Lack of self-love is probably the biggest hindrance to finding and having romantic love.
When you don’t love yourself, how will you ever trust that anyone could actually love you?
Self-esteem doesn’t just mean “feeling good about yourself.” Self-esteem is built on being good, competent, and lovable and recognizing it. And loving yourself doesn’t mean you love everything about yourself. It means you realize you are lovable and worthy of love.
I’m going to share how to know if you lack self-love as well as tips for how to improve your self-esteem.
Here are the signs your self-love tank is low.
1. You can’t just be yourself.
People who love themselves can just be. There are comfortable and confident navigating any situation and trust that they’ll be able to handle anything.
People who are insecure or don’t love themselves often engage in “masking,” which means they try to conform to societal expectations by being whatever they think they should be, or who others expect them to be.
They may feel anxious or nervous in social situations, almost as if they’re afraid of being “found out” and their real self exposed.
2. You are worried about what other people think.
Look, we all worry a little bit about what other people think. But for people lacking self-love, the worry is louder and all-consuming.
The reason is they don’t have a solid sense of self, so they look to the outside to give it to them. And there’s a lot at stake when you do that.
If someone approves of you, you’re relieved, you feel OK. If someone rejects you, then you’re worthless, a loser.
Other people’s opinions are everything to you and one slightly negative remark can ruin your entire day or week or month!
3. You are extremely sensitive to criticism.
No one likes too criticized, but it happens, it’s life. And we’re all flawed!
If someone criticizes you and you have an extreme reaction, it’s because you already believed that thing to be true- you just wish it wasn’t true.
If you love yourself, you can accept that “OK, I’m not perfect, I have flaws, and I know I can work on them.”
If you don’t love yourself, you will be furious when someone criticizes you. Or you may feel ashamed and humiliated as if you’ve been found out, that this thing you’re trying to hide is obvious to others.
4. Excessive people pleasing.
People who don’t love themselves rely on others as a gauge of how lovable they are. They may put someone else’s needs above their own in order to please them and gain their approval.
In a relationship, this will play out when a woman doesn’t love herself, tries to prove her worth to a man, does everything to please him, make him happy, and bend over backward to get him to love her. She mistakenly believes if she does that, then she’ll be worthy and deserving, but that’s not where self-love comes from.
5. You don’t trust your own judgment.
You struggle to make decisions and when you do make a decision, you fear it’s the wrong one.
You are never totally sure of your decisions and can’t trust yourself so you second guess and are consumed with self-doubt.
You may not trust your own intuition which can cause you to stay with someone who treats you terribly. Maybe you think you don’t deserve better or maybe you just can’t see clearly and write off his behavior as “not being so bad.”
6. You feel like an imposter.
Also known as “imposter syndrome.” You basically doubt yourself and your abilities and feel like a fraud. Like someday everyone is going to discover the deep dark secret that you actually aren’t the person they all thought you were.
You don’t really trust positive feedback. You feel like anything you accomplish is due to luck or an accident.
7. Negative self-talk.
If you lack self-love, you will always be bashing yourself. We all do this to a certain extent but it’s important to notice when you are and nip it in the bud.
Once you start down that path, it’s so easy to keep sliding into more and more negative thoughts until you’ve constructed a completely insane scenario where you’re an ugly troll living under a bridge because you’re not good enough and no one wants you or even likes you.
How crazy does that sound? But that’s where our minds take us when we just roll with the negative self-talk.
Negative thoughts are like magnets, they attract more and more negativity and the cycle can spin out of control on an endless, torturous loop.
8. You don’t take care of yourself
Another major sign that you’re lacking self-love is you have unhealthy coping mechanisms. This could include starving, binging, excessive drinking, excessive attention-seeking from men, addiction to other things, and “hustling” so hard work is your only hobby.
You veer more toward self-destructive behaviors to cope because deep down you don’t believe you are worthy of feeling good, healthy, and happy.
Maybe you don’t feel like you deserve to treat yourself right, maybe your lack of self-love has led you into a depression and you don’t have the motivation to do things that will benefit you and be healthy for you. Maybe you feel like you deserve to suffer and be punished for being so terrible.
9. Inferiority complex.
You just feel inferior and constantly compare yourself to others and feel like you come up short. This could be people in your circle or even worse, strangers on social media.
We all do this from time to time— it’s hard not to!— but people who lack self-love are much more prone to these toxic comparisons and use it to fuel their underlying belief that they are not good enough.
10. You need constant reassurance.
In a relationship, this manifests as you constantly needing assurance from your partner that they won’t leave, that they still love you, etc. You don’t really trust it because you don’t love yourself. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop and this puts you on edge all the time.
You may also need constant reassurance from others. Whether it’s fire emojis on Instagram or constant praise from your boss that you’re doing a good job, positive feedback from teachers, constantly making sure your friends aren’t mad at you and everything is good… this endless quest is just exhausting and it doesn’t keep your tank full for long. You are always looking for another fix because your sense of worth isn’t stable.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying praise and compliments, but it becomes a problem when you need it and can’t feel secure without it.
11. You can’t or don’t have healthy relationships.
You may struggle in relationships because you’re too needy and drain the other person, and that can be exhausting and end up pushing people away.
Or maybe you can’t connect. Maybe you keep others at a distance because you’re afraid of rejection because you’re scared of getting hurt or you just feel unlovable and unworthy.
If this list made you realize you lack self-love, here are some tips to work on it and improve:
1. Take control of your thoughts.
Your thoughts don’t have to control you. While you can’t block every single negative thought, you can choose how to react to it or whether you want to believe it.
Pluck out those negative thoughts like weeds and tell yourself the opposite. Treat your mind like a garden and start planting positive things in there. If you keep it up, you’ll see those thoughts grow into something really beautiful.
2. Challenge yourself.
Self-esteem comes from pushing past our comfort zone. It comes from setting goals and working toward achieving them.
Do something even when you don’t feel like it. Push yourself to learn new things, do new things, and explore. Give yourself an outlet to feel good and try something you haven’t done before. It’s a great way to have fun and build your confidence.
3. Be Active
Being physical is proven to make you feel good. No one comes home from the gym full of regret or saying: “Wow, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
You’re taking care of yourself in more ways than one when you move your body, especially when you find something you really enjoy. It doesn’t have to be at the gym. Just make it consistent and a priority.
4. Forgive yourself.
So, you’ve made mistakes. It’s OK. We all have!
Here’s a secret. No one is thinking about you as much as you are. You are the only one bringing up that embarrassing thing you said in 6th grade or the time you tripped over your own two feet in a crowded coffee shop.
Who cares! Forgive yourself and move on because you have too many great things to do to get stuck in past mistakes.
5. Be grateful.
It’s very hard to be in a negative space when you are filled with gratitude.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or in a low mindset, I take some time to sit and just focus on breathing and all the things I’m grateful for in the moment. It’s such an amazing shift to have and it’s so easy to do.
6. You Will Be OK.
Self-esteem essentially comes down to the belief that no matter what happens, you’ll be OK. You’ll be able to deal with it. You’ll get through it.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times this simple little phrase has saved my sanity. Remember, you’ve survived every one of your worst days.