Low self-esteem can manifest in a ton of ways.
It can be obvious and straightforward in some men, while others are experts at hiding it.
Regardless, low self-esteem can hold you back from countless key life opportunities.
And so many men are in denial about what they feel internally, they can’t often pinpoint why they act out in certain ways.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the subconscious behaviors men with self-esteem issues display.
Once you accurately identify these behaviors, you can take active steps toward doing something about them.
Let’s get to it!
1) They overcompensate
Have you ever met a guy for the first time and when he shakes your hand he squeezes it just a tad too aggressively?
This is overcompensation in a nutshell.
Men with inherently low self-esteem don’t want the world to know about their deep insecurities, so they’ll vigorously try to cover it up.
In fact, they try so hard at times, that their cover gets blown pretty quickly.
Other common forms of overcompensation include unapologetic bragging about accomplishments or bank account contents; driving physically imposing, high-octane vehicles at ungodly speeds; and excess name-dropping.
You get the gist.
They might convince themselves they’re more confident than they actually are–but deep down, there’s a palpable void.
2) They constantly seek approval
Low self-esteem and a need for approval go hand in hand. Hence, some men will go out of their way to seek it.
This can surface in a variety of ways from people-pleasing tendencies, to a lack of boundary setting, to oversharing on social media.
One of my best friends used to suffer from low self-esteem, something he has thankfully since gotten over.
This would manifest in him being a constant “yes man.” And people took advantage.
I think he genuinely enjoyed the feeling of acceptance and validation that came with acting so agreeably.
But at the same time, he built resentment towards both himself and others for his inability to put his foot down.
He’d promise people the world, basking in the feeling of approval, but then later come up short–which annoyed others, and only worsened his self-esteem levels.
He has since grown out of his people-pleasing tendencies, and can now firmly stand up for himself if need be. Better late than never.
3) They’re extra defensive
When you have low self-esteem, your foundations tend to be a little shaky.
There is already an ample amount of negativity and self-doubt swirling through your head, so hearing it from someone else can push you over the edge.
This means you may be hypersensitive to criticism, often reacting defensively instead of taking these comments constructively.
Even innocuous feedback can sometimes be taken as a personal affront. Well-meaning remarks can be taken as jabs that can linger for days, weeks, years even.
This is a stark contrast to the confident and secure man who can take criticism by either acknowledging it as worthwhile or simply letting it go, rather than getting riled up.
When you have nothing to prove, you tend to feel a sense of indifference about how other people are doing in relation to you.
You’re more concerned and focused on your own path than anyone else’s.
But along with poor levels of self-esteem often comes the proneness for comparisons.
You might feel threatened or overly preoccupied by others’ success, instead of feeling genuinely happy for them.
I think we all know a few people like this.
They see life as a competition, with the empty goal of constantly trying to one-up their peers, instead of gaining true contentment from within.
5) They underplay their achievements
Self-esteem is a peculiar thing.
As established, some people will overcompensate and brag to oblivion, while others act meekly, perhaps feeling undeserving of any hard-earned accomplishments.
These feelings of inadequacy might be so ingrained that they feel a perpetual sense of impostor syndrome.
Hence, they’ll receive praise by consistently downplaying their efforts and abilities, perhaps even calling themselves lucky or acting in a self-deprecating fashion.
When you put work into something and achieve something of value, stand tall and be proud of yourself.
You’re just as deserving as anyone.
Take it from the late anti-Apartheid statesman Nelson Mandela: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”
6) Their body language is telling
One of the more obvious ways to detect a man with low self-esteem is through their body language.
They tend to avoid prolonged eye contact; instead opting for a downward glaze.
They’ll often slouch, have hunched shoulders, and subconsciously make themselves appear physically smaller, not wanting to be seen.
Sometimes, they’ll cross their arms in social situations, indicating their discomfort.
I grew up frequently criticized by relatives.
Hence, I had low self-esteem for much of my angsty teenage years.
For the majority of that period, I was both painfully shy and continually hunched over, a direct reflection of my confidence level at the time.
It wasn’t until college that I really began to find my groove as an individual, and slowly but surely, my posture began to communicate that.
I began to stand straight and be proud of my existence, leaving my Quasimodo-like identity in the past.
7) They over-apologize
Do you find yourself saying ‘sorry’ even when you’re not at fault?
This almost always backfires.
By excessively apologizing, you aren’t really washing your hands of any perceived culpability, you’re just making yourself come across as unconfident.
When you’ve legitimately made a mundane mistake or error, then express your remorse then move on.
Don’t dwell on petty shortcomings. Nobody’s perfect after all.
8) They sabotage relationships
One of my good friends from my twenties once dated a beautiful girl who he deemed to be totally out of his league.
So instead of getting comfortable, he was constantly anxious, overthinking, and uneasy.
This neurosis spiraled and eventually he ‘preemptively’ broke up with her, believing that it was inevitable either way, without sufficient evidence to back his claims.
Men with low self-esteem might often sabotage relationships, feeling unworthy of affection or of the belief that getting rejected is imminent.
Rather than enjoying their relationships like most people, they’ll constantly be on edge, harboring feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
So next time you feel undeserving of love, reiterate to yourself the words of fictional self-help guru, the humorous Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
8) They have a fear of taking risks
Without risk, you will limit your opportunities in life. It’s as simple as that.
Happiness could be right around the corner, but you might be too apprehensive to go out and get it.
This is textbook behavior for the man with low self-esteem.
They’ll avoid key life opportunities, like asking someone out or trying a new hobby because they’re averse to risk and the fear of failure, and what these things can potentially do to their already crumbling self-worth.
But the truth is, playing it unreasonably safe is no way to live.
Later in life, you’ll almost certainly regret not taking more risks–but by then, myriad opportunities will have already passed you by.
Don’t let it get to this point. Get out there and start moving!
Nobody chooses to have low self-esteem. So if this article resonated with you, don’t despair.
The first step to progress is acceptance. And by the looks of it, you’ve already come that far.
The beauty of life is it’s never too late to change.
But the sooner you do it the better.
So continue to move forward, embrace growth, straighten that back, and start taking the occasional risk.
With enough dedication, your confidence will grow by the day. Soon, there will be no stopping you.