Self esteem ties back to our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and sociologists say it encompasses our sense of worth, confidence, and belief in our abilities. Unfortunately, low self esteem can profoundly impact various aspects of a man’s life, including relationships, career, and overall well-being.
In this guide, I’ll explore 7 common characteristics of a man with low self esteem and briefly discuss strategies to overcome them.
While you can help a man with a low self-esteem issue (check out how to do that here), keep in mind that you can’t fix him. That’s his job, not yours.
That said, here’s how to recognize the telltale signs of low self esteem in men so you can understand their sensitivities and help them as best as you can.
Common Characteristics of a Man With Low Self Esteem
1. Overcompensation and Aggressive Behavior
Many people mistake bravado or needless aggression for assertiveness. Psychologists found a strong link between low self esteem and aggressive behaviors.
Men with healthy self esteem communicate confidently, expressing their opinions respectfully without resorting to exaggerated behavior.
On the other hand, men with low self esteem will try to assert dominance to mask their insecurities. In many cases, they will engage in risk-taking behaviors just to prove their self-worth.
2. Negative Self-Talk and Self-Criticism
A man who is quick to spotlight his failures and shortcomings while downplaying his strengths has self-esteem issues. His internal dialogue focuses mainly on self-criticism, and this undermines his self-worth.
While some men with low self-esteem will directly put themselves down, others may do indirectly by engaging in self-deprecating humor.
For example, negative self-talk and self-criticism in men may manifest through constant verbal jabs about their fashion sense, weight, or intelligence, which could indicate sensitivities about their insecurities and cause negative feelings.
3. Lack of Confidence
Lack of confidence is one of the obvious characteristics of a man with low self esteem. However, some men can fake confidence, acting like they are surefooted, even though deep down, they struggle with negative thoughts about themselves—their inner critic.
Sure, they may assume a confident body posture, smile, and make good eye contact, but all that “fake it till you make it” attitude can sometimes backfire for a man who already lacks confidence, as it may make him feel fraudulent or give room for imposter syndrome to creep in.
Truth is, surface-level actions alone don’t make a man confident.
And this is clearly evident when he has trouble taking a stand on his own and second-guessing important decisions, despite trying to act confident.
Here’s another sign that screams a lack of confidence in a man: he always looks to others for approval and validation and tends to constantly seek reassurance to feel worthy and accepted.
And because he lacks confidence, he hardly has an opinion and may overly rely on other people’s views just to fit in.
4. Fear of Failure and Avoidance of Challenges
Several research studies, including this one, indicate that women tend to have a higher fear of failure than men. Still, this fear is a huge problem for men and usually indicates low self-esteem.
Fear of failure can prevent a man from pursuing his goals, preferring to stay within his comfort zone.
This problem can also present subtly as high-functioning anxiety or perfectionism ― wanting all the stars to align before pursuing a goal. In some cases, men with low self-esteem will set low expectations to avoid disappointment.
5. Unhealthy Self-Comparison
A man with low self-esteem often feels inadequate because he compares himself to others. For example, he may feel unworthy because he doesn’t have the physique, intelligence, or achievements of his peers.
But for a man with low self-esteem, self-comparison doesn’t just end at being self-critical. He may also be very critical of others, being quick to point out other people’s flaws and mistakes.
That’s why many insecure men tend to be extremely competitive.
In addition to envy and jealousy toward others’ achievements, they may even feel a bit better about themselves when they notice others struggling.
6. Difficulty in Forming and Maintaining Healthy Relationships
A man who can’t open up emotionally or struggles with trust might have low self esteem. Developing a healthy relationship can be difficult for such a person because he fears rejection and abandonment.
Another possible effect of not opening up emotionally is that he finds it difficult to embrace criticism. Instead of viewing it as feedback, his lack of confidence makes him see criticism as a personal indictment.
7. Neglecting Personal Needs and Self-Care
Putting others first is virtuous and commendable, but a man who always prioritizes others’ needs while disregarding his own mental and physical well-being may have low self-esteem.
Unfortunately, men who don’t pay attention to their own needs or activities that promote self-care and personal growth often struggle with a lack of fulfillment.
To make matters worse, ignoring self-care means they can’t build a strong sense of self-worth, further perpetuating feelings of inadequacy.
Effective Strategies for Overcoming Low Self-Esteem
Having seen the common characteristics of a man with low self esteem, let’s shift our focus to strategies for overcoming the problem.
If you think you have low self esteem, consider the following quick tips for turning things around.
Accept Who You Are and Develop Self-Awareness
A problem identified, they say, is half solved. In other words, the first step in overcoming low self-esteem is recognizing and acknowledging the problem. Carefully study the signs listed above; if you find any of them in your life, it’s time to improve that area.
Remember that working on increasing self-esteem doesn’t mean pushing against your weaknesses. Instead, embrace your shortcomings and find ways to compensate for them using your strengths.
Challenge Your Negative Beliefs and Inner Critique
Pay close attention to your inner dialogue. Whenever you catch yourself in a train of negative thoughts (self-criticism or self-bashing), stop and replace them with uplifting thoughts.
Be intentional about cultivating positive self-talk. I highly recommend making time at least once daily to immerse yourself in positive affirmations.
Set Realistic Goals and Celebrate Your Achievements
It is not enough to stop focusing on your flaws or shortcomings; actively shift your mind to your strengths. However, you can only give so much attention to your unique qualities before losing steam.
A more practical approach to positive self esteem would be to set realistic goals, particularly the ones that align with your overall vision for your life. Make sure to break them into smaller achievable steps and work toward them daily.
This way, you can easily see how your strengths come into play in pursuing your goals. And remember to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small.
Be Compassionate Toward Yourself and Prioritize Self-Care
Engage in self-nurturing activities ― things that bring you joy and relaxation. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion like you would a dear friend.
And don’t forget to prioritize your physical and mental well-being. You are not being selfish; you are only looking after yourself so you can be there for others.
Build New Skills and Pursue Your Passions
You have a higher chance of increasing your self-esteem when you try new things. While stepping out of your comfort zone can feel scary, it gives you a chance to explore new interests and hobbies.
As you build competence through learning, you become more resilient and increase your confidence level. Pretty soon, you’ll have no need to seek external validation to feel worthy.
View Challenges as Opportunities for Growth
Failures and setbacks are a normal part of life; they happen to the best of us. You must learn to reframe them as learning experiences instead of beating yourself up when you fail.
Remember, you aren’t trying if you aren’t failing or making mistakes.
No doubt, they can be painful, but you must use setbacks to build resilience so you don’t get trapped in the self-bashing characteristic of low self-esteem.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. On the other hand, not asking for help when you need it shows insecurity, and that’s not one of the positive qualities of a self-assured man.
Talk to your partner or trusted friends about your challenges, and ask for their honest input. Seek counseling or therapy if necessary, and don’t be shy to open up about your low self-esteem and any resulting struggles you experience.
Does anyone come to mind while reading this guide on the common characteristics of a man with low self esteem? Perhaps it’s your husband, boyfriend, friend, or male colleague.
It’s entirely possible to notice one or more of these signs in yourself, too.
Whatever the case, the good news is that you (or the person with the problem) can overcome low self-them by consistently applying the strategies in this guide.
And if you’d like to know how to help a woman with low self-esteem, I invite you to check out my guide on the topic.