9 Signs of Low Self-Esteem and Strategies for Fixing Them

9 Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Following, you will find 9 signs of low self-esteem and some simple strategies for overcoming low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is practically an epidemic. We’re bombarded with images of impossible success and beauty on a daily basis. It’s hard to avoid making comparisons, and those comparisons never seem to work out in our favor. These unrealistic images that we place such gravity on have this impact because we lack the awareness of a healthy self-concept. Simply put, when you are genuinely cognizant of who you are in the world, you will not get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to others.

Add to that a few mean comments received in childhood, a workplace bully, and a few extra pounds, and your self-esteem can plummet. Social media has served to exacerbate the problem of collective low self-esteem. In a world where everyone is constantly presenting a weighted version of themselves that conveniently omits the struggles, setbacks, hidden battles, it can be easy for those reading these posts to become disenfranchised with their reality.

Fortunately, there is a way to recognize when your self-esteem has taken a hit — putting yourself in a situation to reverse the effects and develop a healthy and effective self-esteem.

Recognize the signs of low self-esteem:

  1. Difficulty accepting compliments. If you have a hard time hearing someone say something nice about you, you might be suffering from low self-esteem. Most people enjoy receiving a genuine compliment, but those with a low opinion of themselves feel very uncomfortable being on the receiving end of praise.

The difficulty in accepting praise is the result of conflicting ideas. If you have a low opinion of yourself, the idea of someone thinking highly of you will conflict with that belief creating what is known as cognitive dissonance — mental discomfort. One of the most powerful weapons against the aversion to compliments is to change your self-talk. When you change the way you speak about yourself, it will reprogram your subconscious to see you in a different light, making it easier to accept compliments and embrace them.

  • Start by giving yourself compliments in the mirror. Keep doing this each day until the discomfort is greatly diminished. It is about repetition, not comfort. It will not be comfortable at first, but you must continue to do it daily.

    • Next, ask people if they like your shoes, new haircut, or your brand-new gas grill. People will almost always say they do. Enjoy the compliments. Using this methodology is a simple but effective way to solicit positive compliments.

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  1. Overly sensitive to criticism. On the other hand, those with low self-esteem can’t handle criticism either. They tend to overreact and to take criticism too personally.

    1. Even constructive criticism isn’t received positively. Do you bristle when someone offers a helpful suggestion for improvement? If so, your lack of self-esteem might be the reason. It would be best if you learned to see constructive criticism as an instrument of growth.

    1. Ask someone for advice about how you could improve how you currently do something. Then, thank them for it and make good use of their feedback. Constructive criticism is simply feedback to be used for the purpose of intentional growth.

  2. Fear of failure. Low self-esteem and avoidance are commonly found together. Those with low self-esteem expect to fail, and who is going to try to do something if they expect failure? Failure is inevitable at a foundational level. The idea is not to avoid failure but to learn from it. Those who are successful in the world are the ones who are able to take away key learning points from their failures. You will not successfully circumvent the challenges and vicissitudes in this life, leading to setbacks, disappointments, and delays. Your focus must be on how you will grow through them.

    1. Do things that will likely result in failure and realize that it isn’t so bad. Apply for jobs you have little hope of landing. Ask a stranger out for coffee. The goal is not to become content with failure but to mitigate the aversion to it that paralyzes you.

  3. People-pleasing behavior. While compliments are hard to handle, who doesn’t like the gratitude of others? When people show appreciation to someone with low self-esteem, that appreciation is soaked up like a dry sponge soaks up water. People-pleasing is done to feel a sense of value and worth. One of the problems of being a people-pleaser is that you are more at risk of being manipulated and exploited. You will also tend to lose yourself in other people’s worlds while losing your own sense of self.

    1. Do what needs to be done without trying so hard to make others happy. Do something that makes YOU happy.

    1. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the negative impact your words or actions can have on other people.

  4. Difficulty prioritizing your own needs. When you think you don’t matter, you put everyone else above and ahead of yourself. If you’re regularly getting the short end of the stick, ask yourself why you continue to allow it to happen.

    1. Put yourself first for a change. That doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of anyone. Think about what would be best for you and your life and give that a try for a while.


  5. A lack of boundaries. People with high self-esteem have boundaries that they enforce religiously but calmly. If people are walking all over you and disregard any boundaries you attempt to enforce; your self-esteem might need a little work. A person with healthy self-esteem knows where to draw the line and will consistently enforce those boundaries.

    1. Begin by saying “no” more often. Prioritize your time and your life by turning down requests that don’t fit in with your plans or are too burdensome.

  6. Critical self-talk. Do you speak kindly to yourself, or are you hard on yourself?  People with a healthy level of self-esteem tend to be kind and encouraging to themselves. Those with low self-esteem tend to be much more critical.

    1. Monitor your self-talk and stop yourself when you speak poorly to yourself. Compliment yourself each time you catch yourself being negative toward yourself. This approach is not about being dishonest in your self-assessments but being more positive in how you approach and speak about them.

  7. Underachieving. Does everyone consider you to be an underachiever? Being an underachiever is another sign that you likely don’t value yourself as much as you should.

    1. Seek to improve some part of your life each day, even if it’s only in a small way. The goal is to ensure that you take action every day, no matter how seemingly insignificant that action may seem.  

  8. Difficulty giving an opinion even when asked. When your self-esteem is low, you think that your opinions don’t matter. You also want to avoid having your opinions judged by others, so you keep them to yourself.

    1. Give your opinion whenever asked. See what happens. No matter what, there will always be those who disagree with you, or fail to see the value in your contribution. You cannot allow your efforts to be abated by the opinions of others.

Low self-esteem is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. Recognize the signs of low self-esteem in yourself and your children and do something about it. Low self-esteem is extremely limiting.

Raising self-esteem is a great gift to give yourself and the ones you love.

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Dr. Rick Wallace
9 Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Dr. Wallace has authored and published 24 books (25th pending), including  Critical Mass: The Phenomenon of Next-Level Living, Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery,” Merging Souls: Healing, Hope, and Restoration in Modern Marriage, and “The Mis-education of Black Youth in America.” He has written and published thousands of scholarly and prose articles and papers, with the overwhelming majority of his work surrounding the enigmatic issues plaguing blacks on every level. Papers that he has published include: “Special Education as the Mechanism for the Mis-education of African Youth,” “Racial Trauma & African Americans,” “Epigenetics in Psychology: The Genetic Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma in African Americans,” and “Collective Cognitive-Bias Reality Syndrome” — to name a few.

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