It’s easy to brush off low self-esteem or a lack of confidence as a character trait, or to mistake it for humility. But low self-esteem can have long-term damaging effects, ranging from smaller-scale occurrences – not speaking up in class or work meetings, for example – to longer-term threats, like relationship problems, mental health issues, or negative thoughts that result in self-damaging behavior.
Recognizing the signs of low self-confidence is an important first step to overcome low self-esteem issues. Recognizing your own worth is the next one. Here’s how to get started with both.
Nine signs of low self-esteem
How often do you stop yourself from speaking your mind, due to fear of embarrassment or being wrong? Do you frequently say “sorry” where an “excuse me” would suffice?
For people with low self-esteem, these small “blips” of fear and anxiety can add up to a lot of negative thinking and compound a sense of low self-worth. Here are nine such signs to be aware of, so that you can work on overcoming them (e.g., with a life coach, therapist, or other mental health professional):
1. Difficulty speaking up and prioritizing your own needs, wants, and feelings
This may be especially prominent in the context of what others want or need, such as routinely placing others’ priorities above your own. Perhaps you convinced yourself that what you really want doesn’t matter in the moment, in the face of someone else’s needs, or you want to avoid challenges with others. It’s understandable why you don’t speak up! While caring for others is a personality strength, when it comes at the cost of your own needs, wants, or feelings, these good qualities become a hindrance.
2. Saying “I’m sorry” and/or feeling guilty for everyday actions
Is the word “sorry” at the top of your vocabulary? Do you feel guilty for things like taking up space or apologize for things that you have no control or responsibility over? This could be a sign that you constantly feel like you’re doing something wrong – chances are you have nothing to apologize for, but it’s become a habit of negative thinking!
3. Not “rocking the boat”
Not “rocking the boat” describes the tendency to follow along with what others are doing, saying, wearing, and going. This is another example of positive qualities becoming a vulnerability – being flexible is a good thing, but when it means that you seldom carve your own path and lack confidence, it may be a sign of low self-esteem.
4. Not feeling deserving of, or capable of, having “more”
Whether “more” means deserving better relationships, a higher-paying job, or the common courtesy of others, when you feel like you deserve better, you won’t go seeking it. This can lead to unfulfilling (or even toxic) relationships, unsatisfactory or low paying jobs, and overall lower standards.
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