15 Damaging Traits of Low Self-Esteem

You can be your worst enemy.

If others thought about you the way you do about yourself, would you still want to know them?

When something doesn’t work out, do you see yourself as a failure?

Do you ever:

  • Avoid getting to know people in case they don’t like you?
  • Feel down because you don’t like how you think?

If all you see are your failures, you’ll fail to enjoy the richness of life.

I can be blind to beautiful things like a happy marriage, good health, and a well-paid job when my self-esteem gets shaky.

Like fog, low self-esteem comes and goes, creeps in slowly and hides real life from sight.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is your sense of worth.

How you perceive the importance of your contribution to others’ lives can build or destroy your confidence.

Self-confidence, often confused with self-esteem, is about belief in your abilities.

  • Self-esteem is about your perception of your value.
  • Self-confidence is about your perception of your ability.

You can be confident about driving your car but feel nobody would want to talk to you when you arrive.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

As a former sufferer, I look back to my upbringing.

A safe and secure home with loving parents. Good education. Friends and toys to enjoy.

But something was missing.


I never received any praise from parents, teachers or peers.

Parents told me what to do and what not to do, but I can’t remember them telling me I was loved or good at anything. The absence of praise encouraged self-doubt.

There’s always a “but”. The cause of low self-esteem is not other people.

It’s us.

It’s because we have convinced ourselves through self-told stories, misunderstandings and frustration, that we’re not worth much.

Do any of these experiences resonate with you?

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

  1. The Self-Blame Game

Despite what you try to achieve, you always think you could do better. You blame yourself for making mistakes, not listening to advice or not trying hard enough.

You need to realise that nobody gets things right first time around. If something is worth achieving, feel excited that you’re trying in the first place and learn as you go.

2. Mind Reading

You assume you know what people are thinking and that the thinking includes you in a negative light. In my role as a churchwarden, hardly a week went by when I didn’t wonder if people thought I was doing a terrible job.

Such perceptions are all in your head because, in reality, you’ll never know what others are thinking unless they tell you.

3. Censored Opinions

People with low self-esteem will keep their opinions to themselves. Fear of being challenged or horror of horrors, being wrong, force our lips tight.

Your opinion is as valid as the next person’s. Never fear other ideas because diverse people are good to know, and usually, there’s no right or wrong, only shades of grey.

4. Extreme Politeness

You might feel it honourable to allow others to have a final word in a discussion. But are you really being thoughtful or avoiding conflict?

Occasionally it is better to concede, but you have a unique life full of experiences. Your perspective reflects that uniqueness which is why you have every right to be heard.

5. Over-sensitivity

If there’s one thing I’ve done to accentuate my low self-esteem, it’s been to take other people’s contrary opinions as a personal attack.

Don’t allow your emotions to override a situation. In some ways, let the passion go and detach yourself by watching your feelings ignite instead of letting them control you. You can share your views, move on and forget the counter-argument.

6. Blindness

Low self-esteem is fuelled by permanent dwelling on the negative, the “don’t have” or the “wish I had”. You need to award yourself more points for the good things in life.

It risks sounding blasé, but you need to see the glass completely full.

Low self-esteem stops you enjoying:

  • Life
  • Love
  • Personal growth
  • Peace 
  • Health 
  • Family 
  • Pets 
  • Hobbies

7. Anti-social Behaviour

You might hold back from conversations or from getting to know people. If you don’t reach out, neither will others and the self-esteem induced shyness will limit your social opportunities.

Don’t be frightened to talk to people. Indeed, there’s a view that talking to strangers can help boost self-esteem.

8. Moody Blues

When you feel you’ve let yourself or someone down, a sad feeling can take over. Feeling down can last for days or longer if you keep ruminating.

Self-flagellation isn’t a recommended way to deal with disappointment. So when the blues arrive, do something to shake yourself out of it.

Go for a run or long walk. Gain perspective and be more philosophical about whatever it is bothering you. It will pass and next week you’ll wonder what the fuss was about.

9. Evidence Seeking

Someone with low self-esteem avoids taking risks. You’ll look for too much evidence to justify your action rather than just doing whatever it is.

We need to let our hair down and go with our gut feelings once in a while. Take the plunge and learn the remainder as you go along.

10. Missed Opportunities

How many times have you ignored a career opportunity or becoming involved with a good cause because you felt unwanted?

Low self-esteem only helps people to build up a thick scrapbook of missed chances. You might not have been successful, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Challenging yourself helps you to grow as a person.

11. Hidden Anger

Out of the blue and out of proportion, you find yourself angry. You mistakenly blame yourself for something when it was what other people did or didn’t do. If you’ve got the habit of self-blame, it can turn to anger, aimed at yourself but sometimes taken out on others.

Be aware of how you respond and how it can affect people you care about. Years of self-doubt builds a hidden frustration that blows contemporary situations out of proportion.

You can get to know your emotions and their triggers through meditation which, in turn, will help you become more centred (calm in chaos).

12. Confusing Cause and Effect

The anger or sense of frustration is amplified because you always place responsibility for the outcome on your shoulders.

In reality, outcomes are simply the way they are. It’s likely nothing to do with you personally. If you’ve done your best, you’ve done enough.

13. Amateur Target Setting

One way to feel like a failure is to set the bar too high in different parts of your life. Expecting perfection from yourself prevents you from going with the ebb and flow of life.

Life has ups and downs. Thrills and disappointments.

Accept variation and change in life. You’ll be more thoughtful about and confident steering your own path.

14. Following Not Leading

By placing little value on your beliefs and opinions, you keep yourself in the background. People with low self-esteem fear being challenged or proved wrong.

Influential leaders don’t get things right either, but they have the determination to succeed and don’t fear failure or counter-arguments.

See failures as positive learning experiences and keep moving forward.

15. Rejected Friendships

Low self-esteem keeps your social network small or non-existent. There are people out there in the world looking for friendships, but if you allow your opinion of yourself to dictate your outlook, you’ll accidentally reject offers of friendship.

Most people find it difficult to make friends. Don’t make it harder for some by putting up an impenetrable wall.

How To Eradicate Low Self-Esteem

Lifting your self-esteem requires some tweaking to the usual way you think. No pills are needed.

Become a Detective

Look for evidence to prove self-defeating thoughts untrue. Many of your ideas are fears of future situations and imaginary.

Keep a record of your predictions for a few weeks then look back to see how many actually came to pass.

Become an Explorer

Nothing changes the way the mind behaves like giving it something new to think about. Explore new hobbies or travel to new places.

Encourage yourself to get to know new people. If your current network is reinforcing negative thinking, it’s time for a change.

Explorers move and don’t sit still. Self-esteem won’t repair without new experiences to nurture change.

Become a Relationship Coach

You will need to develop a new relationship with your thoughts. Instead of permitting them to rule your emotions and actions, be conscious of your the way you think. Watch your mind like television, and you’ll discover how many re-runs there are.

Through meditation, you will see patterns and come to know how you think and how thoughts affect feelings.

Knowledge is power and knowing your thoughts gives you the ability to change them.

Become a Stand-Up Comic

You need to stop taking yourself seriously some of the time.

You have a choice about how you handle mistakes. As long as it’s not life and death, laugh them off. Honestly, in weeks, months or years later you’ll wonder why you made such a fuss.

Become an Athlete

A healthier you can withstand criticism, not just from other people but from yourself too.

Exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet can make you feel good about yourself. If you feel good, then your self-esteem gets an automatic boost.

Become a Student

Life is learning.

Not all mistakes are mistakes, except in your head. You compare outcomes with expectations, whereas, in reality, it is what it is.

Avoid being a push-over, but learn to accept the way things are.

The most important of all…

Become You

Accept who you are without comparison to others or living to expectations you’ve invented.