I could go on about the way the patriarchy doesn’t require men to cultivate a sense of emotional intelligence.
And make no mistake, I will.
But I also wanted to touch upon how men can also be a victim of their own privilege because it keeps them from noticing their own weaknesses.
Because they are told who they are by gender roles and societal norms, it’s not really expected of them to have nuanced, complex levels of self-awareness.
While the rest of us can build ourselves up where they tore us down, low self-esteem in men is a touchy topic that is rarely talked about.
But we need to if we want to bridge the gaps between all the genders through empathy.
So let’s do just that – here are 9 behaviors that signify a man with low self-esteem.
1) They overly identify with their gender
The thing with gender roles in that it tells men that they can be men before they are human.
It encourages them to be powerful before they are empathetic. This becomes a defense mechanism, providing a shield against any feelings of inadequacy.
In a society that readily validates them simply for existing, conforming to toxic masculinity serves as a shortcut to validation.
However, the real challenge lies in fostering an internal sense of greatness that doesn’t rely on the opinions of others that have the same insecurities as you.
A.K.A. other men.
2) They look to other men for validation
There is very little self-exploration encouraged among men.
And what ends up happening when a bunch of men get together by bonding over their shared masculinity, is a hive mindset that benefits from misogyny.
That’s right, you don’t have to be explicitly misogynistic to perpetuate certain ideals that are harmful to women.
For example, the idea of “locker room talk” fosters an environment that belittles and dismisses perspectives outside of the traditional male narrative.
Or if a man expresses vulnerability, the hive mindset may respond with disapproval. In some cases, outright ridicule.
These subtle but very clear reinforcements push men to adhere to narrow definitions of themselves.
And indirectly or not, paints femininity as a weakness.
3) They are obsessed with vanity
Because it’s just seen as “gym bro” culture, some men might not even be fully aware that this is a problem.
I was personally shocked to find out about how many men use steroids, and just casually harm themselves in the name of vanity.
Or how some of them partake in “cutting season” where they basically starve themselves so they don’t gain weight during off seasons.
Comparing themselves to idealized masculinity can also involve what kind of media they consume.
There are so many young men idolizing men like Andrew Tate, or not understanding that Patrick Bateman was a satirical character written by a gay man.
They don’t realize that when they set unrealistic standards of who they should be, they leave their minds vulnerable to being manipulated by those who are just as hopeless.
4) They don’t practice emotional vulnerability
The thing with feelings is that when you make a habit of not feeling them, you become that much more numb to the consequences of not feeling them.
Which creates a snowball effect of emotional immaturity that gets harder to resolve as you get older.
But understanding my emotions by being vulnerable was precisely what helped me become stronger.
It gave the idea of strength form because I experienced growth that allowed me to exist beyond societal expectations!
To be my own person, despite the system being built to not value me.
So embracing this vulnerability is a crucial step towards authentic self-discovery and building genuine self-esteem that can say it was earned.
As well as stand the test of time.
5) They are overly logical
Overshadowing emotionality isn’t just about vulnerability.
It also has to do with thinking in a black-and-white way where you view life like a mathematical equation.
For example, thinking that a good deed cancels out a bad deed.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say that being vulnerable and keeping yourself accountable are very much interconnected.
A lot of men with low self-esteem also resort to logic because emotions are traditionally associated with women and femininity.
So in turn, any sign of nuance, temperance and even thoughts that challenge their tainted logic might cause them to be resentful.
Especially when they are criticized.
6) They don’t react well to criticism
Because when you have been catered to by society in a systematic way, anyone that challenges this poses a threat to your sense of self.
Not only that, but to them, you look like the enemy who is “wishing on their downfall” because you wanted them to be taken accountable for their actions.
Think of those men that post on social media all the time about how they are “moving in silence.”
When met with criticism, it’s not unusual for a man with low self-esteem to react with paranoia. It speaks on their deep-seated fear of being exposed.
For their carefully curated facade, shattered.
To reconcile this disconnect from reality would require a lot of deconditioning that is extremely uncomfortable.
Therefore, it explains why so many men have poor emotional regulation skills – it must be exhausting to avoid the mirror 24/7.
7) They have poor emotional regulation skills
Men with low self-esteem are reactive and it’s extremely unpredictable to be around them.
They usually don’t care about actually being “right,” and reasoning with them can be next to impossible because of this.
So because their aggression causes everyone around them to walk on eggshells, it creates an environment where constructive dialogues cease to exist.
When you seemingly have so much “power,” it only further validates your sense of importance, making low self-worth feel irrelevant in their atmosphere.
Making accountability an option not worth considering.
8) They seek validation from women
Yet they still won’t see them as a person.
It’s similar to how some women have a hard time staying single because they crave male validation to fill a void within them.
In the case of insecure men, they might view their status among women as something increases their masculine appeal.
So oddly enough, a lot of straight men will seek attention from women to look attractive to other men.
If not positive validation, they might engage in performative behaviors directed toward women such as “cat calling.”
This pattern of behavior will perpetuate cycles of shallow relationships with everyone they interact with.
And although they don’t have the emotional recognition skills to identify this as loneliness, it leaves them with an insatiable need for constant external validation.
9) They are insatiable
Usually in their professional endeavors, but also in their relationships.
These are the men that want more money even though they have enough, even if it means they overlook the well-being of others.
Think of billionaires that have never heard of ethical conditions for their employees.
Or serial cheaters who traumatize their partners even though ethical non-monogamy is a whole chapter they could explore.
And they’d never admit to how nothing is ever enough because that would mean something is broken within them.
If they aren’t inclined to climb any corporate or social ladders, it can lead to cycles of addiction as they feel inadequate within themselves but also in the male social sphere.
If a man has to identify themselves as a “sigma” or “alpha” male, they’re overcompensating for how they truly feel inside.
That they don’t actually know who they are outside of the labels society gave them to feel powerful without much merit.
Their independent thinking was programmed before they thought it or bought it.
While I may never experience the sense of safety and power that male privilege offers, there are some aspects where I am glad that I never will.
Where I was shown that I was inferior, I found empowerment. I’m able to offer safe spaces for others and connect with them just by being myself.
And I look forward to turning more societal limitations into stepping stones for personal growth and self-discovery.