8 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem In A Man

When he gets this low, it's time for both of you to go solo.

man standing in front of pink background looking depressed and worried Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock

Have you ever been in an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy who's nothing but drama? Maybe you feel like you're stuck in a situation like that right now.

Toxic relationships fueled by insecurity and low self-esteem exist in a constant spin cycle of self-created drama, regular fighting and prolonged periods of icy silence. You break up over and over again, getting back together each time anyway in the misguided hope that this time you can finally make it work.


While studies show that men typically have higher self-esteem than women,[fn]Bleidorn W, Arslan RC, Denissen JJ, et al. Age and gender differences in self-esteem—A cross-cultural window. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2016;111(3):396-410. doi:10.1037/pspp0000078[/fn] especially as their age increases, there are still plenty of men with low self-esteem. When they do, they may show it in confusing ways, often because they don't want to be perceived as weak or have to cope with the stigma.

Sometimes it is possible to help a man with his self-esteem issues.

But you need to know what you're looking for when recognizing the characteristics of a man with low self-esteem.


Then, you can assess the situation and decide where to go from there.

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8 Signs of a man with low self-esteem

1. He makes over-the-top, self-deprecating statements on a regular basis.

Being humble is one thing, but putting yourself down constantly is another.[fn]Why You Might Want to Reconsider Putting Yourself Down. Psychology Today. Accessed December 12, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/maybe-its-just-me/201601/why-yo…]


He repeatedly says things like, "I can't believe you'd date someone like me," or "You're out of my league."

While it might seem like he's fishing for compliments, he might be serious underneath the wry smile.

This can also be a self-protective mechanism to poke fun at something about himself he can't stand before anyone else can insult him and make him feel even worse about it.

2. He's hypercritical of you.

A healthy man dates women he genuinely likes. If you're not what he's looking for, he'll just move on.

If the guy you're dating constantly criticizes you (from your looks to your personality), that's a really bad sign.

Truthfully, he's likely projecting his own insecurities on you.


On top of that, expect perfection from himself and those around him, putting you right in the line of fire.

3. He's a perfectionist and expects the people around him to be, too.

Speaking of which, does he have the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect clothes, the perfect job, and the perfect friends?

People who feel the need to appear perfect are often trying to convince not only others, but also themselves, that they have value.

His self-esteem is digging a deep hole inside of him and he has no idea how else to fill it up, so he looks to material things to "fix" everything.

In a study published in 2022,[fn]Consiglio I, van Osselaer SM. The effects of consumption on self-esteem. Current Opinion in Psychology. 2022;46:101341. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2022.101341[/fn] researchers identified that "Consumers form strong links with their possessions, even to the extent that they may include possessions in their sense of self," stating that "Such self-object associations may have significant implications for self-esteem."


Basically, as the researchers help break it down, "For example, owning an aesthetically appealing product might make consumers feel more physically attractive."



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4. He's a relentlessly negative pessimist.

Happy people try to see the best in others and look for the positive in most situations.


If he's constantly pointing out what's wrong instead of what's right, pay close attention.

Does he have a glass-half-full kind of perspective toward everything? Maybe he's a hardcore pessimist.

This can be dangerously toxic in relationships because it's hard for his attitude not to rub off on others — you, especially, considering you likely spend the most time talking to him about everything.

5. He's quick to get jealous.

Is he constantly jealous and uncomfortable with your male friends, or does he unjustifiably accuse you of flirting?

A confident, healthy man has faith in you and your relationship.

He might be a perfectionist with all the latest, shiny material things, but he still has that aching, gaping hole inside him full of negativity and self-hatred.


He's probably terrified one of them will whisk you away because he doesn't actually deserve you and pretty much anyone else does more than he does. He still doesn't understand why you want to be with him in the first place!

Another thing to watch out for is whether he's jealous of your accomplishments because a study reports that a man's self-esteem plummets[fn]Ratliff KA, Oishi S. Gender differences in implicit self-esteem following a romantic partner’s success or failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2013;105(4):688-702. doi:10.1037/a0033769[/fn] when a woman succeeds.

6. He wants you all to himself.

Your friends are important to you and being with them makes you happy.

If he doesn't want you to spend time with them and he doesn't want to get to know them, that's a problem.


And the best way to prevent feelings of jealousy when you're around another guy? Spend alone time with you as much as he can!

This helps him feel important and special because he has your undivided attention now.

signs a man has low self-esteem

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7. He can't admit when he's wrong.

Being vulnerable is an important part of being in a relationship.

If he's always blaming others and can't look inward and admit when he's made a mistake, that's a big red flag.

Part of his low self-esteem is a deep fear of failure. Remember those tendencies toward being a perfectionist?

Being wrong is a much bigger monster to a man with low self-esteem, and it feeds into his negativity toward himself.

8. He doesn't really listen to what you're saying.

Some people hear what they already believe instead of what you're actually saying.

Does he often take what you're saying the wrong way? Are his feelings always getting hurt? Is he easily offended?


Maybe he's defensive, takes everything you say personally, and walks away from what starts as a discussion but turns into a full-blown fight.

If you have to rehearse before you talk to him or walk on eggshells, yikes — your partner's low self-esteem is a problem.

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What you can do to help a man with low self-esteem

First, know that it is never your job to fix your man's — or anyone's — low self-esteem. This is something only that person can do through emotional work they will need to address themselves.

Life Coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist Keya Murthy advises, "Staying in a relationship depends on the love and care you share with each other. If you love him enough and believe he loves you too, then being together is better than being apart. Work with him, and help him find himself."


However, you can help them along the way by pointing out negative self-talk here and there to make them aware they're doing it, then compliment them on what they're speaking negatively about, or relate it in some way to something many people do and normalize it.

You can also praise them any time something good happens, however small it is, and remind them that small victories are worth celebrating just as much as any other victory.

Likewise, try to point out a silver lining when something doesn't go as well as your man had hoped.


If he starts spiraling into criticizing something he did or anything about someone else, try to change the subject to help him learn to shift his line of thought elsewhere.

Keya Murthy suggests, "Sometimes it might be too much for you to do it alone, so go find help. Talk to his friends and meet in groups and help him feel better about himself."

Of course, this has the best chance at success if your guy seeks professional help, and you're there to support him on the side.

Remember, you cannot "fix" him. That's his job.

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When to walk away from a man with low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is difficult to work on, especially when in a relationship. Also, the two of you may have developed some codependent behaviors or other unhealthy patterns.


In this case, it's best for both of you to go your separate ways.

Low self-esteem can be accompanied by other issues, such as anxiety disorders,[fn]Ehntholt KA, Salkovskis PM, Rimes KA. Obsessive–compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, and self-esteem: an exploratory study. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 1999;37(8):771-781. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(98)00177-6[/fn] that may require a lot of time for self-work.

If communication between you is like pulling teeth, walking on eggshells, or a constant battle, know that communication shouldn't feel this hard and this is another sign you should part ways.

We all have our insecurities, but if his low self-esteem is affecting your happiness and mental well-being on a regular basis, it’s time to move on.


Look for a whole, secure, emotionally available man who wants to meet you where you are in life. You'll enjoy a relationship that is so much more rewarding.

Life is too short to stay in a relationship that's anything less.

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Michelle Jacoby is a matchmaker, a dating coach, a relationship coach, and a dating and relationship expert. She is also the owner of DC Matchmaking.