What Are Common Characteristics of People with Low Self-Esteem?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2016
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Common characteristics of people with low self-esteem include higher levels of anxiety, problems with social interaction, preoccupation with others' perceived opinions, and sometimes high-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse or eating disorders. Causes of low self-esteem are frequently traced to abusive or dysfunctional early years, and this condition can persist well into adulthood. The impact of low self-esteem on relationships can be especially troubling. It is not uncommon for people with low self-esteem to have difficulty getting along with co-workers or to experience conflict with spouses or significant others.

Those with low self-esteem can often put themselves down and express opinions that they are not good enough. They also usually hesitate to take on new endeavors due to fear of failure, and they can have difficulty expressing their thoughts or beliefs with confidence. Many people with persistent self-esteem problems will dismiss or minimize any positive feedback they receive, and they often attribute their successes mainly to luck even when there is evidence to the contrary. Low self-esteem can create an excessive mental preoccupation with the negative side of situations, and this problem can lead many people to have diminished expectations for their general quality of life.


Trouble interacting positively with other people is another common characteristic of low self-esteem. Some people with low self-esteem often experience anxiety over how they think others perceive them. Many avoid social situations out of fear they may say something another person may not like, and they also may interpret even slight criticism as proof that they are indeed worthless and incompetent. Others who have low self-esteem may alternately become overbearing, aggressive, or unpleasant to other people in attempts to make themselves appear superior.

Some people with low self-esteem engage in various habits that are detrimental to their health. These can include under- or overeating, excessive alcohol consumption, or sometimes too-frequent intense exercise, such as body-building, to create a good physical appearance as compensation for their negative inner mental state. Low self-esteem has often created an unconscious message within these people that they do not matter enough to maintain balanced health.

Treating low self-esteem is often more complex than some people initially believe. Some scientific studies have proven that simply hearing a stream of positive praise will generally not remedy low self-esteem. It can actually worsen the problem in some people. Successful ways of raising self-esteem include treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy under the care of a professional psychologist.


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Post 8

I use to have a false sense of confidence in myself I guess, back then (16 and under), and then I started having panic attacks. I didn't understand it then, and still don't. Then depression set in and still today and for the past three and a half years, my confidence has dwindled, and I've withdrawn to the point where I have no 'outside of work' friends. I cut it off with an old friend like a year ago, and my other friend moved out of state.

My whole life and identity has spiraled into confusion and nothingness. I don't know where to start again. I feel like it's too late, and I wonder if it even matters.

Post 6

Low self esteem is slowly killing me.

Post 5

@croydon - It can be tough sometimes to stop yourself from doing that, but I find that if I interrupt myself by thinking of something else it can help.

Dwelling on things like that isn't good for you and it's really just a bad habit.

Post 4

When I am feeling like I've got particularly poor self esteem, the thing that always seems to happen is that I'll start doing little sessions of second guessing whenever I talk to anyone. I'll usually be fine when I'm actually talking to them, but then afterwards I'll just tear myself to shreds for perceived mistakes in the conversation. I'll think of every thing that I might have said wrong and I'll over analyze it.

Often, when I go back and apologize they won't have a clue what I'm talking about, because I'll have blown it all out of proportion.

I'm trying to stop myself from doing that, but it's close to impossible, because my mind just returns to it over and over, but I have noticed that I don't do it if I'm feeling good about myself, even if I do make a mistake when talking to someone.

Post 3

@SarahGen-- It is true that not being very social and experiencing depression and anxiety often are signs of low self-esteem. But if you keep thinking about it or if you label yourself this way, you won't be able to do things differently.

I think we can all experience low self-esteem, feel withdrawn and afraid, during certain periods in our life. This doesn't mean that we are abnormal or that we have to be this way forever.

My suggestion is to just stop thinking about it. Stop labeling yourself this way, don't limit yourself to the characteristics of low self-esteem mentioned here and elsewhere. You can build self-esteem, you can change. Don't let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Post 2

I have a shy personality and often feel anxious. I tend to keep away from most people and I'm very selective about who I make friends with. Do I have poor self-esteem?

Post 1

The inability to tolerate criticism is another low-self esteem symptom. I know, because I have it.

I think it has to do with being overly criticized during childhood by parents. This can cause low self-esteem and make it difficult for people to accept both positive and negative criticism.

The same happened to me. My parents love criticism, they think they're helping me when they always point out my negative attributes and the things I do wrong. So if anyone criticizes me now, I become very upset even though I'm not sure exactly why I feel this way.

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