12 Signs You May Have Low Self Esteem
Are you wondering if you have low self-esteem? Many people with social anxiety also live with low self-esteem, so it’s a good thing to explore what we mean by low self-esteem symptoms.
While some of the obvious signs of low self-esteem include thinking very little of yourself or beating yourself up for small mistakes, there are other symptoms that are more subtle, and that you may have not even recognized in yourself.
Let’s take a look at all of the signs and symptoms of low self-esteem.
Apologizing Too Much
Do you say sorry way too often? Okay, full disclosure, I do this myself. If someone bumps into me in the store, 9 times out of 10 I will say sorry. If I feel like someone is upset about something, I will say sorry even if I’ve done nothing wrong.
Does this sound like you? Apologizing too much is basically telling people that you don’t have value or worth. That you’re trying to take up as little space as possible in the world.
Afraid to Express Differing Opinions or Ideas
Are you afraid of speaking up when you disagree about something or when your ideas are a little out of the norm? While this could be just a sign of social awareness, if it’s extreme it could reflect low self-esteem.
Not expressing your opinion because you are afraid of what other people will think gives their opinions more worth than your own. Why does what they think matter more than what you think?
This also goes along with saying what you think other people want to hear. I do this sometimes when people offer me choices: instead of picking one, I say—whatever you think or either is fine. I end up frustrating the other person because they just want to know what I like.
Fear of Making Mistakes
Do you fear making mistakes? People with low self-esteem feel a lot of guilt and shame when they make mistakes. When mistakes happen it feels so catastrophic that you try to avoid them at all costs.
This comes up for me sometimes with games and sports. If I feel like I won’t be good at something, I will pass or say no rather than just learning something fun or new. Why do you have to be perfect at everything? That’s the question to ask yourself.
Hard to Say No
Just like wanting to please others by going along with their ideas and opinions, you might also find yourself not able to say no when faced with requests. This is also known as a lack of assertiveness, and again is frustrating for other people.
I’ve gotten better with this, but there have been times when I wanted to say no but instead said yes. And then felt resentful or kind of dragged my heels.. or worse yet just backed out. Not being able to say no is related to your fear that other people won’t like you if you turn them down.
When you feel bad about yourself all the time, you will naturally start to withdraw from other people. If it’s hard to say no, you can’t voice your opinions, and you’re always apologizing—it’s no wonder you don’t want to be around people! This can be at the root of some cases of social anxiety too, so consider if this might be one reason why you can’t be around people.
Sensitivity to Criticism
When people criticize you, how do you feel? If you are oversensitive and become upset over the slightest bit of criticism, this can be a sign of low self-esteem. I know people who react with anger when they feel as though they are being criticized. So—sensitivity can come in many forms.
Low self-esteem symptoms can also show up in a psychosomatic way, meaning that your body becomes involved. Headache, stomachache, and insomnia could indicate that you’re feeling stressed out or bad all the time. Don’t ignore your body.
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Putting on a Show
Some people with low self-esteem will try to put on a show to hide it. Someone who comes across as very boastful and arrogant could in fact be living with low self-esteem. The schoolyard bully is a classic example of this; people who put others down to build themselves up are lacking in self-esteem.
Self Critical Thoughts
Do you have a lot of recurrent self-critical thoughts? This can be a sign of low self-esteem. Over the years I’ve had my share of these negative thoughts. Often they are things we pick up from other people or things we tell ourselves after failures. If you say bad things about yourself to yourself a lot, that’s a sign of low self-esteem.
Lack of Motivation
Lack of motivation can be a sneaky sign of low self-esteem. If you have given up in a certain area of your life such as school, work, or romance, it could be that you no longer have confidence that you will ever achieve success in that area.
I experienced this for a little while in graduate school, when it seemed like everything was an uphill battle and I would never be finished.
Not Taking Credit for Success
When someone offers you a compliment, do you say “Thank you” or do you say, “Oh thanks, but it’s not really that… X.” Downplaying compliments or not being able to take credit for your abilities, skills, or successes can be a sign of low self-esteem. While you might think you are just being “humble,” humble people are still able to recognize when they’ve done well. If you are never able to do that, it could be because of low self-esteem.
Believing Others Are More Capable
Do you always feel like everyone is better than you at doing things? This can be especially true if you have social anxiety. I remember when I used to live with a public speaking phobia, I felt like everyone in the world was a better public speaker than me. This can be a really hard belief to shake if you live with social anxiety and it’s become ingrained over a long period of time.
Fortunately, you are not doomed to live with low self-esteem symptoms forever! Self-esteem can be built through therapy, self-help books, and personal development, so I encourage you to work on it.
Remember: good self-esteem is not feeling that you are better than other people. Rather, it’s knowing that all humans have equal worth.
How to Overcome Low Self Esteem
If you live with social anxiety you might wonder how to overcome low self esteem.
What is self-worth? According to Merriam-Webster, it is a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect. A lot of people who are socially anxious fail to believe this about themselves.
Does this sound like you?
You believe that everyone else in the world is more deserving of respect than you.
Say, for example, you accomplish something really great. Maybe you get a good grade in school or are hired for a new job. Do you then start to downplay everything about yourself that may have contributed to that outcome?
Perhaps you tell yourself it was easy to get good grades. Anyone could have done it. Or, that job, they just hired you because they needed someone. It’s not that there was anything special about you that got you hired.
When you have an achievement, you see it as not reflective of you in any way, but just due to luck, which further lowers your self-worth. What would you think/say/do if someone else accomplished the same thing that you do?
More importantly, what are you getting out of denying your self-worth? Why are you holding yourself back from learning how to overcome low self esteem?
Fear That You Won’t Measure Up
There’s a reason why you are doing it. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of people expecting more from you? Afraid that people will discover you are not really that wonderful after all (also known as Imposter Syndrome)?
What is holding you back from learning how to overcome low self esteem?
While it may not seem that relevant to social anxiety, it’s actually a key part of the solution to this problem. Unless you were socially anxious from birth, somewhere along the way you lost the ability to view yourself objectively. Do you know when that point was? Can you pick it out from your past?
Perhaps there was an event during which you let yourself down. A speech in fourth grade where everyone laughed. The time you did not get the job and you did make a fool of yourself in the interview. Do those moments define you? Do you have to keep telling yourself you are that person?
Failure to Be Your Authentic Self
The second reason you might be denying your own self-worth is because of a failure to be your authentic self.
Somehow along the way your social anxiety became entwined with your view of yourself. The need to escape the spotlight became part of a strategy of down-playing yourself and your achievements.
Because of this, you’ve never had the experience of being your authentic self in relationships.
(Watch the video below for an interesting video about social anxiety and self esteem!)
When you ask for the respect of others, you are actually showing them respect too.
When you say “no” because you don’t have time to do something, you are allowing the other person the chance to find someone else to do the job.
When you tell someone how you are feeling (or how they’ve hurt you), you are giving them a roadmap of how to make you happy in the future.
Self-worth means showing respect for yourself and expecting respect from others. This links to assertiveness as well as showing the same respect to others in kind.
So, working on your self-worth is a proposition that helps everyone.
How to Overcome Low Self Esteem
How can we work past these blocks? What we are really talking about when we discuss low self-worth is that you don’t feel like you deserve respect.
Your self-worth is so low that it feels strange when you try to picture yourself as a person who deserves respect. It feels wrong.
So, like with anything, we need to take baby steps.
Step 1. Every morning, write down three positive things about yourself.
Step 2. Make a list of things that would make you feel better about yourself.
This could be anything, from as small as making your bed every morning or buying a new outfit, to as big as getting a new job or buying a house.
Order the list from smallest to biggest. Each day, do one thing from the list beginning with the smallest. Once you’ve achieved an item, cross it off and move on to the next.
Step 4. Write down three problems in your life. They might be about social anxiety or something more general.
Now, pretend you are a good friend offering advice. Tell yourself what you think you should do to solve the problem.
Notice how you speak differently to yourself when you take on the role of a friend.
Step 5. Write down every unique bad thing you say to yourself. Keep it in a password-protected Word doc or a note on your phone.
Get tired of making this list.
Make it easier on yourself by not saying bad things to yourself so that you have less to write on the list.
That’s it! Do you have any tips on how to overcome low self esteem? Feel free to share them in the comment section.
Related Articles about Self Esteem
- Take the Self Esteem Test
- 56+ Self Esteem Affirmations You Can Use Now
12 Low Self Esteem Symptoms
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