If a woman displays these 10 behaviors, she has low self-worth

by Brendan Brown | February 22, 2024, 9:23 pm

Women have historically been treated badly by society. I doubt you need me to give examples.

Even today, when we enjoy more equality than ever before throughout the world, women earn less than men for doing the same job. And if they go out running at night, they often pair up with a friend or two so that they’re less likely to be attacked.

Because of that, we shouldn’t be surprised when a woman has low self-worth. They’ve been conditioned by society to think less of themselves in a phenomenon called internalized sexism.

We owe it to women to right historical wrongs and to empower them to celebrate the unique worth that they bring to the world. Every woman has something to offer.

Encouraging anyone to fulfil their full potential can be tricky, but the first stage is to spot when they’re struggling with their self-worth to begin with. Here’s what you need to know.

1) Self-criticism

We’re all partial to self-criticism from time-to-time.

The problem with self-criticism is that if we allow it to keep growing, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we keep telling ourselves that we’re fat and ugly, we’ll probably stop making an effort to look good.

The way I like to think about it is that if we’re going to criticize ourselves, it needs to be constructive criticism and we need to act upon it to become better people. Otherwise, we’re just putting ourselves down and not getting anything out of it.

Instead of criticizing yourself, try to keep schtum or to reframe the thought so that it’s positive instead of negative.

2) Refusing compliments

You might think that everyone likes receiving compliments, but you’d be surprised.

Some people find it difficult to receive compliments, to the point at which when people try to compliment them, they’ll respond by dismissing or downplaying what’s being said.

For example, my girlfriend is quite insecure about her appearance. On some days, she knows how good she looks and will happily accept any compliment that’s on offer. On others, she’ll argue with me when I tell her that she looks great.

If someone you know refuses compliments on a regular basis, it’s definitely a warning sign that she might not be as confident as she likes to make out.

3) Hesitation to share opinions

Everyone has opinions, and that’s something that we should celebrate.

The problem is that people with low self-worth often hesitate to share their opinions, either because they’re too unconfident to share them or because they think that their opinions don’t have worth.

The whole point of opinions is that they can’t be right or wrong. That means that most of us are more than willing to share our opinions, because we know that they can’t be disproven.

But people with low self-worth don’t see it like that.

4) Excessive modesty

Refusing compliments and being hesitant to share opinions are both side-effects of excessive modesty.

By that, we mean that people with low self-worth are more modest than most. They won’t want to brag about their achievements, show off what makes them unique or do anything else that might attract attention.

That’s because they’re insecure, and if they can avoid attention, they’ll do so. In fact, it’s arguably less about modesty and more about them being uncomfortable in their own skin.

People with low self-worth don’t see themselves as modest, because they don’t think they have anything to be modest about.

5) Looking for external validation

When people look for external validation, they’re relying on other people for their sense of self-worth. This is a huge problem, because it can lead to codependent relationships or even lead to people being taken advantage of.

For example, I used to know a woman who relied so heavily on her partner for validation that he could get her to do anything that he wanted. She’d do things against her will, purely for his validation.

Women with a higher sense of self-worth will find their validation from within. They don’t need someone else to tell them that they’re beautiful or intelligent because they already know that they are.

6) Constant apologies

Some people apologize so often that people pick up on it and it becomes an in-joke.

There’s a line in Cotton by The Mountain Goats that goes, “This song is for the people who tell their families that they’re sorry for things they can’t and won’t feel sorry for.” That sounds like a classic case of low self-worth to me.

That’s because people who are struggling with low self-worth tend to blame themselves for everything, even when it’s not their fault. If they organize a walk in the park and it starts raining, they’ll apologize for the weather.

Apologies have their place, but when people use them non-stop, they start to lose their power.

7) Imposter’s syndrome

Imposter’s syndrome is the phenomenon where we feel as though we’re undeserving of any praise or accolades we receive.

For example, if you’re invited to speak at a conference, you might experience imposter’s syndrome by feeling as though you don’t know enough to be an expert. Musicians can feel imposter’s syndrome when they play in front of huge audiences.

Imposter’s syndrome is natural and happens to most of us, but people with low self-worth tend to experience it more often than most. It also kicks in harder and can often stop them from getting things done.

I’d love to tell you that I have a cure for it, but the best advice I have is for you to fake it ‘til you make it.

8) Inability to say no

People with low self-worth often find it difficult or even impossible to say no.

For example, they’ll be so insecure in their role at work that when their boss asks them to take on some extra work, they’ll say yes even if they don’t have the capacity to get it done.

Or perhaps at home, their partner will ask them to watch the kids and they’ll feel like they have to, even though they had plans.

Being able to say no is a vital skill, because otherwise people will walk all over you and do things without your consent. You’ll grow to resent them, and they might not even know why.

And so if you know someone with low self-worth who struggles to say no, give them an easy out. If you ask them to do something, remind them that they’re free to say no if they don’t want to.

9) Analysis paralysis

Analysis paralysis is what happens when we’re given so many options to choose from that we find it difficult to pick one.

For example, my girlfriend has always found it difficult to choose what to eat at a restaurant, but she’s recently gone vegan and that’s made things easier for her. It leaves her with a much smaller pool of options to choose from.

This actually shows you one of the ways that you can help people who are struggling with low self-worth. Help them to make choices by cutting down the number of options that are available to them.

Of course, this targets the symptoms rather than the root cause, so you’ll also want to tackle why they have low self-worth in the first place.

10) Constantly putting other people first

We all put other people first from time to time, and that’s fine. In fact, it’s a good thing.

However, it can start to cause a problem if we do it all of the time. It gives people the opportunity to take advantage of us and can cause us to burn out.

The classic example here is a mother who constantly puts her family first, to the point at which she loses sight of her own personality. When she’s over-focusing on the day-to-day things, it can be easy for her to forget that if she wants to take care of other people, she needs to first take care of herself.

The problem is that when you have a low sense of self-worth, it’s easy to think that other people matter more than you do. That’s just not the case.


Identifying whether someone has low self-worth is one thing, but actually helping them to feel better is something else entirely.

The challenge is that it’s not always easy to do so. It’s not as simple as turning to your loved one and saying, “You’re great. You should have a higher opinion of yourself.” Trust me, I’ve tried it.

Unfortunately, we often need to turn to professional help, such as by reaching out to a therapist. That doesn’t necessarily come cheap, but it does give us the best chance of actually solving the problem.

Regardless, you need to know the warning signs before you can do anything, and that’s where today’s tips come in. With a bit of luck, you’ll never have to use them.

Good luck out there.

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