44 Signs of Low Self-Esteem in a Man, Causes & How It Feels Dating Him

Do you suspect that you are dating a man with low self-esteem? How do you know for sure? Here are all the signs and what you can do to help him.

low self-esteem in a man

Let’s be real, men really bag on women for having low self-esteem. Meanwhile, they flex in front of the mirror eight times a day and panic when a girl blocks them on Instagram. 

So, before you listen to them nag about us being insecure, read these signs of low self-esteem in a man. Men suffer from low self-esteem just like women do. However, they simply show it in different ways.

Since women are more emotional and expressive, our insecurities are more visible, but the thing is you can spot low self-esteem in men a mile away. You just need to be looking for the right signs. [Read: If you see these early relationship warnings you should run]

What causes low self-esteem?

Everyone has some things about themselves that they don’t like or would like to change. But at what point does it result in low self-esteem – and what causes it? Here are some major contributing factors. 

1. Childhood 

A bad childhood is probably one of the biggest reasons a man might have low self-esteem.

Maybe his parents were emotionally, mentally, and/or physically abusive to him. When someone hears negative things about themselves for long enough, they start to believe them. [Read: Abandonment – what it is, causes, types, 34 signs and how it hurts you]

Even if his parents weren’t abusive, the family might have had a lot of problems or perhaps lived in poverty. 

Beyond the family, if a man was bullied as a child or adolescent, this can also take a huge toll on his self-esteem. The bullying could come from peers at school, siblings, or any other source.  

2. Unresolved trauma

Abuse, bullying, and poverty can be very traumatic for anyone. But sometimes people have even more trauma that is unresolved. This can be either from childhood or adulthood. [Read: Insecure attachment – what it is, types, 23 signs and how it affects your life]

Some common traumatic experiences that a person can have are sexual abuse, being betrayed by a loved one, or even a circumstance where they were utterly humiliated. 

These traumatic experiences can make a huge negative mark on a person’s psyche. Until they resolve what happened to them in the past, they might internalize it and feel like they are a bad person.

3. Comparison

It’s pretty normal for people to compare themselves to others, unfortunately.

In an ideal world, we would mind our own business, do our own thing, and be proud of our accomplishments regardless of what other people think. [Read: 46 secrets to stop being jealous for no reason and learn to live envy-free]

But in this day and age of social media, you can compare yourself to anyone at any time. So, if he spends a lot of his time comparing himself to other guys who are better looking, make more money, or have hot girlfriends, that is going to take a toll on his self-esteem too.

4. Dating pressure

Society puts a lot of pressure on people to have a significant other, and eventually to get married and have children. While it’s easy for some people to find a partner, for others, it’s pretty difficult.

Even on dating apps, it can be very difficult just to get a girl to go out with them. People are very flaky and won’t always live up to expectations. [Read: Dating anxiety – what it is, 39 causes of panic and signs & steps to get over it]

And if he’s not even getting any matches on dating apps, he will think that there is something wrong with him and that he’s not worthy.

5. Gender stereotypes

The gender stereotype – or gender ideal – of men is very clear in most cultures. Men are supposed to be tall, dark, and handsome. They are also supposed to be dominant and assertive. And they are expected to be wealthy and successful.

But not all men fall into these gender ideals. In fact, very few of them do. Not many men in the world are 6’4”, handsome, wealthy, and have six-pack abs and a winning personality.

The farther away a man perceives himself to be from the gender ideal of a man, the worse he will feel about himself. [Read: The alpha male – 65 traits of a real alpha man and true secrets to be one yourself]

6. Mental health issues

As we discussed earlier, there are a lot of different types of trauma that can contribute to a man’s low self-esteem. But not only does trauma cause low self-esteem, but it can also cause some mental health issues as well.

For example, a man might have depression and anxiety. And pretty much no one with depression and anxiety feels good about themselves. [Read: Dating someone with depression – 23 signs and truths you MUST know]

7. Body image issues

We all grow up watching movies, TV shows, and seeing supermodels everywhere. And almost all of these people present a pretty unrealistic image of what a normal body should look like. But that doesn’t mean that men don’t compare themselves to them.

Whether or not a man is really unattractive or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is his perception of how he looks. That perception becomes his reality, even if he is a very good-looking man. [Read: 25 common males insecurities men have that most women have no idea about]

8. Fear of failure

We expect men in most cultures to be the breadwinners of the family and bring home a lot of money. But how many men actually achieve this? Well, some men may be breadwinners, but they might not make a lot of money.

But failure isn’t just limited to career and money. Failure can come in many forms, such as dating and other relationships. If a man fears that he will fail in any area of his life *or has already failed*, then this will cause low self-esteem.

9. Lack of validation

It always feels good when you are surrounded by people who love you and are proud of you. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have that. In fact, a lot of people have others in their life that tear them down and don’t build them up.

So, if he never hears from anyone in his life that he is attractive, successful, smart, good in bed, or other uplifting comments, he will probably think that they are not proud of him.

That may or may not be true, but again, it’s his perception of it that matters.

How to tell the signs of low self-esteem in a man

We all saw Twilight. Having a good-looking boyfriend that stalks us everywhere doesn’t seem so bad, especially if it’s Robert Pattinson. But that’s the thing, low self-esteem hides cleverly regardless of how someone looks or appears to act.

Now, it’s a lot different when you’re dating someone with low self-esteem because now you’re surrounded by their insecurities which affect you. That’s not to say that you need to run from him because some insecurities can be overcome. [Read: Dating someone with low self-esteem – what it’s like for both of you]

However, if your boyfriend has these signs of low self-esteem in a man, examine your relationship. Decide whether or not this is someone you need next to you. Look for these red flags.

1. He’s self-deprecating

Now, it’s normal for people to be hard on themselves from time to time, especially if stressed out. However, if your man is constantly putting himself down, it isn’t being humble, it’s just showing his low self-esteem.

He doesn’t believe that he’s capable, so he’s insulting and belittling himself. If he’s said, “I can’t believe you want to date me” or “I never thought I’d find someone who’s a ten” he has serious self-image issues. [Read: The warning signs of a guy who’s clingy, don’t date them]

2. Everything is seemingly perfect

He allows no faults around him. His hair is perfect, his clothes are always trendy, and his car is the one everyone is jealous of. Everything is perfect around him, but he can’t fool everyone. 

We all know that nothing is perfect and if something seems perfect, then there’s something severely wrong. Don’t be fooled, he is truly battling some demons inside of him. [Read: Dating a perfectionist – things you must know before you date one]

3. He’s jealous

Remember when we were talking about Twilight? Yeah, that’s low self-esteem right there. If your boyfriend is constantly checking who you’re talking to and accusing you of doing things you haven’t done, he’s highly jealous. 

And with low self-esteem, this never gets better. It only gets worse and worse with time, unless you cut everyone out from your life and live in a hole. [Read: The big signs of a jealous and possessive boyfriend]

4. He criticizes you

Listen, we all need a dose of healthy criticism now and then, and you should be able to give and receive it from your partner. However, there’s a line where healthy criticism becomes abusive.

Your partner should love you for who you are. If he’s constantly criticizing every little thing you do, he doesn’t truly love you. He’s just spewing his negativity onto you to make himself feel big.

5. He’s physical with you

If he’s pushed you or hit you before, then he’s already abused you physically. You should have left him already. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

If you’re noticing that he’s becoming more physical over time, this is a huge red flag of low self-esteem. 

He’s compensating for his low self-esteem by showing you how “he’s a man”. But this isn’t a man, this is a coward and definitely one you need to run from.

6. He only wants you

He’s not into sharing you with anyone else. Sure, you have friends and family but those are the only people that are trying to get in between you and him, right? Wrong. [Read: 15 signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]

In his eyes, he can’t share you with anyone else. He doesn’t want to know your friends nor does he want you hanging out with them when he’s not around.

7. He’s a huge Debbie Downer

He’s never happy about anything. You could literally take him to the moon and he would find something to complain about. 

In a healthy relationship, couples bring out the best in each other. But with him, he’s always bringing you down and pointing out the qualities he doesn’t like in you. [Read: Negative Nancy – what makes one, 18 traits, and ways to deal with their attitude]

8. He doesn’t hear you

He knows you’re there, he hears you speaking but he’s not listening to anything you’re saying. And if he does listen, it’s only to the things he can use against you to win the fight. 

He doesn’t care about your feelings or if he hurt you. You may feel that you’re walking on eggshells because you have to watch everything you say when you’re with him.

9. He’s never wrong

He’s probably made so many mistakes while with you, but in his eyes, they were never his fault. [Read: Manipulative people – how to spot them and stop playing the victim]

It’s always some crazy reason as to why something happened and it’s never really because of him. He emotionally can’t handle being wrong because he has no self-esteem. Instead, he blames others.

10. You can’t celebrate your successes

At least not unless he also had a success. You can’t look better than him. If you do, he starts to feel bad and expresses how he’s less than you or insults your achievements. 

He makes you feel that you can’t celebrate your accomplishments with him around. Instead, you reduce yourself. [Read: The signs you’re dating a jerk]

11. He is scared & unsure about taking any major responsibility

Taking responsibility for yourself and your life is the mature thing to do. It’s part of becoming an adult. And even though some responsibilities in life might be scary and difficult, mature people do it anyway.

But if he is scared of taking on anything major in life, he probably has low self-esteem.

For example, if he hates his job but won’t apply for anything better, maybe he thinks no one else will want to hire him. [Read: Immature men – 37 manchild signs and how to get him to admit he is one so he can change]

12. He exhibits sexually coercive behavior

Sexual acts should always be consensual and mutually agreed upon. That is just part of a normal and healthy relationship. In fact, sex should be an expression of love. Sure, it feels good too. But there should be an emotional connection there too.

You don’t always want to have sex, that’s completely normal. But for him, if you don’t have sex with him, he feels that you’re not into him which makes his self-esteem even worse. 

So, he takes advantage of your guilt by manipulating you to have sex with him. [Read: Sexually abusive relationship – subtle signs you’re being abused]

13. He is addicted to different things

Addictions can form for a variety of reasons. But one of the major reasons people get addicted to things is because it is a form of escapism. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, shopping, or video games, an addiction takes him away from reality.

The reason he wants to escape reality is because then he doesn’t have to do any self-reflection.

His mind is occupied by drugs, alcohol, video games, gambling, or whatever he is addicted to. It’s easier to stay addicted than it is to work on self-improvement. 

14. He is easily prone to influence

A man who has high self-esteem has firm personal boundaries. He knows exactly who he is, what his values are, and what he stands for. In other words, he is not easily influenced by other people because he has a high sense of self.

A man with low self-esteem is easily influenced by his peers. [Read: How not to be a pushover – what makes you one and ways to take a stand]

He doesn’t really think for himself because he relies on other people to do that for him. He is prone to “jumping on the bandwagon” to make people like him because he doesn’t like himself.

15. He focuses on his mistakes rather than his achievements

Everyone makes mistakes in life – it’s inevitable. But someone with high self-esteem learns from their mistakes and does better the next time. They take them as learning opportunities and don’t beat themselves up over them.

But a man with low self-esteem will only look at the things he did wrong, not the things he’s done right. He’s constantly eating himself up over these mistakes and can’t get past them. He only sees himself in a negative light. [Read: 28 Self-improvement secrets to improve yourself and transform into your best self]

16. He needs ongoing validation

Everyone likes getting validation from other people from time to time. It just makes us feel good to know that others love us and think we are worthy of their love. But people with high self-esteem don’t need it. They just like it.

A man with low self-esteem will need constant, ongoing validation. [Read: Anxious personality – reasons to date an anxious person]

The only reason he needs it is because he externalizes his self-worth. He doesn’t have the ability to rely on himself for love, he needs to get it from other people.

17. He is bad at handling criticism of any kind

Sure, no one likes to be criticized because it just doesn’t feel good.

But sometimes criticism can be constructive and useful if it’s delivered in the right way. And people with high self-esteem appreciate it because it can lead to self-improvement.

But a man with low self-esteem doesn’t like criticism – ever. Even if it’s delivered lovingly, he still can’t stand it. That’s because he believes a lot of negative things about himself already, and so he can’t handle hearing anymore. [Read: Why do people get defensive? Reasons and ways to handle them]

What to expect when you love a man with low self-esteem

Whether or not you’re already dating a man with low self-esteem or you want to be prepared if you do, you need to know what to expect. Here are some major things you should know.

1. He loves you, but he hates himself

This is a difficult one to accept and even to understand. But men with low self-esteem may be struggling to love you more than he dislikes themselves. [Read: Why do I hate myself so much? Self-hate and what you can do about it]

Unfortunately, he feels lost a lot of the time. He can go through times when they don’t see the beauty in the relationship because he’s blaming himself.

He’s so engrossed in hating himself that if you say you love him, he might wonder why you feel that way because he loves you and doesn’t feel worthy.

2. He will always tell you that he doesn’t deserve you

This is a common thing to expect. This is because he might think that the only reason that you are with him is that he just got really lucky this one time. [Read: Low self-worth – steps to see yourself in a better life]

When he met you, he saw you as a prize, idolized you, and put you on a pedestal. This happened because you were in that initial phase of intense attraction and infatuation – the honeymoon stage.

But when that stage is over, he’ll try to find ways to prove that he is worthy of your commitment and love. He will probably even tell you that he doesn’t deserve you. When it comes to learning how to deal with a man with low self-esteem, it’s important to remember this.

3. Men with low self-esteem fear commitment

This might sound like a strange one, but it’s true. He might be very scared to commit to you. [Read: Fear of commitment – 47 signs, whys, and ways to get over your phobia]

For some reason, he fears commitment. It might be because he hates himself and thinks he is protecting you from committing to a loser.

Obviously, this makes no sense to you because you want to be committed to him. And deep down, he might want to be committed to you too, but he just can’t. Yes, this is a distorted way of thinking, but that’s how his brain works.

Ways his self-esteem issues damage YOUR well-being

You might think that a man having low self-esteem is strictly a “him” problem and has nothing to do with you. [Read: Toxic relationship – what it is, 107 signs causes, and types of love that hurt you]

But if you’re dating a guy who doesn’t like himself, it will affect your well-being too – and not in a good way.

1. It makes you wary of getting close to someone

It’s scary for a lot of people to get emotionally close to someone, even though they desire it. But when you’re dating a man with low self-esteem, it can take a lot of energy out of you.

As a result, you might be wary of getting close to anyone else because you don’t want the same feeling as you have with him. [Read: I have trust issues – 18 baby steps to start dating and open your heart to love]

2. You develop a pessimistic outlook on life

Because a man with low self-esteem has a pessimistic outlook on himself, he probably is pessimistic in general. And that kind of thinking and negative energy can rub off on you too.

Even if you are naturally an optimist, you might find yourself becoming more negative in your thinking just because you’re around him so much. You’ll have to keep tabs on your thinking so you don’t become a pessimist yourself.

3. You forget what it’s like to be genuinely happy

Your man is not happy because he doesn’t love himself. And that feeling oozes into your life too. [Read: 70 true secrets to happiness to have a happy life and enjoy everything you do]

When you’re around someone who is never happy, then you tend to forget what it’s like to be happy too. You’ll have to be very mindful of your own happiness and not let him drag you down with him. It’s not easy to do, but it can be done.

4. It ruins your self-esteem

As they say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” In other words, we tend to be like the people that we hang out with the most. And while you might not have had low self-esteem when you met him, he could ruin yours if you let him.

But you shouldn’t. Don’t let him criticize you and try to bring you down to his level. You shouldn’t give him that power over you. [Read: 30 signs of low self-esteem in a woman that reveal a need for self-love]

5. There’s no room for you to grow

In an ideal world, people should focus on self-improvement and try to be the best version of themselves that they possibly can be. But when you’re dating a man with low self-esteem, he’s not trying to do that.

As a result, you’ll probably stop growing yourself. You will become more like him, and you won’t become the best person you can be.

6. You become emotionally drained

People with low self-esteem can act as “energy vampires.” In other words, when you are with them, you feel like they suck the positive energy out of you.

When you’re with him, you won’t feel energized and happy. Instead, you’ll feel like you are totally zapped and drained of anything good. [Read: What is an energy vampire? 19 signs to spot them in your life ASAP]

7. You start confusing toxic behavior as normal

If the man you’re dating has become abusive to you because of his low self-esteem, you might start to get used to it if you don’t stop him. Because of this, you might start to think that it’s normal.

But it’s not normal. No form of abuse should be tolerated – ever. So, if you start to accept his toxic behavior, that’s a huge problem.

8. Your mental and physical health is affected

Being with a man who is a pessimist will not make you feel good about yourself – or life – either. So, it can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health.

You might become depressed and anxious. This kind of stress can cause you to become physically sick. And he might even physically abuse you, which can damage your body as well.

How to support a man with crippling self-esteem issues

If you’re in a relationship with a man who has low self-esteem but you want to stay with him, there are some ways you can help him. Here are some things you can try. [Read: Depressed boyfriend – 25 signs and ways to help him with love and support]

1. Temper your anger before confronting him about it

If his low self-esteem has caused him to drain your energy or even abuse you in some way, it is more than understandable that you are angry because of it. 

But before you confront him about it, you need to be calm. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

2. Keep your compliments realistic and genuine

If you love the guy, then you want him to see himself the way you see him. One of the ways you can do this is by giving him compliments. He will have a hard time believing you, so make sure you are genuine about it or else he will suspect you aren’t being real.

Don’t compliment his flaws but focus on his good qualities. By complimenting his flaws or toxic behaviors, you’ll normalize them which will enable him to treat you worse. Focus on his good qualities and criticize his flaws accordingly.

3. Validate his feelings and make him feel heard

He will have a lot of negative feelings and emotions that are inside of him. He may or may not let them out. 

So if he is open to talking about them, then try to validate his feelings. Be a good listener and make sure he knows that you are supportive of him. [Read: 19 ways to be a much better listener in a relationship and read their mind]

4. Try to understand where he’s coming from even when it’s hard

Empathy is so important in every relationship. So, even if you don’t understand why he is so hard on himself, try to see it from his perspective. 

Ask him questions and let him know that you are trying to help him feel better about himself. Reassure him that you love him too.

5. Help him find a new *positive* perspective

He is so used to being a pessimist that it’s his automatic go-to way of thinking, not only about himself but about the world in general. 

So, you’re going to have to help him develop a more positive way of thinking. Pain a picture for him that is a lot rosier than the one he sees himself. [Read: 45 secrets to be more positive and fill your mind with positive emotions 24/7]

6. Prepare yourself for his defensiveness

If he is someone who is so used to his self-loathing and pessimistic view of the world, he will probably get defensive when you try to get him out of that way of thinking.

It’s almost like a security blanket for him because he hasn’t known anything else. So, just be prepared for him to give you some difficulty when you try to help him love himself.

7. Rationally explain how his behavior is affecting you

Sometimes people with low self-esteem don’t have any idea how their negative outlook on themselves and life can affect other people. They don’t realize that their negative energy permeates the room and other people. 

So, gently and kindly explain how his behavior is affecting you. Be gentle but be firm. It may be a tough pill for him to swallow, but he will have to see that he is hurting you to improve himself. Hopefully, he will understand and try to change.

[Read: The signs of a disrespectful partner you should never overlook]

In the end, a boyfriend with low self-esteem wears you down and leaves you with no self-esteem. So, commit these signs of low self-esteem in a man to memory.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...