6 Behaviors That Show Low Self-Confidence, and What To Do Instead, According to Psychologists

Woman showing low self-confidence behaviors as she's sitting alone

Low self-confidence: it happens to the best of us. Whether it’s a difficult season of your life or you’ve always struggled with it in one way or another, it’s perfectly human to deal with not-that-great self-esteem. Even the most confided people aren’t confident all the time. In fact, one widespread statistic says that an astounding 85% of the world’s population grapples with low self-esteem, as Psychology Today reports.

If you’re currently going through a period when you aren’t feeling all that awesome about yourself, know that you don’t have to live here forever and you can turn things around, with the help of tips shared by psychologists.

Causes of Low Self-Confidence

Dr. Meghan Marcum, chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare in Orange County, California, says that oftentimes, low self-confidence can develop as a result of unmet needs during childhood.

“If caregivers are not around to spend quality time and create a secure attachment or bond with their child, it can negatively impact confidence,” she observes. 

Problems with self-confidence can also arise during adulthood. As Dr. Marcum points out, being around others who make negative comments about your abilities or are overly critical can lead to low self-confidence. This can happen at home, in the workplace or within a group of friends or family members.

“[Low self-confidence] can also be caused by a self-fulfilling prophecy in having expectations of failure,” Dr. Marcum adds.

Britney P. Elzey, Ph.D., M.div, the founder and psychologist at Philautia Wellness, also lists a stressful life, abusive relationships and comparing your life to others on social media as things that can bring on low self-confidence.

Related: 101 Uplifting Confidence Quotes for Days You're Struggling with Low Self-Esteem

Negative Outcomes of Low Self-Confidence

If you live in the land of low self-confidence for too long, unfortunately, there can be some negative outcomes to consider. For instance, Dr. Elzey says that some of these outcomes can include depression, anxiety, isolation from others, stress and poor-quality relationships.

“Low self-confidence can make forming new relationships difficult, which can contribute to symptoms associated with depression and social isolation,” Dr. Marcum states. “It can lead to unhealthy boundaries within interpersonal relationships. For others, it may increase anxiety in people who experience irrational expectations about the worst outcome being likely. Low self-confidence also means someone doubts their own abilities and as a result, that person may not take any risks or be hesitant about trying new experiences. These feelings of inadequacy if left unchecked can lead to harmful substance use or self-injurious behaviors.”

It can help to be on the lookout for certain behaviors that can indicate low self-confidence, which our experts share ahead.

Related: Wondering Why Some Women Seem so Effortlessly Confident? We Uncovered 23 of Their Best-Kept Secrets

6 Behaviors That Show Low Self-Confidence

1. Self-Blame

When things go wrong, do you tend to blame yourself first? Remember, although you’re not perfect, you’re not always the one at fault.

“Instead of assigning blame to yourself when things go wrong, take a more objective view of the situation,” Dr. Marcum recommends. “For example, if you are late to work because there was an accident on the freeway or the bus was delayed, this is not a problem you created and it happens to most of us every now and then.”

Dr. Elzey suggests learning self-compassion to combat this behavior. “Speak to yourself as if you were your own best friend,” she says.

2. Focusing on the Negative

Perhaps you tend to emphasize what didn’t go well throughout your day when talking to your partner or a friend. Dr. Marcum says, “When we place the attention on things we did not achieve, it amplifies the negative. Instead, at the end of the day, name three wins or successes you can focus on.”

3. Self-Deprecation

Self-deprecation, or making negative comments about yourself, is one toxic trait of low self-confidence. For this, Dr. Elzey advises replacing these comments with positive self-talk, a muscle that takes a while to strengthen if it’s something you’re not used to doing.

And Dr. Marcum makes a good point.

“If you devalue yourself, it may be harder for others to see your strengths,” she says. “Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, take note of what personality traits or skills you have acquired.”

Related: Inspire Confidence and Find Inner Peace With These 75 Daily Affirmations

4. Avoiding Challenges

Failure is a completely normal part of life, as Dr. Elzey notes. But you may assume that you’ll automatically fail if you try something new.

“Everyone needs to gain experience with a new skill before it is mastered,” Dr. Marcum says. “Instead of expecting failure, a better approach would be to expect a learning curve and improvement after some practice whenever you try something new.”

In other words? No one is perfect, even those who appear to be naturally good at everything they do.

5. Declining Physical Appearance

With an uptick in low self-esteem, maybe you aren’t putting as much care into your appearance as you once did. We all go through sweatpants and messy hair phases of our lives, so it’s nothing to feel bad about. But if you’d like to put a bit more of an effort into your appearance (something that will likely make you feel better), Dr. Elzey suggests setting self-care days on your calendar.

Book a hair appointment, make homemade masks with a friend or try meditation—because improved mental health is also something that can make your skin glow.

6. Always Putting Others Before Yourself

Does this sound like you? “You prioritize others at your own expense,” Dr. Marcum says. “Reshaping unhealthy boundaries can be a difficult process. Working with a therapist might be a good idea or finding someone who has healthy boundaries that can serve as a model.”

Dr. Marcum emphasizes the fact that if you want to work on improving your self-confidence, it can be a slow process.

“Don’t expect to see lasting changes overnight,” she says. “Building self-confidence takes time and effort.” So, don’t get frustrated at the start. Give it time, and you may be feeling a lot better about yourself, your gifts and your talents before you know it.

Next up, discover things that confident people always do during conversations.