Ever wonder why you have trouble accepting compliments or why you constantly doubt yourself? Chances are, you may be struggling with low self-esteem. The tricky thing about low self-esteem is that it can show up in subtle ways that slowly chip away at your confidence over time. You may not even realize the signs are there. But don’t worry; the good news is that there are ways to build your self-esteem back up.
First, you need to recognize the symptoms. Do any of these sound familiar? You criticize yourself for the smallest imperfections. You have trouble accepting praise and compliments. You feel like you’re not good enough, no matter what you achieve. You constantly doubt yourself and your abilities. If those inner voices are sounding alarms, keep reading. We’re going to explore some low self-esteem examples and share some tips to start cultivating confidence from within.
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Why Do We Have Low Self-Esteem?
Why do we struggle with low self-esteem? There are a few reasons:
- We compare ourselves to others. Seeing friends and strangers who seem happier or more successful can make us feel like we don’t measure up in comparison. But social media only shows curated glimpses into people’s lives. Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.
- We focus on our flaws and imperfections. We tend to zero in on what we perceive to be our weaknesses, shortcomings, and faults. Learn to accept yourself as you are instead of striving for an unrealistic ideal of perfection. You’re only human.
- We seek approval from the wrong people. If you rely on the opinions of critical or unsupportive people to determine your self-worth, you’ll always feel lacking. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are.
- We have unrealistic expectations. Don’t demand perfection from yourself. Set small, achievable goals and acknowledge your progress and wins, no matter how small they seem. Over time, achieving these micro-goals will boost your self-confidence.
The truth is that self-esteem comes from within. Focus on your strengths, learn to accept yourself, surround yourself with your supporters, and set realistic expectations. You are enough, just as you are.
Low Self-Esteem Examples
Here are some warning signs that you have a low self-esteem.
1. You constantly seek approval and reassurance.
Do you constantly need reassurance from others about your choices and decisions? If so, you may suffer from low self-esteem.
- You’re always seeking approval. Whether it’s asking a friend if your outfit looks okay or double-checking with your boss that you did a task right, you need validation. Learn to trust your judgment.
- You have trouble accepting compliments. When someone says something nice about you, do you brush it off or make excuses? Practice simply saying “thank you”—you deserve praise!
- You’re overly self-critical. Do you constantly criticize yourself for perceived mistakes and imperfections? Try being kinder to yourself; everyone has flaws and weaknesses. Focus on your good qualities too.
- You feel like an imposter. Even when you achieve success, you feel like you don’t deserve it and worry you’ll be “found out”. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and skills. You are worthy of success.
The good news is that low self-esteem can be improved. Practice self-care, pursue hobbies you enjoy, and surround yourself with supportive people who appreciate you. You have so much wonderfulness to offer the world, so start embracing it! With time and effort, you can build your confidence from the inside out.
2. You have trouble. Accepting Compliments
Do you get uncomfortable when someone pays you a compliment? Do you have trouble simply saying “thank you” and instead deflecting or making self-deprecating remarks? This is a sign that you likely struggle with low self-esteem.
When you have a poor self-image, compliments can feel underserved or like the other person is just being “nice.” You may think things like:
- “They don’t mean that.”
- “They’re just saying that to be polite.”
- “I’m not that talented, smart, funny, etc.”
The truth is, most people don’t hand out empty compliments. Learn to accept kind words with grace. Say something like:
- “Thank you; I appreciate you noticing.”
- “That’s very kind of you to say.”
Start to recognize your good qualities and accomplishments so you can believe the nice things others say about you. Make a list of your strengths, values, and achievements to help build self-esteem from the inside out.
With practice, accepting compliments will get easier. But it starts with you—choose to believe in yourself and the good things others see in you. You deserve to feel good about who you are.
3. You Avoid Mistakes constantly.
If you suffer from low self-esteem, you are probably your own worst critic. You likely:
- Notice every little mistake and flaw, and beat yourself up over them.
- Hold yourself to unrealistic standards of perfection that you would never expect from another person.
- Engage in negative self-talk, calling yourself names like “stupid,” “ugly,” or “failure.”
- Feel like you are never good enough, no matter what you achieve or accomplish.
This constant self-criticism and negativity create a vicious cycle that further erodes your self-worth and confidence. Learn to show yourself the same compassion you would show a friend. Notice the negative thoughts, acknowledge them, and then reframe them more constructively. For example, change “I’m so stupid for making that mistake” to “Everyone makes mistakes. I will learn from this and do better next time.” Practice positive self-talk and celebrate your wins, big and small. Over time, you can retrain your brain to be kinder to yourself.
4. You avoid risks and new challenges.
When you have low self-esteem, you tend to steer clear of risks or new challenges because you doubt your abilities. You think, “I’ll probably just fail, so why even try?” Rather than putting yourself in potentially uncomfortable situations, you stick to what you know.
Some signs this applies to you are:
- You turn down opportunities at work or invitations from friends to try new hobbies or activities.
- You make excuses to get out of challenging situations rather than facing them head-on.
- You feel anxious at the thought of change or uncertainty. The familiar is comfortable, so you avoid stepping out of your routine.
- You believe you will never be good enough, so you don’t bother improving your skills or pursuing new talents.
- You care too much about what others might think of you, so you avoid taking chances. Their judgment feels like too big a risk.
Overcoming this tendency to avoid risks starts with building your confidence from the inside out. Challenge negative self-talk, focus on your strengths, and start saying “yes” more often. Take calculated risks in low-pressure situations. You will find that facing challenges and trying new things get easier with practice and experience. Growth happens outside your comfort zone, so take that first step to build your self-esteem.
5. You constantly compare yourself to others.
Do you find yourself frequently comparing your life, looks, relationships, or accomplishments to other people and coming up short? If so, you may suffer from low self-esteem. People with healthy self-esteem accept themselves as they are and don’t measure their worth based on unrealistic comparisons with others.
- You believe others are smarter, more successful, or better-looking than you. In reality, you have no idea what struggles or insecurities they may be facing. Focus on your own journey.
- You feel like an imposter and think your achievements are due to luck rather than your skills or talents. Many high achievers face self-doubt, but that doesn’t make their accomplishments any less valid or meaningful.
- Seeing friends’ curated social media posts makes you feel inadequate in comparison. Remember that social media only shows an edited, filtered version of people’s lives. Don’t compare their highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes footage.
Rather than comparing yourself to others, work on accepting yourself for who you are, imperfections, and all. Avoid harsh self-criticism and practice self-compassion. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are. Their support can help strengthen your self-esteem from the inside out.
6. You’re overly critical of yourself.
Do you constantly criticize yourself for minor mistakes and imperfections? If so, you likely suffer from low self-esteem. People with healthy self-esteem accept themselves as they are, flaws and all. They don’t dwell on perceived shortcomings or put themselves down.
- You obsess over little errors and slip-ups, berating yourself for not being “good enough.”
- You have a nagging inner critic that points out your every flaw and weakness.
- You hold yourself to unrealistic standards of perfection that you would never expect of another person.
Rather than judging yourself so harshly, try showing yourself the same compassion you would a friend. Notice your strengths and accomplishments, not just your perceived weaknesses. Learn to accept yourself as you are instead of trying to be someone you’re not. With practice, you can reframe negative self-talk into more constructive ways of viewing yourself.
7. You doubt and second-guess yourself.
Do you have trouble trusting your own judgment and decisions? People with low self-esteem often doubt themselves and lack confidence in their abilities. They may agonize over choices for fear of making the “wrong” one.
- You question your decisions and abilities even after succeeding.
- You feel like an “imposter” and worry you’ll be “found out.”
- You seek excessive reassurance from others before moving forward.
Have faith in yourself by focusing on your skills, values, and past successes. Learn to trust your instincts; you have good judgment, even if you don’t always see it. Stop seeking approval from others and avoid second-guessing the choices you make. The more you believe in yourself, the less self-doubt you’ll experience.
8. You struggle with saying “no.”
Do you have a hard time turning down requests from friends, family, coworkers, or even strangers? If you’re a people-pleaser, you likely feel guilty about saying no and worry it might upset someone or damage a relationship. You may feel like you have to say yes to everything asked of you to be liked and accepted. Learn that it’s okay to say no in a polite, constructive way. Your time and mental health are important too.
9. You value others’ needs over your own.
As a people-pleaser, you probably put the needs and wants of others before your own. You may feel that your self-worth depends on the approval and happiness of those around you. Make sure to also prioritize your own needs and set healthy boundaries. It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority in your own life. Try doing small things each day just for yourself, like exercising, reading, or pursuing a hobby. Your happiness matters too.
10. You think you’re the worst at something.
You are the worst at something. You can’t do anything right, and you don’t even know how to start. You think that everyone else is better than you, and they have no idea how hard it is for you to get anything done or accomplish any task on this planet of ours.
11. You feel bad about your appearance or your accomplishments.
If you feel that your appearance, or what other people think of you, is the source of your low self-esteem, it’s time for some tough love. You need to start looking at yourself through a different lens, one that focuses on who you are as a person and how those things can change over time. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our years of research and personal experience working with people who struggle with low self-esteem issues, it’s that it’s not about their appearance; it’s about their thoughts and feelings around them.
Your attitude toward yourself needs to go from “I’m not good enough” (or worse). to “I’m amazing.”
12. You have trouble making decisions for yourself.
If you have trouble making decisions for yourself, it’s likely that your self-esteem is low. You might feel like you don’t know what to do or who to trust. Maybe even worse than that, you might feel like there’s no one out there who can help or understand what ails you.
It’s hard enough being in this situation as a woman; imagine having low self-esteem and not knowing how to ask for help.
13. You feel alone when people should care more about you than they do
If you feel like no one cares about you, it’s time to take stock of your life. Are you living with a roommate who doesn’t care about you? Are your parents ignoring your needs and wants? Have friends stopped inviting you around because they don’t want to deal with your drama anymore?
If the answer is yes, then it’s time for some self-reflection. Do these people love and value you? Or do they just see you as an inconvenience or source of stress that has no business being in their lives )? It may just be that those people are too busy dealing with their problems and therefore don’t have time for yours.
14. Habit of Catastrophizing
Your mind often gets stuck on negative thoughts about yourself or other people and gets lost in a cycle of self-loathing where all you can see is the bad stuff about yourself and how much better life would be if only those around you would see what’s clearly so obvious to everyone else but them. This is called “catastrophization”. And catastrophizing is one of the most common triggers for low self-esteem.
In the same way that a broken leg can put you off running, negative thoughts about yourself and other people will have the same effect on your self-esteem. The more time you spend thinking about how bad you are, the worse it gets.
It’s also important to remember that this isn’t just an issue with your mind; it’s an issue with your heart as well. If someone says something hurtful towards you and then retreats into their own world of negative thoughts about themselves and others, they’re taking on all of those feelings for themselves rather than dealing with them head-on, which makes their low self-esteem even worse.
We know that these things are hard to deal with, but remember that they are just symptoms of something deeper. If you want to solve them, the first thing to do is get help. There are lots of ways to do this: talk it out with a friend, see a therapist, or take an online course from your local university. Just make sure you find someone who can give you some perspective (both on your situation and how to best handle it).
- How to Manage Low Self-Esteem Medically reviewed by Bethany Juby, PsyD — By Corey Whelan on October 5, 2022 published in Healthline.com
- Self-esteem – Explains what self-esteem is, with tips for improving your self-esteem and ways to get further support. published in mind.com
Call to Action
If you have low self-esteem, you may rely heavily on the approval and validation of others to feel good about yourself. You are always looking for compliments and praise to boost your confidence. While receiving positive feedback from others is nice, it is not a sustainable source of self-worth.
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