Not everyone is able to love themselves in the way that they should.
Low self-esteem is often the result of abuse, neglect, or mental illness that has not been properly addressed.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be raised in a loving environment with nurturing parents who care about them.
These kinds of struggles in one’s life can leave a lasting impression that requires work to overcome.
Self-love and self-esteem are vital for creating loving, healthy relationships with other people.
A lack of self-esteem, on the other hand, can destroy relationships, romantic or not, because it causes partners to be on an unequal footing in the relationship.
The partner with low self-esteem may not feel like they are deserving of the love or attention of the person that loves them, which can drive all manner of negative behaviors.
They may not have healthy coping mechanisms or value what they bring to the relationship.
A person with low self-esteem may or may not know that they have this problem. If they are aware of their problem they may not have brought it under control and might still be working on it.
Others may not realize that they do have problems with their self-esteem because they don’t understand the difference between healthy and low self-esteem.
Whilst the advice is similar for both sexes, this article is going to focus on men with low self-esteem and how their partners can identify the issue and help bring about some form of healing.
What are the signs of low self-esteem in men?
If you think that the man with whom you have a relationship has self-esteem issues, how can you tell for sure?
Watching for these signs will help you feel more confident in your assessment of the situation.
1. They may not be able to handle negative criticism.
Negative criticism will often be met with hostility and anger.
A man with low self-esteem will often take any negative criticism as a personal attack, whether it is or not.
They may take impersonal criticisms and blow them out of proportion or try to tie them to a facet of their own personality.
For example: the man makes a simple mistake in working out a problem. They may turn criticism of making a mistake into thinking they are stupid or incompetent when it was just a mistake that anyone could make.
2. They may be clingy, emotionally needy, or insecure.
A man with low self-esteem often needs a lot of reassurance that they are worthy of being loved, because they do not feel as though what they contribute to the relationship matters as much as their partner.
Some insecurity and reassurance is okay, but a constant need becomes a drain on the person that is being asked to provide it.
Constantly needing attention and reassurance erodes relationships.
3. They may need constant validation about their looks or abilities.
Overcompensating by attempting to perfect one’s looks or abilities may point to low self-esteem.
A person with low self-esteem may need other people to see how good or perfect they appear and validate it, so they can tell themselves that they have worth and value.
The problem is, it’s mostly superficial and the resulting positive feeling doesn’t last.
Taking pride in one’s appearance or ability is not bad. It’s when that need for validation and perfection is taken to an extreme that it causes serious problems.
4. They may brag about the things they’ve done, material possessions they own, or engage in acts of one-upmanship.
Men who are secure with good self-esteem generally don’t need to make themselves feel larger than the people around them.
Those with low self-esteem may point to their material possessions as proof of their accomplishments and self-worth.
They may also point to things like extensive travel, volunteer work, or how compassionate they are to give themselves a sense of value and worth.
5. They may be possessive and jealous of other people receiving attention.
In a relationship, this manifests as things like constant texting while you’re apart, messaging when on a night out, and the need for constant check-ins.
They may be jealous of any friendships and relationships you have with other people, including other family members.
They may demand to know what you are doing or where you are going whenever you are apart.
Again, some interest is okay, but when it is invasive and approaches levels of micromanagement, it may be cause for concern.
6. They may hide behind self-deprecating humor and deflect compliments.
Self-deprecating humor is trendy right now. It also serves as a convenient shield to downplay and deflect any kind of compliments or positive reinforcement that may be given.
Men with low self-esteem may seek to turn any positive statements about themselves into a joke, brush them off, or minimize them.
They may use humor to lessen the impact or not accept a compliment because they don’t feel they are worthy of those positive words.
Self-deprecating humor can be fun in small doses, but it’s also a convenient mask to keep other people from looking too close or dismissing any kind of positive, reaffirming words.
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How do I support a man with low self-esteem?
If you believe that the man in your life has low self-esteem, and the 6 signs above have only confirmed your suspicions, what can you do to help him?
1. Try to temper your anger and frustration with patienc.
They may constantly talk themselves down, second guess their value, and seek to reaffirm how awful they are.
The slower you are to anger, the more of a positive influence on their journey you’ll be.
It will be frustrating to hear someone you love and care about trying to tear themselves down, but try to avoid throwing anger and frustration at them as much as you can.
2. Offer him sincere, realistic compliments.
Don’t try to falsely inflate his ego. His brain is going to be looking for reasons to dismiss any kind of positive words that are coming his way, so keep your compliments sincere and realistic.
The more factual they are, the easier it is to reinforce that these words are genuine.
Small compliments tend to work better than bigger compliments. Smaller compliments over a longer period of time can help build up his confidence.
3. Practice active listening even when it’s hard.
One of the best ways to make him feel truly heard and validated is to actively listen to what they have to say, even if what they say isn’t positive.
Cutting someone off or invalidating their thoughts can cause more harm than good, as it makes them feel like they can’t be honest or find support.
You don’t need to agree with him. By engaging, you may be able to help him find the path to the help that he needs.
4. Understand that he will be defensive.
Defensiveness is common for a person with low self-esteem because they are trying to protect that which is fragile within themselves.
Even neutral criticism can be taken in a severe and negative way, and negative criticism is likely to cut hard and deep, which will likely result in an argument and anger.
Making jokes at his expense, no matter how light-hearted, may be taken as a direct attack on his sense of self-worth.
You don’t need to walk on egg shells, just be aware that some words are going to be taken more negatively than others.
5. Try to accept and be empathetic to how he feels.
Loving someone brings with it many bright feelings, opinions, and perceptions of the person you love.
A man with low self-esteem, who doesn’t love themselves, is not going to be seeing themselves through nearly the same eyes.
The feelings they have about themselves will probably be neutral at best and most likely negative.
The ability to accept that he feels this way about himself will help you manage your anger and frustration when working your way through the negatives.
More patience will give him more room to build on his own foundation.
What if my support is not enough?
The unfortunate reality is that low self-esteem is often the result of other problems that need to be addressed.
Those problems may be a rough childhood, adulthood, toxic relationships, or any other number of difficult things that leaves a negative impression on a man.
The harm that is done by these things is not typically something that a loved one can fix.
This type of thing can really only be fixed by the man himself and will typically need the help of a certified mental health professional.
There may come a point where you don’t feel like you can continue to support the man you love.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.
Trying to support someone with low self-esteem can far too easily devolve into an emotionally abusive relationship because the person isn’t managing well or trying to improve.
If you find yourself constantly worried, stressed out, or emotionally drained, then you may need to stop and reexamine if the relationship is healthy enough to stay in.
You can’t make someone want to help themselves and you can’t fix anyone other than yourself.
All you can try to do is be supportive while they walk their path and guide them to the channels where they can get the help they need.
Sometimes love is not enough to keep people together and you can still love someone at a distance if it is what is best for the both of you.