Signs of Low Self-Esteem​

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ilbey Ucar PhD (Psychology)

Last updated date : January 26 , 2023

Self-esteem can be defined as how we see ourselves, our self worth or our opinion of ourselves. Our self-esteem changes over time. It depends on what is happening in our lives, temperament and past experiences. Our self-esteem can vary. How we think about ourselves is important because it affects our everyday decisions and our motivation. In this article, we are going to cover 11 signs of low self-esteem with examples.

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Chapter 1:

Getting Hurt by Criticism or Disapproval

When someone criticizes us, gives us negative feedback, or gets a poor grade or report at work, it is natural to feel upset. If that criticism lingers, feeling upset for a long time could signify low self-esteem. If your self-esteem is healthy, you will be able to bounce back soon. Someone with healthy self-esteem and a growth mindset will take that criticism and try to make something positive from it.

Let’s take an example, John and Andrew both failed their driving exam on the same day. John remains upset for weeks. He thinks a lot about his mistakes and fears taking the driving exam again. John has low self-esteem, which impacts how he sees not passing his driving exam. Andrew, on the other hand, is upset for a day or two, but soon books are a few more driving lessons and he is looking forward to finally getting his license.

Man with signs of low self-esteem, eyes downcast, arms clasped in a busy gym

Chapter 2:

Not Accepting Compliments

People with low self-regard think they are not worthy or deserve prayers and compliments. They struggle to hear positive things said about them. Often people with low self-esteem view themselves in a more negative light than others. Mary is conscientious, works hard and is a star employee at her organization. At her performance review, her manager only has prayers for Mary. However, Mary struggles to accept these compliments because they don’t align with how she sees herself. Mary has low self-worth.

Chapter 3:

Avoiding Challenges

One of the other classic signs of low self-esteem is avoiding challenges due to a fear of failure. People with low self-esteem don’t back themselves. If we take John from our first example, after failing his initial driving exam, he is hesitant to sit the driving exam again because John does not believe in himself. Avoiding challenges or stressful situations is a sign of low self-esteem.

Chapter 4:


People with low self-esteem blame themselves when something goes wrong. Usually, this self-blame is excessive and unfair. For instance, when it’s a team effort and the team doesn’t meet their expectations, someone with low self-worth may take on excessive blame, thinking that it is all their fault.

Chapter 5:

High Degrees of Stress, Unable to Relax and Have Fun

People with low self-worth struggle to relax, take things easy and to take time off. It probably ties in with their low self-worth, they feel unworthy or can’t justify having fun and relaxing. Mary, who we met earlier in this article, works extremely hard. This could be in part driven by her low self-esteem, her wishes to feel worthy and recognized.

Chapter 6:

Negative Self Talk

Our minds generate thousands of thoughts each day. Our low self-esteem can mean that our thoughts are more negative, focused on our floors, negative memories or upsetting things people have said to us. Negative self-talk is part of low self-esteem. However it is also associated with depression and other mental illnesses. In fact, one of the ways to improve self-esteem is to try and challenge some of those negative thoughts.

Chapter 7:

Wanting to Impress All, Please Others

A sign you have low self-esteem could be wanting to please others. If you have low self-worth, it would be natural to want to get external validation from others. This can involve neglecting your needs in favors of going above and beyond to make sure that other people are happy. Someone with low self-esteem would do lots of favors, even the work of others, to keep those people happy.

Chapter 8:

Negative Outlook

Another one of the classic signs of low self-esteem is having a negative outlook. People with low self-esteem may think there is little chance of the future being bright. Why? It’s because they don’t back themselves or believe in themselves. Their outlook remains negative or cloudy. After failing his driving exam once, John has a negative view for the future and is not motivated to take the test again.

Chapter 9:


This particular sign of low self-esteem is linked to the notion that people with low self-esteem have negative internal self-talk. It also relates to the view that people with low self-esteem don’t trust themselves. There is increased worry or fear that people with low self-esteem have, they just don’t believe in themselves. Instead, they worry excessively.

Chapter 10:

Not Standing up for Yourself

People with low self-esteem may back down during our discussion. In order to avoid conflict, they don’t express their views and needs. This relates to their low self-regard that they think others views and wishes are more important. If the driving instructor who failed John in his driving test were to unfairly and harshly point out John’s mistakes because of John’s low self-esteem, he might not stand up for himself.

Chapter 11:

Low Self-Esteem and Body Language

We generally don’t consider body language as one of the signs of low self-esteem. However, there is increasing research done linking body language to confidence and self-esteem. Someone with your service team is more likely to have hunched or closed off posture. The mind and the body are closely connected. When someone feels weak or uncertain of themselves, they are more likely to adopt a slouched or low body stance.

These are 11 possible signs you have low self-esteem. If you recognise any of these features, it may be worth looking into. Low self-esteem can increase the risk of mental health conditions and lead to distress. We have a series of articles here at Epsychonline along with courses on the topic of low self-esteem. We hope you have found this article helpful. Send us any feedback or suggestions that you have.

"Practical and insightful" David

70 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount