8 Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Your Man

Man with low self-esteem looking in the mirror

If you’ve ever been in an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy with mood swings, you’ll understand what it’s like to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of drama. Does this describe your situation right now?

Toxic relationships driven by low self-esteem and insecurity can create a destructive cycle of drama, constant fighting, and extended periods of cold silence. As a result, there’s a continuing cycle of repeated breakups, and when you inevitably get back together (and you will), you believe it will work this time.

Previous research found that men have higher self-esteem than women, especially as they get older. However, there are still many men who deal with low self-esteem.

To not appear weak, they tend to show their lack of esteem in confusing ways. The good news is that sometimes it is possible to help.

If he’s dealing with a sense of low self-worth, to help him, you need to know the signs you’re looking for. Then, you can evaluate the situation and decide what moves to make next.

You notice your man is always moody but refuses to talk about it. Sometimes he seems fine, but then there are times he’s not, and when those moments occur, it negatively impacts your relationship. So first, recognize the following signs to figure out how you can help.

1. He’s Overly Critical of You

A mentally stable guy will date a woman he genuinely likes, and if you’re not what he’s looking for, he’ll move on. But, on the flip side, if the guy you’re dating is constantly criticizing things about you, like your looks or your personality, it’s a red flag.

Honestly, he’s not really trashing you. It’s more like he’s projecting his insecurities onto you. Plus, on top of that, he expects perfection from himself and everyone around him, placing you at the frontline.

2. He’s a Perfectionist and Expects the Same from You and Everyone Else

And speaking of perfection, does he drive the perfect car or live in the ideal house? What about his job and clothes? Are they perfect, too?

Men threatened by being “found out” often feel the need to appear like they are the ideal man to convince themselves and others that they have value.

His self-esteem has plunged to an all-time low, and he has no idea how to raise it, so he looks to anything material to “repair” it.

In a recently published 2002 study, researchers found that consumers form strong bonds with their material possessions to the point of including them in their sense of self-worth. For example, owning something that looks good (designer clothing) can make people feel physically attractive.

How to Live with a Perfectionist

Unfortunately, living with a perfectionist can be challenging. Often they are controlling, critical, demanding, and rigid. In addition, most are workaholics, so they frequently spend countless hours at the office.

Because of their need for everything to be up to their standards, perfectionism often contributes to conflict, arguments, and hurt feelings. However, with a little compromise and realistic expectations, it is possible to live happily ever after.

  • Communicate: Communication is necessary for any relationship, especially when perfectionism is involved. When your partner’s behavior becomes unbearable, it’s time to talk. Sit down and listen to each other’s points of view.
  • Learn and understand: What is it that makes your partner tick? Comprehending why they behave in specific ways increases loving feelings and compassion.
  • Set clear boundaries: You support your partner but don’t let them run all over you. Instead, stand up for yourself when necessary.
  • Don’t take it personally: Their rigidity and criticism often aren’t about you. Instead, it’s about their struggle with their anxiety and self-esteem.
  • Share your feelings: Tell them how you feel when they hurt you. Calmly approach the conversation. Becoming confrontational will only cause an argument.
  • Give notice of change: Since perfectionists prefer structure, give advanced warning and time for them to process any changes you’d like to see in your relationship. To them, spontaneity can be upsetting.
  • Unconditional love: Don’t push them away when things become difficult. Offer unconditional love. If you need to pull back some, do that so you can regroup.
  • Look for progress: Don’t hesitate to let them know when you witness progress. Celebrating the small victories encourages them to continue.

3. He Constantly Makes Self-Deprecating Statements

His comments go way beyond being humble. He constantly puts himself down to the point where it’s no longer cute or funny.

He repeatedly says things like, “Why in the world would you love someone like me,” or “You are way out of my league.”

It can look like he’s fishing for compliments, but underneath that crooked smile, he might be serious.

So often, people use self-deprecating language as a self-protective mechanism to point out something about themselves that they don’t like before someone else can insult them about it and make them feel even worse.

4. He’s a Negative and Pessimistic Person

Optimistic people see the best in others and look for the positive in situations. Your guy is the opposite. He constantly points out what’s wrong instead of looking for what’s right. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of guy whose perspective is always gloom and doom.

Unfortunately, this can be a dangerously toxic trait for a relationship because negativity breeds more cynical behavior in others, especially you, the girlfriend whose constantly around him.

Dealing with a Negative Spouse

A negative spouse can wear out any marriage. When you’re in a relationship with a constantly negative person, it causes long-term damage that may result in the marriage’s demise.

So, how do you deal with a spouse who is always negative? Here are a few tips you can use to help lessen the burden on your relationship.

Show Empathy

When dealing with a negative spouse, it takes a conscious effort not to align with their energy. The best way to do this is by empathizing with their situation. Why are they negative, and what can you do to help them? Unfortunately, people don’t always voice the root of their anger and leave you to figure it out.

Often, they’re not even sure how it originated themselves. All they know is that they feel bad and don’t know how to get out of that mood. When you empathize, you show them you care and want to help.

Reel in the Negativity

After you’ve attempted to confront your spouse calmly and they’re still hostile or angry, it’s best to contain that anger, especially if you have children.

Unfortunately, a spouse can project their negativity onto the kids and create a chaotic household. In this case, remove yourself and the kids from the situation.

However, if that isn’t an option, try to deflect the negativity away from the others in the house. The spouse then becomes the martyr and takes the brunt end of the negativity to spare the harmful effects on the kids.

Keep a Support System Near

You will have tough times when it comes to dealing with a constantly negative spouse. However, if you have family and friends to help, they can offer advice or provide a safe place to retreat when it becomes too much.

Use your support system as a sounding board to release your frustrations. This way, you won’t have to be confrontational with your spouse and can approach them calmly with your issues. (see the next point.)

Use Compassion When Confronting Your Spouse

Being in the company of a negative person can be exhausting because your good mood can quickly sour. For example, when your spouse brings their bad mood home, you may be tempted to confront them angrily.

However, confronting your spouse using compassion helps bring attention to something they may not have even realized they were doing.

On the other hand, if you confront them in the heat of the moment, things could quickly turn ugly. When pointing out a flaw in others, approach and timing are vital. When you come to them angrily, chances are they will become defensive and hostile, which doesn’t help the situation.

Steer Clear

This approach is typically only taken after a spouse has made several attempts to diffuse the negativity calmly and compassionately. Then, it may be time to retreat when all else fails, and you’ve tried all you can.

Avoid being around your spouse. Instead, take a walk in the neighborhood until things calm down. This creates distance between you and allows you to calm down and refresh.

Other ideas are to pick up more work hours or become more involved in the children’s extracurricular activities. Volunteering is also an excellent way to keep busy and away from a negative spouse. Consider signing up for church or community activities.

Call Them Out on It

A person only gets away with what you allow them to. So the next time your partner gets into a negative headspace, call them out on it. You don’t need to be confrontational when doing it, but let him know what he’s doing is not OK.

They’ll usually get defensive, believing you’re attacking them, so after letting him know, offer some solutions. For example, he might like to go for a walk with you or offer to treat him to dinner. Avoid coddling because, like children, they’ll know their negative behavior equals attention.

Instead, tell them you understand how they feel and to let you know if there’s anything you can do to help. Then let them be. They’ll come to you if they are genuinely interested in getting some understanding and help. If not, leave them alone. There’s only so much you can do.

5. He Wants You to Be Only with Him

Before you met him, you hung out with your friends and had a good time. But, now that you’re together, he doesn’t want you to go out with them anymore. To make matters worse, he doesn’t even want to get to know them, and that’s a problem.

He may see it as the best way to prevent jealous feelings when you’re around other guys, so he wants to spend alone time with you as much as he can. Doing so helps him feel important and special because now, he has your undivided attention.

6. He Gets Jealous Easily

If he constantly gets jealous or is uncomfortable with your male buddies, it’s a problem. Does he unjustifiably accuse you of flirting? A healthy, confident man has faith in you and your relationship.

While he considers himself a perfectionist with all the latest, greatest, shiny gadgets, he still has an aching spot filled with negativity and low self-esteem.

Inside, he’s probably scared that some guy will knock you off your feet and whisk you away because, deep down, he feels he doesn’t deserve you. So he’s still trying to figure out why the hell you’re with him in the first place!

Also, watch out when he’s jealous of your accomplishments. A recent study showed that a man’s self-esteem plummets when a woman succeeds, especially if he feels her achievements surpass his.

7. He Never Admits When He’s Wrong

Any expert will tell you that a vital part of a relationship is being vulnerable. However, instead of looking inward, he’s always blaming other people or circumstances when he’s wrong or has made a mistake.

A part of low self-esteem is a deep-rooted fear of failure. As a result, he tends to want everything perfect, and his self-worth dips if that doesn’t happen.

To a man with low self-esteem, being wrong is a major issue, and it winds up feeding into his negative feelings toward himself.

8. You Constantly Get the Silent Treatment

Are you always thinking, “What did I do wrong now?” He comes home from work in a foul mood and refuses to tell you what’s wrong. When you ask, he mumbles nothing but proceeds to ignore you for the entire evening.

He’ll talk in his usual tone on the phone, to the kids, and to anyone else that isn’t you. But, instead, you get the grunts and the silent treatment.

When he does this specifically to you, it could be for any reason. He told you that you did nothing wrong. He’s just having a bad day. But again, unfortunately, it’s only you who gets the poor treatment. This could be due to any of the above reasons:

  • He’s jealous of your accomplishments
  • He refuses to admit to anything he did wrong, so he’d rather not talk to you
  • He’s overly critiquing you and feels you didn’t do something perfectly (ex, his dinner isn’t warm enough.)
  • He’s just a negative person, so you’re the “lucky” recipient of his pessimism

Helping a Man with Low Self-Esteem

First, understand that it’s never your job to fix your man’s–or anyone else’s–issues with low self-worth. They need to do this for themselves through emotional work that they’ll need to address eventually.

If you love him enough and decide to help and work with him, your job is to offer support. First, when you notice, point out his negative self-talk to help him become more aware when he’s doing it. Then, compliment or normalize the issue by relating to it in some way. (Ex, I used to feel like that, too, but I did x,y, and z to help me get through it.)

When something positive happens, however small, praise them for it. Remind them that even the small achievements are worth celebrating just as much as the bigger ones.

In addition, when something doesn’t go their way, point out a silver lining, but be careful not to sound condescending. Talking down to them may only anger them and cause their esteem to dip even lower.

When he starts spiraling into criticizing his actions on something he said or did, change the subject to shift the conversation to a more positive place.


Closing Thoughts

Sometimes, helping a partner overcome their low self-esteem can be more challenging than expected. If this is the case, don’t try to do it alone. Instead, seek help from family, friends, and professional counseling. Remember, you’re not here to “fix” him, but you can be there to help him.

Unfortunately, your attempts may not work. Just know that you did all you could, but sometimes you need to know when to move on. Take your time and when you feel ready, consider getting back out there. Good luck!