9 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem In A Relationship

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Low Self Esteem In A Relationship

When we talk about low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms, it is difficult not to mention the song Half a Man by Dean Lewis. The lyrics of the song go like, “I’ve been running from my demons, afraid to look behind. I’ve been running from myself, afraid of what I’d find. But how am I supposed to love you when I don’t love who I am?

And how could I give you all of me when I’m only half a man? ‘Cause I’m a sinking ship that’s burning, so let go of my hand… And no one can ever hurt me like I hurt myself. ‘Cause I’m made out of stone. And I’m beyond help, don’t give your heart to me…”

The lyrics of the song capture the exact feeling of a person showing symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship. And how do these low self-esteem behaviors manifest in a relationship? Let’s find out, with the help of emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney). She specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief and loss, to name a few.

9 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem In A Relationship

What is the meaning of self-esteem? It’s the perception that you have of yourself. What are the personal opinions that you hold of yourself? How do you view yourself? How do you feel about yourself? What is your relationship with doubt and fear? How does all this reflect in your relationship with others?

What are low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms? According to Pooja, “Some of the examples of low self-esteem behaviors in a relationship are being clingy toward your partner, thinking they are too good for you, thinking they have done or are doing a favor by loving you, being over-possessive about them, huge fear of losing your partner etc.”

Do you innately feel that you deserve to be respected and treated well? Do you shy away from showing your real self in your relationships out of the fear that your partner will run away and abandon you if they get to know you? In other words, do you have subtle abandonment issues in relationships? What are low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms? Let’s find out.

1. Taking everything too personally

What is it like dating someone with low self-esteem? Pooja answers, “They take everything too personally, they are scared of criticism and hence, human interaction. They are mostly introverts and they never want to take any major decisions.”

So, signs of low self-esteem in a woman could be getting triggered by something said by their partner that wasn’t even directed at them. Similarly, avoiding social situations out of the fear of being judged/criticized could be one of the signs of low self-esteem in a man.

2. Low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms? Apologizing too much

My friend Paul apologizes to his girlfriend even when it’s not his fault. Some situations are beyond his control but he still apologizes for them. He keeps saying sorry to avoid conflict, even when he doesn’t agree with his girlfriend. These are symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship.

Over-apologizing is a result of low confidence. Let’s consider a case, wherein you have been speaking about your feelings for too long and your partner has been listening patiently. In such a situation, don’t say, “I am so sorry, I have been rambling for a long time.” Just say, “I am grateful to you for being such a good listener. I appreciate your patience. Thank you for holding space.” This is how you can work on your low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms.

3. Thinking you are not worthy of your partner

Do you spiral into loops like, “I don’t deserve my partner and they are too good for me. I must have gotten lucky. How could an amazing person like them fall for me? Am I showcasing symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship?” All these are signs self-hatred is ruining your relationship.

About this, Pooja says, “These are classic symptoms of imposter syndrome where people have abandonment and unhealthy attachment issues. Overrating their partner and fear of losing them drives this kind of a person. This is one of the symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship.”

4. Self-doubt

If she over-analyzes everything and is highly critical of herself, it could be the signs of low self-esteem in a woman. Or if he is always burdened by feelings of inadequacy, this could be one of the signs of low self-esteem in a man

The character Pacey Witter from Dawson’s Creek is the epitome of low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms. He is an academic underachiever who uses humor and sarcasm to be relatable to people as well as to mask his emotional pain that has roots in his very unhappy childhood.

Related Reading: 8 Ways To Overcome Insecurity In A Relationship

There is a scene in which Pacey asks Andie, “Why do you like me? I’m a screw-up, Andie. I’m thoughtless. I’m insecure. And for the life of me, I cannot understand why a woman like you would bother to care about me.” This scene is the perfect example of dating someone with low self-esteem. 

5. Low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms? Codependency

Symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship could be saying things like, “Please don’t leave me. I cannot imagine my life without you. You’re my everything. If I lose you, I will lose myself. I don’t know how to exist in a world where you don’t love me.” All these are signs of a codependent relationship.

Related Reading: How To Overcome Codependency In Relationships

Pooja articulates, “Low self-esteem can often result in making the relationship codependent, which means that one partner would not be able to even imagine their identity as separate from that of their partner. It is tough to date such people because they are too caught up in this personality trait and soon become codependent on you. As a partner, you should genuinely praise and appreciate them, support them and try to inculcate independence in them.”

6. Downplaying achievements

If you have googled “low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms”, you have to ask yourself certain questions. Do you dismiss compliments and don’t know how to react to them? Do you subconsciously believe that you are unworthy of praise? Do you feel inferior to others and feel like you haven’t really accomplished anything in life? 

If yes, then you might showcase symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship. What to do if you notice your low self-esteem sabotaging relationships? Pooja answers, “Love yourself as much as you love other people in your life. Indulge in self-care and self-love. Don’t look for validation from other people. Accept that we are all human and hence flawed, don’t expect perfection. Accept yourself as you are while striving to improve.”

symptoms of low self esteem in a relationship

7. Substance abuse

If you are drinking, smoking or smoking up excessively, it could be an example of your low self-esteem sabotaging relationships. Low self-esteem manifests not just as slouching body language, biting nails or picking skin; it also manifests as substance abuse. For a person who doesn’t feel good about himself/herself, drugs or alcohol are the classic escape to feel more confident and accepted in peer groups.

In fact, research points out that people who have high self-esteem are less prone to substance abuse and the ones with a low self-esteem show more inclination toward substance abuse. Also, taking drugs can further lower a person’s self-esteem. Hence, low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms are correlated to substance abuse.

8. Struggling with boundaries

When a person struggles with setting boundaries, it could be an example of low self-esteem sabotaging relationships. What happens when you don’t set boundaries? You are not able to say no. You are not able to stand up for yourself as you fear confrontation. You put others’ needs above yours. You are not able to take care of yourself, love yourself or connect with yourself. So, it is very important to set emotional boundaries in relationships.

What are the tips for people who show symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship? Pooja answers, “Thrive in something of your liking, like taking up a new hobby. Work on self-care and self-love goals where you feel complete and confident even without a partner.”

9. Heavily critical

Pooja points out, “Abusive relationships often erode self-esteem. Heavily critical partners, those who crack jokes about their partners and try to demean them publicly, show symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship. This can affect the relationship by making it a walking-on-eggshells situation for all.”

So, if you are someone who is heavily critical of those around you, maybe, it is all a reflection of how critical you are of yourself. So, the relationship causing low self-esteem in you is your relationship with your own self. What is its root cause? Pooja answers, “These can be varied, ranging from childhood or relationship trauma to personality type, upbringing and mindset.”

In conclusion, Pooja mentions, “Stop seeking validation from others. Look for things you love to do. Love yourself as a person. Accept your flaws, remember kindness begins with self.” These are words to live by if someone shows symptoms of low self-esteem in a relationship.

If at all, you or your partner feel stuck at any moment in a relationship causing low self-esteem, don’t shy away from taking professional help. A therapist can help you recognize patterns like negative self-talk or stories that you tell yourself repeatedly to stay in victim mode. They can also guide you about your insecure attachment style leading to low self-esteem in a relationship symptoms. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Our counselors from Bonobology’s panel are just a click away. 


1.Can low self-esteem ruin a relationship?

Yes. Low self-esteem results in poor self-image and a pursuit for perfectionism that doesn’t even exist. People with low self-esteem are too hard on themselves and over-analyze the relationship. They ruin relationships with jealousy, insecurity, clingy behavior or excessive fear of losing their partner. 

2. How does self-esteem affect your relationships?

The relationship we have with ourselves determines every other relationship. So, if we feel good about ourselves, we enter relationships not as a beggar for love but as a giver.  

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