9 signs you’re a highly successful person with low self-esteem

I’ll admit, I didn’t always have the healthiest self-esteem.

When I was a kid and even as a young adult, I struggled with feelings of worthlessness. It seemed like everybody else fit in with the world around them, except me. Like there was something irreparably broken about me.

I don’t feel that way anymore. And part of what helped me was achieving things.

Often, self-esteem comes from mastering new skills or achieving goals.

That’s why it’s so surprising that even highly successful people can suffer from low self-esteem.

Think of someone like Marilyn Monroe, a hugely successful actress and an international sex symbol, who nevertheless suffered with depression and low self-esteem throughout her life. 

Or Kurt Cobain, a rock star who had the adoration of millions of fans around the world but could never find real value in himself.

The tricky thing about success is that everybody has a different definition of what it means. You can achieve everything other people want and still feel like you haven’t achieved anything meaningful.

If that’s the case, you need to find ways to work on your self-esteem and value yourself more.

You can’t fix a problem until you know it’s there. So here are some signs that you are highly successful, even if you do have low self-esteem.

1) You don’t trust yourself

When you suffer from low self-esteem, it’s impossible to trust yourself.

No matter how much you may have achieved, you’ll always feel like you’re not good enough.

You may put your achievements down to good luck, such as being in the right place at the right time, or having family or friendship connections that helped you get to where you are.

The thing is, when you don’t trust yourself, it’s much harder to take the steps that may lead to further success. Because of your own self-doubt, you will stay where you are doing what you’ve always done because you don’t trust your own abilities or judgment to get you to the next level.

2) You fear failure

A fear of failure can be one of the biggest barriers to success.

That’s because people who are scared to fail are also scared to try something new. And it’s only in trying something new and outside our comfort zones that we become everything we have it in us to be.

“The intense worry increases the odds of holding back or giving up,” writes neuropsychologist and author Theo Tsaousides. “Being successful relies to a large extent on your ability to leverage fear.”

It might seem strange to think of highly successful people being scared of failure. But actually, it’s more common than you may think.

You see, it’s the fear of failure that often motivates people to work harder and achieve great things.

Clinical psychologist Elsa Aldron points out that low self-esteem often leads people to become what she calls insecure overachievers. These are people who are never satisfied, no matter how much success they have. Their self-esteem issues mean they only ever see what they didn’t do, not what they did.

The negative consequences of this mindset include:

  • Lack of balance between professional and personal life
  • Loss of confidence
  • Decline in both psychological and physical health as the overachiever works harder to try and accomplish more

3) People envy you – and you don’t know why

To some extent, we all want to be admired by other people. But having other people envy you for what you’ve achieved is no guarantee of happiness.

Maybe your friends and family have expressed that they wish they had what you have. Whether it’s success in your career, material wealth, a happy relationship with a partner, or great kids, there are lots of things in this life you can achieve that other people will envy you for.

But if you have low self-esteem, that envy will always feel misplaced.

Instead of feeling proud, you’ll tell yourself that they don’t know the full story. That they don’t understand how hollow your success is, or how much you had to sacrifice to get there. 

That if they really knew what your life was like, they wouldn’t envy you at all.

That’s a sure sign that you have achieved a lot in life but still have a lot of work to do when it comes to valuing yourself.

4) You compare yourself to others

pic1628 9 signs you're a highly successful person with low self-esteem

This is another thing we all do. And technology, especially social media, has made it easier than ever to compare ourselves to others. In fact, it can be hard to go a single day without being reminded of what other people have achieved.

There’s nothing wrong with looking up to others as an example of what you can achieve yourself. But this behavior becomes harmful when comparing yourself with others starts to damage your self-esteem.

“Upward comparisons involve comparing ourselves to someone whom we view to be better than us,” writes psychologist Joyce Chong. But “research tells us that the lower our self-esteem, the more we tend to compare upwards; however the downfall is that this typically leads to feeling worse about ourselves.”

No matter what you achieve in life, there’ll always be someone who did it faster, better, or younger than you. That’s why it’s so important to remember that in life, we are all running our own race.

The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday.

5) You worry about losing everything

They say those who have nothing have nothing to lose.

On the other hand, the more you achieve, the more you have to worry about losing.

High achievers who lack self-esteem often worry obsessively about the future. They fear losing everything they have achieved and worked for because they don’t have confidence in themselves that they can get it back if they needed to.

6) You lack strong boundaries

A common trait of people with low self-esteem is that they don’t maintain strong boundaries.

Boundaries are how we tell other people how to treat us. They are hard lines we draw between ourselves and others to make sure that we get the respect we desire.

Unfortunately, people with low self-esteem often allow other people to trespass on their boundaries. And when that happens, it can damage already low self-esteem even further.

7) You try to please everybody

People with low self-esteem often engage in behavior known as people-pleasing.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin writes that an eagerness to please often comes from self-esteem issues. But focusing on the feelings of other people at the expense of your own will never make you happy.

Sometimes, people become successful because they want to please others. Maybe their parents taught them that they needed to achieve highly if they wanted to be loved, or their partner pushes them to succeed to win their affection.

Unfortunately, pleasing other people will never make you happy.

8) You feel undeserving

Do you feel like you deserve your success?

If not, it may be because you have low self-esteem.

Psychologist Kendra Cherry writes that self-esteem means believing that you deserve love and valuing your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. It can also mean believing you deserve the success you’ve worked hard for.

On the other hand, low self-esteem can lead to you attributing your achievements to luck or the hard work of others, instead of your own. 

And while it’s good to stay humble when you’ve achieved success, it’s not a good thing to feel as though anything you achieve is down to luck instead of your own hard work and abilities.

9) You struggle to accept compliments

One of the most obvious signs of someone who lacks self-esteem is that they can’t take a compliment.

If you are a successful person, people will often compliment you for what you’ve achieved. If that makes you uncomfortable, it might be because you don’t value yourself enough to accept the compliment.

People with low self-esteem often deflect compliments, and will even argue with people who try to praise them, minimizing their own accomplishments.

Success doesn’t mean you’ll be happy

Being a high achiever doesn’t mean never doubting yourself. And unfortunately, if you suffer from low self-esteem, achieving more may not be the answer you are looking for.

Sometimes, being a high achiever comes from attempts to build up your own sense of self-esteem through reaching goals. But often, people with low self-esteem find that this chase doesn’t make them any happier than they already were.

If this is you, you need to work on your self-esteem. Because no amount of success will make you happy if you don’t feel worthy of it.

Picture of Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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