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10 Signs of Low Self-Esteem and 5 Ways to Increase It

low self esteem

If you often feel down in the dumps about yourself, you may have low self-esteem. Here are some of the common signs, as well as some tips to boost yours.

Everyone experiences feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy at some point in their lives. It’s natural to feel less-than, especially when you’re trying something new or find yourself in a challenging situation. These types of feelings usually pass quickly and do not interfere with reaching goals or succeeding in life.

On the flip side of this temporary self-consciousness is something more serious. Constantly feeling as if you’re not good enough to the point that you never try anything new or never take risks that could help you to be more successful or happier in your life is called low self-esteem. And that, my friend, is never a good thing.

Whether you suffer from low self-esteem that has resulted from some trauma in your past, or you just naturally find yourself blending into the background and hoping to go unnoticed, there are things you can do to overcome these harmful thoughts and become the confident and self-assured person you wish you were. Check out the following signs of low self-esteem, see if you notice them in yourself, and then read on to find out how to grab life by the balls and take charge.

10 signs you could be suffering from low self-esteem

Like I said, everyone doubts themselves now and then. It’s natural and okay. However, if you find yourself missing out on things because you just aren’t sure you’re good enough, or you spend a lot of time envying others for their success and happiness but feel powerless to make it happen for yourself, you probably have low self-esteem.

The list below includes signs of low self-esteem to help you identify the issue so you can do something about it.

#1 You pay extra-close attention to what others think about you. It’s okay to want to appeal to others. Of course, you want everyone to think you’re cool, smart, etc. However, when you spend more time worrying about what others think of you rather than making yourself happy, it’s a problem.

This kind of behavior often leads to you doing things that you normally wouldn’t do, or it causes you to keep your thoughts to yourself because you worry they might not coincide with others’ opinions. [Read: How self respect affects you and your relationship with others]

#2 You always compare yourself to everyone else. Whether or not there’s a reason to compare yourself, you do it. More often than not, in your mind, you never measure up. Constantly comparing yourself to others and always finding fault with yourself can damage your already fragile ego.

#3 You have poor posture. You slouch. You don’t stand tall, giving the impression that you aren’t proud of yourself at all. Most people don’t pay much attention to their posture, but take it from me, other people notice and it makes a difference.

#4 Compliments make you uncomfortable. When someone gives you a genuine compliment, it makes you squirm. You feel uncomfortable and you don’t know how to respond. You tend to negate compliments directed at you as soon as they are given. [Read: How to accept compliments without feeling awkward about it]

#5 You throw in the towel too quickly. Your lack of confidence causes you to quit striving for your goals before you hardly begin. In your mind, you feel you aren’t worthy of achieving success, so why bother? Someone else is probably more qualified, anyway.

#6 Constructive criticism feels like a personal attack. When your boss comes to you with a suggestion for improving your work, you feel as if she is being unfair. You just know she’s about to fire you because you can’t do anything right. If your best friend tells you that your yellow dress isn’t really that flattering on you and suggests you wear the blue one, your feelings get hurt and tears fill your eyes.

#7 You pretend everything’s okay, even when it’s not. You find it easier to just pretend everything’s fine, and you hardly ever voice your opinion *even when you disagree* in order to avoid conflict and to appease others. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t realize it]

#8 You say “sorry” all the time. You feel as if you have to apologize for everything. Almost everything that comes out of your mouth *and pretty much everything you do* is cause for an apology, no matter who you’re with or what you’re doing.

#9 You can’t make up your mind, even with the simplest of decisions. You have a hard time making a solid decision about anything. What food should you eat? What color should you paint your bathroom? Even when you finally manage to make a decision, you often change your mind several times, hoping someone else will make a decision for you.

#10 You get a thrill out of making others feel bad. Although not usually a conscious action, putting others down and making them feel bad is often a result of low self-esteem. If you find that you enjoy watching weaker people than yourself squirm as you belittle or bully them, chances are, you suffer from low self-esteem. Passing your own insecurities off on others is a classic sign.

5 ways to raise your self-esteem

All is not lost if you have low self-esteem. It’s actually quite easy to raise your confidence to be happier and become more successful in life. Read on to find out how.

#1 Help others. The act of helping others rather than putting them down can really change the way you see yourself. Offering a helping hand also gives others a reason to look up to you. You’ll feel better about yourself faster than hurling insults ever could.

#2 Accept compliments without judgement. The next time someone gives you a compliment, immediately accept it with a sincere “thank you.” Don’t even wonder to yourself whether you deserve it or not. Just accept the fact that someone thinks you do and that’s that. If you stop yourself from wallowing in doubt every time someone says something nice about you, you’ll quickly stop jumping to that conclusion automatically.

#3 Stop apologizing for every little thing. Saying, “I’m sorry” is important when you make a mistake or do something wrong. It isn’t something you say when a co-worker asks to borrow a pen and you don’t have one. It’s also not something you say when your BFF happens to not agree with your stance on gun control. Save the “sorries” for situations that truly call for them. [Read: Low self-worth and 5 little steps to see yourself in better light]

#4 Realize there is no comparison between you and anyone else. There are so many unseen variables at play when you compare yourself to others. Even if you have something in common with someone, there may be things going on in their life that you don’t know about.

Keep in mind that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, and focus instead on the things you do know about and can control about yourself. There’s a reason everyone is different. The world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same.

#5 Try positive affirmations. Raising your low self-esteem isn’t going to happen overnight. Besides taking the proactive steps listed above, you have to retrain your brain to think differently. Positive affirmations work well for this. Stand in front of a mirror each morning and recite positive, uplifting messages to yourself. Say things like:

– “I am loved, and my opinions matter.”

– “I am in control, and I can make my own decisions.”

– “I am beautiful/handsome/pretty.”

– “I am a kind and giving person.”

Whatever the situation, turn it into a positive affirmation, look yourself in the eye, and say it. You need to hear it from your own lips that you are a worthwhile, capable person.

Low self-esteem can limit your ability to succeed in all aspects of your life, from landing that promotion to getting that first date. If you don’t feel confident in yourself, others won’t feel confident in you, either.

[Read: Building your self esteem – 35 funny things to tell yourself in front of the mirror]

Identify the warning signs of low self-esteem and then follow the tips above to change the way you see yourself for the better.

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Shawn Lehrke
Shawn Lehrke
Shawn Lehrke has been a freelance author for over 15 years. Her writing expertise spans a variety of niches, but her passion is creative writing. Shawn lives in...
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4 thoughts on “10 Signs of Low Self-Esteem and 5 Ways to Increase It”

  1. Confident guy says:

    I found an immeasurable amount of confidence when I started doing parkour 6 years ago. Suddenly what other people thought of me didn’t really matter too much because, well, I can do a back flip and they can’t. Growing up I’ve always been skinny and having to hear other guys and girls comment on it day after day was tough. So finally, even though I was nervous and had no idea what I was doing, I took my high school weight training class. I got a gym membership and started eating more, and while I’m still relatively thin, I’d like to think I’ve put on a noticeable amount of muscle. I have put in hours upon hours of learning how to dress better, how to eat better, how to work out smarter. Article after article, video after video. Someone pointed out that I had horrible posture and it really hurt my already low self-esteem, but you know what I did? I trained myself every day to sit up and walk straight, and I feel so much better because of it both physically and mentally. I am only proud of myself today because I was not proud of myself years ago. I am not proud because I can do a flip or lift weights, I am proud because I could not do those things before. It can be a difficult process, but start accepting the things you cannot change and instead focus on changing what you can. Find something that makes you unique and own it. Take your bigger goal and break it down into smaller, more manageable ones. You don’t have to be great today, just try to be a little better tomorrow. Give yourself credit for the things you have achieved.

  2. Samantha S. says:

    I have a low self-esteem and always had. There’s no shame in saying that. Whenever I watch a movie I immediately envy the beautiful actresses and the models on the covers of Vogue and Elle. I can’t help it. It’s just who I am. My parents and teachers have tried so hard to help me. I was told I look great and that I am amazing and all those kinds of stuff, but deep down I know that there are better people than me and that I am surrounded by them. I am simply the ugly, good-for-nothing sidekick who dies at the end of the movie. I really appreciate it when I see and read articles like this who are not afraid to speak about this issue and even try their best to make things better. Well done!

  3. lkjhgas@kjhga.com says:

    I’ve always battled with ridiculously low self-esteem. A while back, my therapist recommended I make sure to internalize even small victories. Got a good review on a presentation? Yay, I’m awesome! What really changed me though was hitting rock bottom. A few years, I got kicked out of grad school, got completely rejected by a guy I was infatuated with (after 2+ years of a weird “relationship”), felt completely alone and unlikable. I was forced to really embrace my flaws, almost in a nihilistic way. It’s hard to explain exactly, but basically what happened is I stopped giving a fuck. I never thought it possible. 25 years of giving too many fucks about the dumbest shit, worrying about how I look and act and talk and think, and I finally started letting go. It sounds cliche as fuck, but it’s a very zen approach. I almost immediately noticed that people liked me more. No joke. It was bizarre; I was approached by guys WAY more often, and people in general just seemed more receptive to me. It created a positive feedback loop. They like me, I feel validated, my confidence grows, people like confidence, etc. Also, one MAJOR thing that helped me was realizing that it’s not always about me. Awkward situation? Project didn’t work the way I planned? People being rude? I used to think it was me, but it’s not. Everyone’s a little bit fucked up and they project. There could be things out of anyone’s control. Point is, things you may blame yourself for can usually be attributed to something else. This doesn’t totally absolve you of any responsibility, but it’s about understanding the grey areas/complex cause-reactions. Ok, sorry to write you a self-help novel, but it struck a chord with me this evening, aha. I hope I’m not too preachy.

  4. now i'm free says:

    I try to think about every time someone has complimented a part of me I am currently hating on. My weight, my hair, my chattiness, my straight-forwardness, etc… I try to make myself remember any time someone said something nice about it. I also think about the idea that everyone has preferences. There are short dudes who LOVE it when a woman is taller than they are. There are tall women who love short dudes. There are loud, extroverted people who love the balance a quiet, introverted person brings to their life. There are introverts who love someone that can bring them out of their shell a bit. Thinking about different people’s preferences (not fetishes, cuz that’s a bit different) helps me see more objectively. That is to say, I might not see my big thighs or flat ass with a positive light, but I can step back and say: “Sugarsugarbee, you might not like those thighs, but someone else out there is wishing she could have thighs like that because maybe she can’t gain weight, maybe she thinks pear-shaped is the best shape, maybe she puts herself down because her narrow hips and thin legs make her ‘look like a boy’. If you were a different person, you’d just have a different set of things you disliked about yourself and wish you could change.” Which sounds like the negative approach to being positive, but really it’s a more intense way of reminding myself “the grass is always greener” and “check” myself when I start getting too down on who I am. Then I continue working towards fixing any parts of myself I can fix and try to recognize when something doesn’t actually need to be fixed, it needs to be embraced.

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