In this article we will talk about the signs of low self-esteem in a man, and will also cover some tips on how to fix low self-worth.
Some men appear so confident and charming that it’s easy to overlook the warning signs of insecurity and low self-esteem.
Too often, we attribute this unhealthy and self-sabotaging mindset to men who aren’t successful at life or dating, and yet some of the worst cases of low self-esteem I’ve seen have been in the kind of men who seem to have it all — good looks, charm, and an easy way of relating to others.
11 Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Men
We may not realize that all the charm and attractiveness in the world can’t fix low self-worth.
Instead, it simmers under the surface and comes out in ways we may not even recognize.
We may attribute these qualities to selfishness, possessiveness, or even imposter syndrome when the simple truth is that he doesn’t feel worthy of love.
That sense of unworthiness often sabotages his relationships, which reinforces his low self-worth.
What follows are a few signs of low self-esteem in a man.
Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.
#1 He Makes Himself the Punchline of His Jokes
Self-deprecating humor might be part of his charm — but is it charming for someone to put themselves down, or is it just a sign of low self-esteem?
For the man who doesn’t feel worthy of love and belonging, his jokes at his own expense may be his way of sharing his vulnerability.
Pay attention to the jokes he directs at himself. Too many “jokes” about being overweight could indicate that he is sensitive about his size and how others perceive it.
Too many “jokes” aimed at his intelligence could share his insecurity about his knowledge, experience, or even education.
#2 He Focuses on His Mistakes Rather Than His Achievements
Even when he’s done something well, he’s more likely to sit and dissect his mistakes — whether they are real or just his perception of them.
He can win a prize and still focus on not winning the top prize.
If it seems like he can never quite give himself credit for his achievements, this could be a sign of low self-esteem.
#3 He Needs Ongoing Validation
Even though he may seem to be successful in his life, he seems to need ongoing validation from those around him — especially partners. It’s more than compliments.
He often needs to know that he’s doing a good job and will ask directly if this validation isn’t being offered.
It can be overwhelming to feel like we have to constantly validate them, but low self-esteem comes with the anxiety that they won’t ever measure up.
A man who does not feel worthy and confident will likely need extra support.
Without it, he will be more inclined to believe that we think he’s a failure simply because we haven’t rushed in to validate his achievements. His inner voice becomes projected onto others.
#4 He Has a Hard Time Accepting Constructive Criticism
We may find ourselves avoiding conflict with this partner.
They seem to struggle with accepting any type of criticism no matter how kindly it’s phrased.
Because they have extreme reactions to confrontation, it can seem easier to avoid it altogether.
This difficulty isn’t always denial or anger. Sometimes, it can come out as defensiveness, redirection, or even shifting the blame to the person confronting him with the problem.
The insecurity is so strong that the slightest critical statement can have detrimental effects. Yet, avoiding confrontation will also destroy relationships.
#5 He is Often Jealous
Men with low self-esteem often display jealous and possessive tendencies.
These tendencies don’t always come out toward their significant others in relationships.
Sometimes, this jealousy comes out in how they view others — including other men, colleagues, and family members.
They are constantly measuring themselves against other people, and because the low self-esteem is in play, they will find themselves falling short and getting jealous.
#6 He’s Extremely Competitive
It’s not just jealousy that’s cause for concern with low self-esteem. Insecure men are often highly competitive.
Not only do they hate to lose, but they also tend to be sore losers — and often, sore winners, too.
They aren’t just competing with the best version of themselves.
They compete with everyone. At work, at home, and in relationships, that tendency to constantly see how they’re measuring up can come out in constant competition.
#7 He Has Trouble Supporting You When He’s Struggling
It’s perhaps unsurprising that someone who is insecure, jealous, and competitive can also have a hard time supporting our triumphs while they’re struggling.
In fact, they can often look at our achievements as being a way to take attention from their struggle.
Conversely, struggling ourselves can be viewed from that same perspective — as if we are competing with their pain rather than going through something of our own.
The lack of support often isn’t conscious or intentional.
Their low self-esteem infiltrates every thought.
They can spend so much energy in feeling like they aren’t good enough that it can be challenging for them to redirect energy to supporting, praising, and celebrating even the people they love best.
Recommended read: How to Be More Confident and Build Unshakable Self-Esteem: 4 Strategies
#8 He is Critical of Others
Men with insecurity and low self-esteem don’t just criticize themselves.
They can be quick to gossip and point out the failure of others. Because they focus so much on achievement and comparison, they can even delight in other people’s struggles.
While it sounds unkind, it’s important to realize that this behavior comes from a hurting place.
It’s often instinctual, and it can even be something that causes them shame or embarrassment.
They may want to be better than that, but in the end, this innate feeling that they are unworthy, unlovable, and insufficient impact their worldview.
#9 He Often Looks for Outside Opinions Rather Than Trusting Himself
One overwhelming sign of low self-esteem in men can come in the form of seeking outside opinions rather than trusting themselves to make decisions.
They are constantly looking to experts, friends, and others to validate their opinions and decisions.
Which causes them to struggle in their decision-making process.
Someone who doesn’t believe they’re good enough will naturally think that someone else’s opinion carries more weight than their own.
Second-guessing themselves is natural. So is overthinking any decisions they make. Because low self-esteem often sabotages relationships, their past history may seem to reinforce the lack of self-trust.
They don’t see failed relationships as learning experiences but as evidence that they are not, and have never been, worthy.
Recommended read: Insecurity in Relationships: 6 Signs to Look Out For
#10 He is Hyper-Focused on Appearances and Perfection
Men with low self-esteem focus excessively on appearances.
If we’re paying attention, we may realize that they dress a certain way, carry themselves a particular way at work, and present themselves in a carefully curated fashion online.
They are very good at presenting the highlight reel of their lives while hiding the areas where they experience a sense of shame or failure.
Because they heavily focus on appearances, they crave perfection in themselves and others.
As a result, they can become critical of everyone around them, highlighting faults and flaws as a way of feeling better about their own. This can be particularly difficult for the people they partner.
One of the most heartbreaking experiences of my own life was in partnering someone with low self-esteem who used my every flaw as justification for falling out of love with me. I watched it happen in slow motion.
I was constantly reminded that I’m not perfect, a fact I know all too well.
Even as I loved him through all his imperfections, I understood that he could not find it in him to see me with the same grace, kindness, or compassion.
#11 He Has a Negative Outlook on Life
Because his own feelings of low self-worth influence his point of view, the insecure man tends to expect the worst.
His outlook on life, assumptions, and opinions tend to lean toward the negative.
Rather than looking for silver linings, he’s searching the sky for storm clouds, sure that he’ll find them if he looks hard enough — and, of course, he does.
That is, after all, how self-fulfilling prophecies tend to work.
Recommended read: 7 Warning Signs of a Toxic Boyfriend
How to Fix Low Self-Esteem
It’s not our job to fix someone else’s low self-esteem — even if we choose to partner them.
However, recognizing the signs can help us understand their sensitivities, avoid triggering their insecurities, and help open up conversations about vulnerability, self-esteem, and direct communication.
Sometimes, we misattribute all these signs to selfishness, narcissism, or any number of other negative characteristics and fail to recognize them as signs of low self-worth.
For those who now realize these behaviors are indicative of low self-esteem, there is hope.
Here’s how to fix your low self-esteem:
- Avoid self-deprecating humor and pay attention to the kind you use. You may have an area of your life that needs attention and healing.
- Ask directly for support from partners and friends rather than complaining or seeking out indirect support. Experts have found that indirect bids for attention often garner negative reactions rather than loving support.
- Allow yourself the opportunity to celebrate your achievements without picking apart any possible mistakes you might have made.
- Assess your need for outside validation. How can you sometimes meet this need for yourself?
- Learn to listen to constructive feedback. Realize that someone’s honesty is an attempt to heal and continue a relationship with you, not an attack.
- Remember that life is not a competition. There’s no need to compare yourself to anyone else or to feel jealous of them. In fact, doing so will only guarantee you unhappiness.
- Practice being a positive support for other people. Celebrate their wins. Allow grace for their failures. Embrace their imperfections — along with your own.
- Learn to trust your own inner knowing without having to rely on outside advice. Over time, this will become easier.
- Learn to redirect your thoughts when you find them drifting to criticism, comparison, second-guessing, and over-thinking. Your mind can be a beautiful tool or your worst enemy. You decide which it will be.
- Practice being real rather than being right or looking right. Practicing authenticity even when you’re struggling can help you check the impulse to hide your vulnerability in favor of making everything look good. You’ll find that people appreciate you more when you’re real and raw more than they ever will when you just give the impression of perfection.
- Look for silver linings. Stop waiting all the time for the other shoe to fall.
- Address your low self-esteem and any resulting anxiety in therapy. It’s not a failure to ask for help. In fact, it could be your greatest strength.
- Utilize positive affirmations and a gratitude practice to help focus on the good in your life rather than dwelling on and anticipating the bad.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem in a Man: Final Thoughts
Low self-esteem can be terribly painful — for the people who suffer from it and for the people who love them.
Left unchecked, low self-esteem can destroy relationships, ruin good times, and erode our quality of life.
No matter how much we love someone, we cannot do this work for them. We can only recognize the signs, practice compassion, and hold our own precious boundaries.
The good news is that low self-esteem is not an incurable condition. With time, effort, and practice, anyone can achieve healthy levels of self-worth.