14 things you don’t realize you’re doing because you have low self-esteem

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Confidence is key to living a fulfilling life.

You need it to stand up for yourself, go after what you want, and be comfortable in your skin.

Unfortunately, not everyone is born with an endless supply of self-assuredness.

If you’re struggling, you already know that you tend to talk down to yourself and compare yourself to others.

But are you aware that lacking confidence affects many other areas of your life?

Here are 14 things you don’t realize you’re doing because you have low self-esteem.

It’s time to start believing in yourself.

1) You’re a people pleaser

Maybe you think your people-pleasing tendencies stem from the fact that you’re a nice person who likes to make others happy.

In reality, low self-esteem is usually at fault.

While it’s nice to be considerate of others and care about their well-being, putting yourself last shows that you don’t value yourself.

It signals that your own desires are less important or that you need to prove your worth to everyone else.

Perhaps it’s something you can work on?

2) You’re always doing “fine”

Whenever your friends ask how you’re doing, your default response is to say that you’re fine.

It doesn’t matter that you’re having the most terrible day in the history of time; you slap a fake smile on your face and exchange niceties.

News flash: it’s because you don’t want to burden others with your troubles.

Your low self-esteem tricks you into believing they don’t care or that your negativity will cause them to reject you.

I do the same thing. I’m sure that complaining will make others uncomfortable.

I tell myself that I pretend to be fine to shield them from my misery when, in reality, I worry that they’ll think less of me for having a bad day. Or week. Or year.

As if they weren’t fellow humans who also experience grief, anguish, and despair.

My brain is silly. Perhaps yours is, too.  

3) You can’t take a compliment

When someone gives you a compliment, you don’t simply say “thank you.”

You make a whole production out of it.

You explain that the T-shirt they like was actually on sale or that the promotion you got is not a big deal if you really think about it.

Then, you casually list five to ten of your flaws they failed to notice.

Does any of this sound familiar?

4) You have a shopping problem

If I could have my money back for everything I bought because I thought would make me more confident, I would be considerably richer by now.

Clothes. Shoes. Make-up. Hair appointments.

I would see a dress and be sure that buying it would make me look just as self-assured as the model on the website.

Then the dress arrived, and I was the same old me, albeit in a pretty dress.  

When you have low self-esteem, you buy things in an effort to make yourself feel better.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work – and if it does, the effects are short-lived and negligible.

Confidence comes from within. 

It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.   

5) You say “sorry” too much

Frequently apologizing, even when you haven’t done anything wrong, also signals a lack of confidence.

You do it to avoid conflict or to seek the approval of others.

Whichever the case, it needs to stop.

Own up to your mistakes, but don’t say sorry when the situation doesn’t call for it.

You’re allowed to occupy space in the world, have feelings, and let others know what’s on your mind.

6) You apologize for your opinions

Speaking of apologizing, if you do it whenever you express an opinion, it’s likely due to low self-esteem.

It sounds something like this:

  • I’m no expert, but I think…
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that…
  • This might be a dumb idea, but…
  • I’m not sure if this makes sense, but…
  • Maybe I’m missing something, but…
  • I’m sorry if my opinion isn’t valid, but…

Using these phrases indicates that you doubt the value of your thoughts.

Certainly, constantly apologizing for your opinions can be a red flag for low self-esteem

However, when I found myself in a similar cycle of self-doubt, I realized that I owed myself an apology for not valuing my own thoughts and contributions. 

This was the first time I listened to this free Self-Healing Meditation. It’s a 19-minute guided practice that helped me work on accepting and valuing myself, including my opinions.

And I can say, it actually felt like healing myself from irrational thoughts.

So, if you’re struggling with this too, I think it could be a helpful starting point for you as well. 

Click here to access Self-Healing Meditation

7) You minimize your knowledge

On the same note, low self-esteem may make you downplay your expertise or knowledge on a particular subject.

Even when you have relevant insights about the topic at hand, you don’t speak up, thinking it won’t add much value to the conversation.

Maybe you do it to avoid appearing arrogant or don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself.

Either way, it’s giving insecurity.

8) You don’t have long-term relationships

There are legitimate reasons why someone would avoid romantic relationships.

Perhaps they like being alone, they’ve been hurt and need time to recover, or they’re pursuing other goals.

That said, if you long for companionship but don’t put yourself out there, there’s a good chance it’s because your confidence is down the drain.

You believe that you are unworthy of love, and you fear that you won’t be able to meet your partner’s expectations.

You’re selling yourself short.

9) You spend most of your time alone

Similarly, low self-esteem can push you to avoid social interactions altogether.

When you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re more likely to feel anxious or inferior around others.

You tell yourself that you don’t bring much to the table and that your presence would ruin the mood.

Or, you believe that you don’t deserve positive social interactions, so you isolate yourself as a form of punishment.

So you stay in most of the time, using your comfort zone as a shield from the emotional challenges of dealing with other people.  

And since you’re spending time alone anyway, why not use it effectively? 

Earlier, I mentioned the Self-Healing Meditation that helped me value my own thoughts more. Listening to this 19-minute practice during my alone time allowed me to reflect and feel more worthy of positive interactions.

So, maybe it’s worth giving it a try as you work on boosting your self-esteem

Click here to start your self-healing journey.

10) You make light of your achievements

When you make light of achieving a goal, you say it’s because you want to stay humble.  

That may be partially true.

Yet, low self-confidence causes irrational thoughts, including the idea that your accomplishments are not worthy of recognition.

If you struggle with confidence, there’s a chance you fail to celebrate or recognize your hard work because you don’t see it as significant.

Instead, you tell people you had help, got lucky, or that anyone could have done it.


11) You overwork yourself

People with low self-confidence overwork themselves to prove their worth to themselves and their employers.

You might have a strong ethic, sure.

But if you’re on the verge of burnout and still volunteer for that project no one else wants to touch, something deeper might be going on.

12) You strive for perfectionism

Low self-esteem and perfectionism go hand-in-hand.

People who lack confidence believe they’re not good enough, so they exhaust themselves trying to meet unreasonable standards in everything they do to prove that they are.

If they fail to meet those unreasonable standards, their self-esteem plummets even further.

While chasing after greatness is a positive thing, it’s also important to remember that perfection isn’t attainable.

Instead of striving for perfection, strive for progress.

Collecting small wins is a great way to build confidence over time.

13) You use self-deprecating humor

I’m a big fan of self-deprecating humor. It can help build rapport, diffuse tension, and demonstrate humility.

Even so, I’ve noticed that relying on it too much has harmful side effects.

Constantly making jokes at your own expense can reinforce negative self-beliefs.

If you often joke that you can’t keep a job, there’s a chance you actually believe that, signaling a lack of confidence.

The more you do it, the stronger this negative belief becomes.

You might not realize it – but if self-deprecating humor is your default form of interaction, your self-esteem could use some work.

14) You chase conditional happiness

If you chase conditional happiness, your joy is contingent upon external factors.

You tell yourself stuff like, “I’ll be happy when I get my dream job” or, “I’ll be happy when I finally lose the extra weight.”

Don’t look too closely, and you might confuse this for a healthy perspective, as it encourages you to go after your goals.

However, it also suggests that you don’t feel worthy of being happy at this very moment, just as you are.

In other words, it signals a lack of self-esteem.

Happiness is a journey. Allow yourself to experience it now.

Bottom line

Confidence is a skill that can be improved with time and practice.

The more you grow in your own eyes, the more others will notice.

Start by cultivating gratitude, giving yourself compliments on a daily basis, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.

And don’t forget, if you’re spending time alone, use it as an opportunity for self-improvement with tools like the Self-Healing Meditation I mentioned earlier.

Before you know it, you’ll be shining from the inside out. 

Here’s the link to the free meditation.

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