8 subtle behaviors of people who never learned to love themselves, according to psychology

We’re all looking for love.

But whilst we’re busy searching for it outside of ourselves, we may not have stopped to think about whether we show ourselves the love we deserve.

These days we hear a lot about the importance of strong self-esteem and a positive self-image.

Yet a lack of it may show up in such subtle ways that you’ve never picked up on its absence, and the many ways it reveals itself in your life.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the signs that you’ve never properly learned to love yourself.

1) Being overly modest

Deep humility is quite rightly touted as an admirable quality.

And it is, but there’s a caveat:

It has to be based on the strong foundations of healthy self-love.

When it is, someone doesn’t feel the need to brag and draw attention to themselves, because they already have self-admiration.

Their ego isn’t desperately searching out praise in order to feel good about themselves.

Yet being too humble can also hold you back.

I’m not saying you should gloat or show off. But being aware of your abilities, gifts, and talents is something else entirely.

It comes down to self-belief.

When you have it, you’re not afraid to be upfront about where your skills lie and share those with others.

If you’re busy playing down all that’s great about you, it may mean you’re missing out on opportunities because of a lack of confidence.

Another small way this shows up is through rejecting compliments.

Does hearing nice things make you squirm?

If so, it’s time to ask yourself why you feel so uncomfortable with recognition.

Perhaps it’s because you struggle to believe it’s true.

2) Thinking everything is your fault

Do you ever find yourself apologizing nonstop, almost out of habit?

Here’s the good news:

Being able to apologize says something wonderful about you.

Mainly that you give a damn about others and are open enough to admit when you’re in the wrong.

It’s a powerful sign of empathy within someone when they can say sorry for hurting somebody else.

But many people quickly spill into overly apologizing. It’s even more of a risk for those who never learned to love themselves.

According to psychologist Yara Heary, it’s also something women may be more prone to than men.

“When we look across genders, we see that women tend to engage in this behavior more often than men, especially in patriarchal societies. Women [who live in or belong to] patriarchal cultures are more likely to doubt their abilities, their value, their behavior, and their validity to take up space in their environments, and one of the ways this manifests behaviourally is through over-apologizing.”

The point is, whether man or woman, when we can’t stop saying sorry, it’s almost like we’re apologizing simply for taking up space.

We lower ourselves by assuming it’s always us that’s in the wrong.

3) Feeling the need to keep everybody happy

People pleasing can be so subtle that it’s mistaken for just being a nice person.

That could be one way that you justify it to yourself.

You just want everyone else to be happy, that’s what matters most to you.

So you like to say yes to people’s requests. It feels unkind to turn them down and disappoint others.

If it means you have to do a bit of running around after others, you don’t mind the sacrifice.

Selflessness can be noble, but only up to a point.

Because when you start to dig deeper into the psychology of people pleasing, you realize it’s not healthy.

This desire to give, give, and give eventually comes at a cost to self-preservation and well-being.

Your own needs and wants get pushed down your priority list until they feel non-existent.

That’s why it’s a sign of a lack of self-esteem. Secretly you may fear the rejection of others if you’re not always doing what they want.

4) Letting others take advantage

You’re a natural giver and some people just seem to take advantage of that.

Here’s the tough love explanation for why:

Kindness is mistaken for weakness when you lack personal boundaries.

The real problem is not that you are too nice. It’s that your love, attention, effort, and energy don’t come with appropriate conditions to them.

It’s this that manipulators and jerks will pick up on and use for their own gain.

I know it sounds brutal, but we often have a part to play whenever we feel taken advantage of. We can inadvertently give ourselves away, rather than them taking from us.

But we can stop others from walking all over us with the use of healthy boundaries.

Think of them as the rules of conduct someone has to follow if they want to be in your life.

They can be challenging for all of us to set, but poor boundaries are more common when you lack self-esteem.

5) Falling for the “wrong types”

pic2508 1 8 subtle behaviors of people who never learned to love themselves, according to psychology

If you feel hopelessly unlucky in love, it may be time to dig deeper.

We often say that you can’t help who you fall in love with.

To a certain extent, that’s true.

Attraction is largely subconscious. So sadly, we can form toxic habits we’re unaware of that draw us towards people who are no good for us.

But silent negative beliefs about yourself could be to blame.

Even whilst you crave love, you might not feel deserving on it on some level.

So you sabotage yourself by going after emotionally unavailable types. Or you try to prove you’re good enough to people who you shouldn’t be giving the time of day to.

It is possible to break this pattern with the power of awareness.

When we shed light on our past experiences that have given us these false narratives, we can change them.

As you learn to love and appreciate yourself more, the shitty behavior you once felt almost addicted to no longer has the same appeal.

6) Using self-deprecating language

This one so often flies completely under the radar.

It’s a sad fact that we can get so used to putting ourselves down that we don’t even notice it anymore.

The so-called inner critic has a nasty habit of saying down right rude and mean things to you throughout the day in your head.

This can spill over into the language that you end up using about yourself to others too.

For example, “Duh, that was so stupid of me” or “I made a real idiot of myself”.

This negative thinking may be more apparent when criticizing your behavior, or it could surface more when it comes to your appearance.

Ever been trying on an outfit and quickly made a horrible judgment about yourself?

Chances are, yes you have.

We need to be careful about the words we use when speaking to ourselves. Stop and ask yourself, would a good friend say this to me?

If the answer is no, then you definitely shouldn’t be saying it to yourself either. 

7) Staying firmly in your comfort zone

Self-love has an important link with pushing our boundaries.

When we love ourselves, we trust ourselves. That makes risk-taking a far less frightening prospect.

We build greater resilience as we grow our self-esteem.

It gives you the confidence needed to spread your wings and make your way in the world. That may be going for a new job, trying out a different hobby or deciding to learn a new skill.

Without self-appreciation to fall back on, the fear of failure feels overwhelming.

So in response, you may decide to err on the side of caution.

We all seek out a level of comfort in life, it’s an innate desire designed to keep us safe. Some may need more than others.

Yet in many ways, our willingness to push past the messiness of our fear is a direct reflection of our inner confidence.

Learning to love yourself makes the world feel like a less scary place.

8) You look enviously on at other people’s lives

Let’s face it, many social media platforms not only encourage this habit, they make it really hard not to feel slightly jealous.

Comparison can be tricky at the best of times, but when you’re seeing only the highlights reel it’s even harder.

So whilst avoiding this phenomenon altogether may be challenging, we should seek to minimize it as much as possible.

If you are constantly feeling triggered by envy, it’s a sign of a lack of self-love because you’re not noticing what’s great about you and your own life.

Rather than feel grateful about your own blessings you may find yourself feeling like you don’t quite measure up to others.

How many do you recognize?

Maybe it’s one or two that strike a chord or you’re ticking all the boxes.

Either way, now you’ve seen a lack of self-love in your life, you’re already in a much stronger position than before.

With awareness comes the power to change. And that’s the most important step.

Now all that remains is to adopt some practical ways to start truly loving yourself.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.