle?
Self-esteem is more about how you feel about yourself on a day-to-day basis and is usually based on behavior and performance. If you aced your exam or had a great date, you’ll probably feel great about yourself.
But if you lost your job and wrapped your car around a telephone pole, your self-esteem may very well plummet.
Self-confidence is how you judge your skills and abilities and is the part of the self-concept that you project to others. When you feel like you’re good at something, you’ll act confidently, and people will see it.
When you feel like you don’t measure up, you might shrink away from a task or a role, and people will be able to see that you don’t feel confident.
With these eight signs, you’re in a relationship with someone low on confidence and self-worth; I hope you can find some direction.
If your partner is struggling with poor self-concept, it can be a real struggle for both of you. They may find counseling to be a great help in building themself back up.