why am i so sad

Gaston Molina

Medically Reviewed by Gaston Molina, Clinical Psychologist & Therapist

Recognizing the Silent Struggles: 7 Subtle Low Self-Esteem Signs

low self esteem signs

What is Low Self-Esteem?

When we talk about self-esteem, we refer to our overall sense of self-worth and how we perceive ourselves. It is a fundamental aspect of our mental and emotional well-being. Low self-esteem occurs when we have a negative perception of ourselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a lack of confidence.

Low self-esteem often stems from various factors, such as childhood experiences, societal pressures, or negative self-talk. It is essential to recognize the signs of low self-esteem to address and improve it effectively.

The Impact of Low Self-Esteem on Mental Health

Low self-esteem can have a significant impact on our mental health. When we constantly doubt our abilities and worth, it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Negative self-perception can create a vicious cycle, where we engage in self-sabotaging behaviors and struggle to break free from negative patterns of thinking.

Additionally, low self-esteem can affect our relationships, career choices, and overall life satisfaction. It is crucial to address and improve low self-esteem to prevent further harm to our mental and emotional well-being.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Low Self-esteem

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of low self-esteem is the first step in addressing this issue. Some common signs include:

  1. Negative self-talk: Constantly criticizing oneself, focusing on shortcomings, and having a pessimistic outlook on life.
  2. Fear of failure: Feeling a constant fear of failure, leading to avoidance of new challenges and opportunities.
  3. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high standards for oneself and feeling like a failure when those standards are not met.
  4. Self-isolation: Avoiding social situations and isolating oneself due to feelings of unworthiness or fear of judgment.
  5. Lack of assertiveness: Difficulty expressing opinions, setting boundaries, and standing up for oneself due to fear of rejection or criticism.
  6. Constant comparison: Always comparing oneself to others and feeling inadequate or inferior as a result.
  7. Self-neglect: Neglecting one’s own needs, such as self-care or personal growth, due to a lack of self-worth.

Subtle Signs of Low Self-Esteem

While some signs of low self-esteem may be more apparent, others can be subtle and easily overlooked. These subtle signs include:

  1. Self-deprecating humor: Constantly making self-disparaging jokes or downplaying one’s achievements as a way to cope with low self-esteem.
  2. Seeking constant validation: Relying heavily on external validation and approval from others to feel a sense of worth and validation.
  3. Over-apologizing: Feeling the need to apologize excessively, even for minor things, as a way to seek reassurance and avoid conflict.

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Signs of low self-esteem in relationships

Low self-esteem can significantly impact our relationships, both romantic and platonic. Some signs of low self-esteem in relationships include:

  1. Constant need for reassurance: Seeking constant reassurance from our partners or friends to validate our self-worth and doubting their love or friendship.
  2. Difficulty accepting compliments: Feeling uncomfortable or dismissing compliments, believing that we are unworthy of praise.
  3. Fear of abandonment: Constantly worrying that our loved ones will leave us or that we are not deserving of their love and care.

These signs can strain relationships and hinder our ability to form healthy connections with others. Addressing low self-esteem in the context of relationships is essential for maintaining healthy and fulfilling connections.

How Low Self-Esteem Affects Professional Life

Low self-esteem can also have a significant impact on our professional life. Some ways in which low self-esteem can manifest in the workplace include:

  1. Lack of confidence: Feeling incapable and doubting one’s abilities, which can hinder career progression and growth.
  2. Difficulty asserting oneself: Struggling to voice opinions, assert boundaries, or negotiate for better opportunities due to fear of rejection or criticism.
  3. Imposter syndrome: Feeling like a fraud and believing that one’s achievements are a result of luck or external factors, rather than personal competence.
  4. Avoidance of challenges: Preferring to stay within one’s comfort zone and avoiding taking on new projects or responsibilities due to fear of failure.

Addressing low self-esteem in a professional setting is crucial for career advancement and overall job satisfaction.

Strategies for Improving Self-Esteem

Improving self-esteem is a journey that requires patience and self-compassion. Here are some strategies that can help boost self-esteem:

  1. Challenge negative thoughts: Practice identifying and challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive and realistic ones.
  2. Practice self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care and self-compassion, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies that bring joy.
  3. Set achievable goals: Set realistic and achievable goals to build a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence.
  4. Seek support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support and guidance in improving self-esteem.
  5. Celebrate achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate personal achievements, no matter how small, to cultivate a sense of self-worth and pride.

Seeking Professional Help for Low Self-esteem

If self-help strategies are not yielding the desired results, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Therapists and counsellors can provide valuable guidance and support in addressing and improving self-esteem. They can help identify underlying issues, provide coping strategies, and facilitate personal growth.

Supporting Loved Ones with Low Self-Esteem

If you have a loved one struggling with low self-esteem, it is essential to offer support and understanding. Some ways to support them include:

  1. Active listening: Offer a listening ear and validate their feelings without judgment.
  2. Encouragement and praise: Provide genuine encouragement and praise for their efforts and achievements.
  3. Help them challenge negative thoughts: Assist them in identifying and challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.
  4. Encourage professional help: If their self-esteem issues persist, encourage them to seek professional help and offer to accompany them if needed.


Low self-esteem can have a profound impact on our mental health, relationships, and professional life. Recognizing the signs, both subtle and overt, is crucial in addressing and improving self-esteem. By implementing self-help strategies, seeking professional help when necessary, and providing support to loved ones, we can work towards building a positive and healthy sense of self-worth. Remember, improving self-esteem is a journey, and with time and effort, positive change is possible.

Ready to prioritize your mental well-being?

Gaston Molina
Medically Reviewed by Gaston Molina, Clinical Psychologist & Therapist

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