5 Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Are you or someone in your life struggling with low self-esteem but are unsure? It's common to be confused about what low self-esteem looks like, especially if it does not fit a particular image of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is less of a distinct look or image and more of a list of behaviors. If you are struggling with identifying whether you have low self-esteem, here are 5 signs that you may have low self-esteem.
1. I do not take care of myself.
People with low self-esteem tend to have a difficult time taking care of themselves or engaging in self-care. Life can be demanding, and those demands can often prevent us from doing things that promote well-being such as exercise, healthy eating, hobbies, rest, and so on. People with low self-esteem have difficulty with self-care because they often do not value themselves or value others over themselves. Because they cannot find value in themselves, a person with low self-esteem will try to find it in other people or activities such as work. They will often sacrifice their own well-being to either please others or get the thing they believe will give them value.
2. I lack boundaries or have ridged boundaries.
Having healthy boundaries is a hallmark of a person with healthy self-esteem. But if a person lacks self-esteem, they may often have poor boundaries or have boundaries that are extremely ridged to overcompensate. I describe boundaries as armor or skin that helps protect us from our environment. Boundaries exist to help us feel safe and to make sure that we are in line with our values. Boundaries are basically the ability to say "no" to behaviors or requests that we do not want. On the flip side, boundaries enable us to say "yes" in a genuine way to things we want. When we lack self-esteem, it can be hard to set up healthy boundaries out of fear of displeasing others. You may want to say no, but when those boundaries are challenges, they easily collapse.
A flip side to lack of boundaries is ridged boundaries. This could look like needing things to be a certain way, lacking flexibility, and being closed-minded. A person with low self-esteem will use rigid boundaries to find a sense of security because it can eliminate discomfort and prevent hurt. However, ridged boundaries are also harmful because they can sometimes put unrealistic expectations on others and strain our relationships with others.
Balancing flexible boundaries are essential in developing healthy self-esteem. A person with healthy self-esteem will have the strength to set boundaries when needed and be flexible when required,
3. I find it hard to say positive things about myself.
Saying positive things about yourself with low self-esteem can be difficult. That is because people with low self-esteem tend to be very critical. Any positive messages that are generated are often canceled out by a critical voice. For example, if I want to say that I am a "hardworking person" as an affirmation, my inner critic will point out all the times I am "lazy" or "not hardworking." Low self-esteem will cause people to cling on to the negative exceptions. This means that even though there are plenty of examples where you are hardworking, you will justify your negative beliefs by pointing out times you were not "hardworking." It makes it difficult to give positive self-affirmations that feel genuine.
4. I compare myself to others.
Self-comparison is normal, but in people with low self-esteem, comparison can often be damaging. Comparisons can be healthy when it is used as a way of seeking inspiration or as a way of identifying traits and accomplishments in others that you desire. But when used as a benchmark for determining your value as a person, it can quickly become toxic. In a person with low self-esteem, comparisons reinforce our low self-image by seeing ourselves as less than others. Self-comparison can cause you to feel less than because you compare yourself to people who are always more accomplished and successful and feeling threatened by it. These comparisons often neglect individual strengths and weaknesses, context, or resources. Instead, these comparisons boil down to "this person has accomplished this, but I have not, what is wrong with me?" This simplistic evaluation of ourselves and others can cause us to degrade our worth into a one-dimensional frame and fails to incorporate every individual's uniqueness.
5. I do not state my preferences.
People with low self-esteem have difficulty stating preferences our of fear or a desire to please others. Low self-esteem can cause a person to undervalue their own choice. Even if you know what you want, it can be challenging to express it. Sometimes, not stating your preferences can be helpful, but it can be problematic if it becomes chronic. It can lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness that can deteriorate your relationship with others or simply make you feel neglected.
Do any of these signs resonate with you? Do you struggle with low self-esteem? If you do, there are ways to deal with it. Seeing a professional therapist can be one way to deal with low self-esteem effectively.
Learn more about how Alex helps clients with self-esteem counseling.
Alex Ly is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist under supervision who specializes in working with adults in areas relating to self-esteem, dating, trauma, and spirituality. Learn more about his work here.