What Is Low Self-Esteem?

May 23, 2012 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

In reality, low self-esteem affects more people than you think. Low self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself overall. Indicators of low self-esteem include:

  • talking negatively
  • not speaking up
  • feeling bad about yourself more than you feel good
  • lack of self-respect

There are many different characteristics of low self-esteem. They may not be as obvious as one would assume. You, too, may be struggling with low-self esteem and don’t even know it.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Comparing, gossiping about others, putting others first, even excessive Facebooking are all signs of low-self esteem. You may say you do these things to stay connected or because “I want to”. The truth is when one is content with themselves, they have healthy self-esteem; external validation is simply an additive, not a necessity to their lives. A person with healthy self-esteem spends the bulk of their time doing things that promote positivity within themselves and exude this in life.

Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem

Heavy criticism of yourself or others. When you criticize yourself, you are reinforcing negative self-talk. Your brain hears this and believes it. When you criticize others, it shows that you are mirroring how you feel about yourself. Have you ever noticed that happy, positive people don’t gossip? They have enough self-regard to keep these thoughts to themselves or to change them into positive, loving comments.

Perfectionism. No one is perfect. This is a fact. If you try to do everything perfectly and fail (which is bound to happen), frustration and negative self-talk occur.

People Pleasing. It’s nice to be nice. It’s also a problem when you consistently put others before yourself. Going out of your way to constantly be there for someone else, builds up resentment and is a constant reminder to yourself that you are not number one. One must put their health and mental health first in order to be the best they can be for everyone else in their lives.

Debby Downer. If you’ve ever seen the famous Saturday Night Live skit, you know what I’m referring to. A Debby Downer is someone who always looks at life pessimistically; nothing is ever good enough. There is always something to complain about. A Debby Downer has a general negative outlook and this pessimism creates low-self esteem and feelings of unhappiness.

These are only a few characteristics of low self-esteem. If you can identify the characteristics of low self-esteem, the next step is to change the way you think about yourself and how you handle things in your life. This will lead to more positive self-talk and experiences that can radically boost your self-esteem into a positive and beautiful place.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2012, May 23). What Is Low Self-Esteem?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

July, 23 2020 at 8:26 am

Such a lovely post, it really helped me to compose my own words of inspiration
at least i gained a lot from this

Nichole | Wildly Alive
November, 18 2018 at 9:19 am

Low self esteem is not a joke! It is serious thing and it affects more people than what others think. BUT everyone can overcome it. It has ways on how to change a negative thought into positive one. Just keep going!

July, 11 2018 at 11:21 pm

Some of the aforementioned signs and symptoms of low self-esteem can also be considered from the other end of the spectrum. In a relationship someone with low self-esteem can not only be withdrawn and have a hard time accepting and giving love. Yet others with low self-esteem may be more needy and clingy, and are constantly trying to prove their love and get upset when their partner is not as affectionate to them.
This is my boyfriend to a T. He's the first to admit he has extremely low self-esteem and self-worth.

July, 16 2018 at 9:32 am

Hi Lori,
You are right and the lack of self-worth can make people behave in different ways. The way I've found it to be helpful with those who are struggling with low self-esteem is to remind them that we accept and care about them and that even though they may interpret our behavior as rejecting, they must communicate it otherwise we won't know what they are feeling/how to help. Communication is key. I hope this is helpful and glad you commented. Great point.

Domestic Violence & Mental Health | A Life Worth Living For
June, 18 2017 at 8:35 pm

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Depression and Low Self-Esteem as a Symptom - HealthyPlace
April, 6 2017 at 9:07 am

[…] Low self-esteem can bring on depression. Having said that, depression also lowers self-esteem. It truly is a vicious cycle, one that I am trying very hard to manage. […]

March, 1 2016 at 2:41 pm

I was psychologically abused as a young child and in turn, overtime have become abusive myself. I am now 52 years old and my wife has stuck with me through the good and bad. For once I listened to what she was saying about my adverse behavior and chanced upon this site.
I never realized that I had a very low self esteem, until I read the characteristic's and what Darius has added and can identify with all the behaviors. This is my fourth visit to this site and reading all the helpful information, I have finally plucked up the guts to share my shame/guilt of what I was in the past.
The incredible thing is that once I became aware of the problems and how to correct my self esteem, I can already feel/sense the difference in my outlook though it has only been a week since facing up to my reality. My relationship with my family being seen from a positive outlook has made me aware of how great life really is.
Though this may be early times for me on the road to rehabilitation, I have the support of my forever supportive and loving wife. We will travel this new path of hope, happiness and life of positivity.
Words cannot express my utmost gratitude to all people who have contributed to this site which I have found and will continue to find very helpful in assisting me come to terms with my issues.

February, 5 2015 at 7:09 pm

Hi i have been with my boyfriend for 5years in that time he has not payed for one bill i pay everything because i am a stripper and i make lots of money but the reality is i am always broke i work with gitls who own there own houses and drive nice car while i can barley afford to go tanning what can i do my boyfriend says if i break up with him he will tell my family what i do

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 6 2022 at 5:30 am

That's abuse. I hope you left him!

Darius Soon
June, 26 2013 at 9:50 am

10 more characteristics to add to the list :)
1. Withdrawing from social activities
2. Fear of being in the limelight
3. Fear of speaking in public
4. Anxiety in social situations
5. Lack of social skills
6. Conform to social norms and not willing to “rock the boat”
7. Always the wallpaper
8. “Nice”, boring, forgettable
9. Being the listener to all with problems
10. Unable to accept and give compliments easily

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 15 2017 at 12:44 pm

cool very helpful to my assignment

April, 21 2013 at 10:38 am

Great Post! A healthy self esteem is vital for a happy person. I liked how you spoke about gossip being a mirror and people who have a healthy self esteem will find loving comments to make

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