Signs and Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

You Might Have Low Self-Esteem If…

low self esteem

There is a cultural perception that people with low self esteem are “losers.” This simply isn’t the case. People from all walks of life, with varying degrees of success, can suffer from feelings of insecurity, nervousness, and depression.

As a matter of fact, many successful people secretly harbor doubts about the abilities that brought them that success. They fear being found out someday. It’s so common there’s a term for it called “The Imposter Syndrome.” So to what degree do you have low self-esteem?

Look through the list and see if you spot yourself.

People with Low Self-esteem Experience…

  • Difficultly trusting their own opinion and ability to make good decisions. This leads to a fear of change and reluctance to take on new challenges.
  • A strong tendency to see the dark side of most situations. When called on it, they are quick to point out that they’re only being realistic.
  • An internal barrage of negative self-talk in the form of belittling, blaming, fault-finding and insults.
  • Being intimidated around new people and concern over what type of impression they might be making.
  • Combating their own internal demons of self-criticism, they nimbly interpret other’s comments or actions as some sort of slight, insult, or put-down.
  • With compliments they’re a bit of an enigma. One the one hand they desperately crave them, and on the other, rapidly dismiss them.

Let’s look at some of the lesser known behaviors.

A Victim Mentality

Someone says or does something and you’re feeling hurt, angry or upset. You rally your friends and tell them what happened. They say things like “Oh you poor baby.”, “He had no right to talk to you that way.” or “I can’t believe she did that to you!” You start to feel better.

If you have played out this scenario in your life, you see yourself as a victim; the innocent, injured party to another’s cruelty. That’s okay. It’s a pretty common perspective. Haven’t we all enjoyed a friend reinforcing how UNFAIRLY we have been treated a time or two?

But this tendency towards looking for the culprit outside ourselves can be quite debilitating. It puts you in a position of powerlessness. It’s tough to make your life better if you don’t believe you’re the one in charge of it, especially your emotions.

I had a friend who was facing a legal battle with the credit card companies. He made a comment about them being greedy bastards. I asked him if they were greedy or just trying to get what he owed them. I knew this wouldn’t be a popular question, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. I don’t think he liked my comment at first, but later appreciated it. (You may lose some friends if you ask questions like this, but the ones you keep will be golden.)

People’s words and actions do have influence on us, but it’s you and you alone that give meaning to those words through the beliefs you hold. No one can make you feel anything, ever. Are you “yes-butting” your way all the way to victimville even now?

Ownership, Not Blame
It’s a challenge for people to take responsibility for their emotional reactions because they associate it with blame and condemnation. There’s another way to view it. It’s possible to see your role in situations without labeling your actions as bad or wrong. As a matter of fact, you won’t be able to closely look at the dynamics going on inside your head if you continue to see responsibility as a license to kill. Letting go of judgments will free you to see more clearly.

Anytime you feel hurt by something someone said or did, instead of looking around for the culprit, look around in your head for the belief. Think of it as an opportunity to know yourself better. There’s a belief in there causing you pain. We can take that outstretched finger we’ve been pointing at everyone else, and turn it back towards ourselves. Not to blame, but for answers and personal growth.

Plays the Guilt Game

Do you experience a lot of guilt or shame? If so, then you are judging who you are, or what you have done as bad or wrong to get yourself to change. As the kids say, “How’s that been working for you?” You will not experience any lasting positive changes using guilt. The only thing it produces is unhappiness and a continual erosion of your self-worth. You can let go of this guilt if you relax your value judgments and recognize that you are, without a doubt, always doing your best.

A Judgmental Attitude

Are you critical of yourself and others? Do you have strong opinions about ‘right and wrong’, and ‘good and bad’? If so, it’s a pretty safe bet that you experience a lot of self-rejection. Being judgmental goes both ways; it is directed at others as well as yourself. Although you may not always say your judgments out loud, unfortunately your mind’s ear hears every single word. The message you are sending to yourself is that you have to be a certain way in order to be a worthwhile person.

Seeks Approval From Others

In social situations, do you find yourself thinking, “Did I say the right thing?” or “I hope I didn’t offend her when I…”? Everyone enjoys being appreciated, but those with low self esteem don’t simply want harmony with others, they NEED it to feel okay about themselves.

When the question, “Am I a good person?” has been answered by your own voice with a genuine “yes”, you will stop looking for others tell you. If not addressed, you can spend your whole life seeking other’s approval. And even if you get it, you’ll need more.

Don’t despair. You can turn all these signs of low self-esteem into an opportunity for greater self-knowledge. Anytime you enact one of these behaviors, use it as a “red flag moment” to identify what particular area of yourself you are rejecting. Knowledge is power.



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Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.

- Maxwell Maltz

What disturbs people's minds is not events, but their judgments on events.

- Epictetus, 100 A.D