People who lack self-esteem often display these 8 behaviors (without realizing it)

Self-esteem is crucial to mental well-being.

It influences everything from your thoughts to your appearance to the way you conduct yourself.

When you’re self-assured, you have a better chance of leading a productive and fulfilling life.

When the opposite is true, battling your inner demons can drain all of your energy.

Moreover, you become so exhausted you may inadvertently put out a defeated vibe. 

Because people who lack self-esteem often display these 8 behaviors, without realizing it.

If you recognize yourself in the points below, it’s time to build up your confidence.

1) They talk down to themselves

Everyone has a voice in their head that pops up at inconvenient times to tell them they’re doing a poor job at existing.

For most of us, it appears out of nowhere one day and becomes louder the more attention we give it.

It tells you you’re not fun enough, talented enough, hard-working enough, attractive enough.

The voice isn’t rational. It doesn’t offer proof. It feeds on your insecurities and encourages your worst instincts.

Let’s call the voice Bob.

Once you’ve been living with Bob for a while without trying to contradict him, he becomes a huge part of who you are.

Humans are adaptable. His constant presence becomes less novelty and more background noise.

Soon enough, you no longer question his nagging and put-downs. You take them at face value.

You believe Bob.

This is how talking down to yourself becomes the norm rather than an occasional nuisance. 

You barely notice it anymore.

The worst part is that negative self-talk slowly and surely erodes your confidence.

You look more stressed and embarrassed when out and about, and others notice.

But guess what?

Bob isn’t objective. He lies.

Maybe you can’t banish him for good, but you can tell him to shut up and leave you alone.

You just need some practice.

2) They seek external validation

People who lack self-confidence usually rely on others for validation.

When Bob tells you how horrible you are, instead of looking for evidence of the contrary within yourself, you try to get it from others.

If Bob insists you’re ugly, you post a selfie on social media to see how many likes you get.

If Bob says you suck at parties, you go to a party to prove him wrong and end up talking too much in an effort to impress others and, hopefully, make them say how much livelier the party got once you arrived.

Sometimes, you don’t notice you’re doing it. 

It becomes a habit – one that can have devastating consequences.

Because while these tactics may work as a band-aid, what happens when your selfie doesn’t get as many likes as you expected?

Or when, instead of flocking toward you, people at the party pull away?

The problem with external validation is that it’s fickle.

It makes you vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others, setting the stage for disappointment.

Positive feedback from others is affirming, but it will never be as powerful as realizing your own worth.

Once you do that, you become unstoppable.

3) They have a hard time accepting compliments

Despite their penchant for seeking external validation, people who lack self-esteem have difficulty accepting compliments.

Instead of offering a smile and saying thank you, they deflect:

  • You did an amazing job on that project! Oh, it was a team effort; I had lots of help.
  • You look fantastic today! I just threw something on, and my hair is a mess.
  • You’re so talented at what you do! I’ve just been lucky; anyone could do my job.
  • You accomplished so much this year! It’s not a big deal; I could have done more.

You get the idea.

People who lack self-esteem redirect credit, minimize achievements, and attribute success to external factors.

Deep down, they don’t believe they deserve the praise.

They’re so used to Bob spewing negativity in their ear that compliments become unbearable.

And that’s a real shame.

4) They stay in their comfort zone

I struggle with self-esteem, and one of the most damaging things this battle did was keep me in my comfort zone.

Not only that but, for a long time, I didn’t even realize I was hesitant to take risks.

My comfort zone was so cozy I convinced myself I was doing myself a favor by staying put.

In reality, my world kept getting smaller.

I stopped socializing as much and taking on professional challenges.

But as I was telling myself I was fine, I felt this deep dissatisfaction with… well, everything.

Luckily, I had an epiphany one day, and I started to work on my confidence.

I took on new gigs for work, ones I was passionate about. I’m going out more. I connect to people on a deeper level.

I still have days when Bob screams about how I’m making a fool of myself by chatting with a stranger or wearing an edgy outfit.

Yet, I now know he doesn’t have my best interest at heart.

5) They put themselves second

pic1552 People who lack self-esteem often display these 8 behaviors (without realizing it)

Another damaging thing people who lack self-esteem do?

They put themselves second.

They live to please. 

After all, if everyone else is happy and accommodated, they’re less likely to notice your so-called shortcomings or call you out on them.

This inclination to prioritize others’ needs over personal well-being stems from a fear of rejection or a desire to avoid confronting your flaws.

The problem is that, by doing this, you’re suppressing your own desires.

While the intent is to maintain a positive image in the eyes of others, the long-term consequences include emotional burnout and a perpetuated cycle of low self-esteem.

You can’t build confidence if you don’t prioritize yourself.

Your needs, wants, and aspirations are as valid as everyone else’s.

If only you could make Bob repeat this mantra on a loop, your perspective would be much different.

6) They apologize too much

If you struggle with self-esteem, you probably over-apologize.

It’s become second nature, so it no longer seems odd to you.

When someone bumps into you on the street, you instinctively say ‘Sorry.’

When your partner is in a bad mood, you can’t help but feel like you did something to cause it, so you apologize for perceived slights they barely notice.

This tendency to apologize excessively is closely tied to a deep-seated fear of displeasing others and to that need for external validation we’ve previously discussed.

Here are some things you should stop apologizing for moving forward:

  • Taking up space in the world
  • Having opinions
  • Having feelings
  • Having needs
  • Setting a boundary
  • Things that aren’t your fault
  • Others’ behavior

Your mere presence isn’t an inconvenience for everyone else, regardless of what Bob might say.

7) They procrastinate

People procrastinate for various reasons.

They have to do a tedious task.

They prefer instant gratification over long-term rewards.

They function better under pressure.

Sometimes, though, a person may hesitate to start something because they fear they won’t meet their own or others’ expectations.

When that happens, said person has low self-esteem.

Delaying the task provides a temporary escape from the possibility of falling short.

It also enables you to avoid dealing with a potential failure or with feelings of inadequacy.

Life hack? 

Not so much.

Delaying tasks provides temporary relief from self-doubt, but those postponed tasks catch up with you.

When that happens, you feel incompetent because you didn’t tackle them in a timely manner, leading to a vicious circle of negative self-talk.

Breaking this cycle is an essential step toward having a healthier self-image.

8) They self-isolate

Finally, self-isolation is a common behavior among people who lack self-esteem.

You might not realize you’re doing it, but you steadily become more withdrawn.

You stop going out as often, hanging with friends, engaging with your community.

You wait for others to initiate contact; when they don’t, you tell yourself you’re better off alone.

You become so overwhelmed by your fear of judgment and bad opinion about yourself that you prefer to stay in a safe cocoon. 

Basically, you use isolation as a coping mechanism for managing negative emotions.

Before you know it, you only have Bob to chat with.

We’ve established by now that he’s far from good company.

Bottom line

If the points above apply to you, I’m sorry.

I’ve been there and know how difficult it is to turn things around.

But with enough self-compassion, support from loved ones, and perhaps the help of a mental health professional, you can learn to challenge negative thoughts.

The process requires consistent effort and a dash of patience.

If you’re diligent and gentle with yourself, Bob will grow silent, and your confidence will soar.

I’m rooting for you. 

Picture of Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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