People who overcompensate for low self-esteem often display these 9 subtle behaviors

Amy Reed by Amy Reed | January 23, 2024, 10:23 am

How do you picture an insecure person?

If it were a Disney movie, they’d probably be shy, quiet, and lacking in confidence – a bit like Dumbo or Sadness in Inside Out.

But in real life, people with low self-esteem aren’t so easy to spot. Their behaviors aren’t what we expect them to be.

When someone is overcompensating for their low self-esteem, the behaviors that give them away will be small and subtle.

But if you look closely, you’ll spot them in almost anyone with insecurity issues!

Let’s get into what these behaviors are:

1) They overshare when they’re nervous

Years ago I met up with a few old work colleagues I hadn’t seen in forever. There were five of us and we went out for lunch. I thought it was going to be great fun.

But for the whole three hours, one person did all the talking. No one could get a word in edgeways around her. I know because I tried many times!

I was lucky enough to ride the train home with Ms.Talkalot and she said something that surprised me.

“I overshared, didn’t I?”, she said, before telling me how nervous she was.

I didn’t realize she was nervous. If anything, she seemed overly confident – being able to talk about all these things!

Talking this much often comes across as confident, yet experts say it’s a common sign of low self-esteem in a person. This is because when you talk, you get attention and validation. So you talk more to get more…

2) They don’t ask questions about your life

I had a friend who was notorious for doing this. When you met up with her, she wouldn’t ask you a single question about your life.

If you brought things up, like your engagement, promotion, or a good first date, she’d respond as you’d expect (i.e., nicely). But she’d quickly change the subject.

It was a subtle behavior of hers that never felt quite right. It took a long time for me to realize that her behavior stemmed from jealousy and a lack of self-esteem.

You can read similar Quora stories like mine, where someone is in a similar one-sided relationship with a person who comes across as very self-absorbed.

But Dr Michael Mcgee says this self-centered behavior doesn’t come from self-love. It comes from an insecurity in themselves, especially when they’re around others.

So if your friend does this to you, only talks about themselves and never asks you questions, they might not be selfish. They might just lack self-esteem.

3) They talk very quickly

Another thing someone will do when their self-esteem is lacking is talk very, very fast!

Experts say that if you want to appear calm, cool, and confident, you should speak slowly and clearly. But if you’ve ever been nervous, you’ll know that this isn’t always easy. Sometimes, your voice gets away from you!

When someone lacks self-esteem, they’ll want to hide their nervousness as best as they can. So when they have something to say, they’ll say it very quickly.

Why? Because the faster they say something, the less chance there is that someone will challenge them.

Plus, the less time they spend talking, the less attention they get. Which is preferable for some people when they lack self-esteem!

4) They’re quick to say “yes” to anything

People pleasing is a common trait of someone with low self-esteem. Experts say this is because people with low self-esteem have a high need for validation. So doing things for the approval of others makes them feel good.

How do you know if someone is a people pleaser? Well, they usually say yes to anything – and quickly.

Say you’re at work and you ask them to send you something, they’ll do it immediately without even questioning it.

A secure person probably wouldn’t do this. They might think about it for a moment before saying yes. Or they might ask why you need it before responding. They might even tell you that you can get what you need yourself by visiting a certain website.

This behavior might be hard to spot, at first. It may seem like they’re just a good friend or a hardworking colleague. Which, sure, they might be! But they might also be people pleasing due to low self-esteem…

5) They agree with people too fast

It isn’t just social plans and favors people say yes to when they have low self-esteem. It’s anything, really!

Everyone wants to be liked, accepted, and validated to a certain extent. But when you have low self-esteem, you want everyone you meet to like you – and you don’t feel good about yourself when they don’t!

So what do you do? You make yourself very agreeable.

If someone likes eating at Nando’s, you say you do, too. If someone believes that Harry Potter is the best movie series ever made, so do you. Even if someone doesn’t like someone, you agree with them and say you don’t either (when you actually do).

When someone is agreeable out of low self-esteem, they’ll usually agree to things very quickly and without thought. They might also change their likes and dislikes depending on who they’re with…

6) They claim they “don’t care” about a lot of things

OK, I’ll admit it – I’ve done this before when I’ve felt insecure about something!

I remember once in school, a guy told everyone that my trainers were dumb. What did I do? I told everyone that I didn’t care.

“I really don’t care what he thinks!”, I’d say to my friends over and over and over and over… When actually, I cared a lot.

My behavior wasn’t unique. Experts say that insisting you don’t care about something is usually a cover-up for the fact that you do.

And most of the time, you only care about this thing because you lack a little bit of self-esteem…

7) They make critical jokes about themselves

Ever heard of self-deprecating humor? This is when someone criticizes themselves for the sake of a joke.

While it can be well-meaning (and hilarious!), it can also be damaging to your self-esteem. It can also be quite telling as to how someone actually views themselves…

Say your friend always makes jokes about having a big nose. Any opportunity she gets, she criticizes herself for it to make everyone laugh.

She’s self-deprecating. And usually, people do this when they’re actually insecure about the thing they’re joking about.

Because to her, the size of her nose is something she thinks about a lot (and thinks other people think about). When in reality, you probably wouldn’t even think it was big if she didn’t bring it up all the time!

8) They put other people down

In my experience, people with low self-esteem are either overly nice or a little bit cruel. The other behaviors on this list are examples of the former.

But this behavior is an example of the latter. When someone struggles with low self-esteem, they might overcompensate by putting other people down.

Experts say people do this to assert power and control over the situation. By putting someone else down, it gives them a temporary boost in their own self-esteem.

I used to see this a lot on the dating apps. You’d match with someone and in their first message, they’d hurl an insult at you – totally unnecessarily!

Except it wasn’t unnecessary to them. Belittling you makes them feel better about themselves. And while someone may not always be very obvious in how they criticize you, any way they do is probably a sign that they’re feeling insecure.

9) They brag about their accomplishments

Another not-so-nice thing someone might do when their self-esteem is lacking is brag about how “incredible” they are.

I think we should all believe in ourselves and have self-confidence. But, like most people, I think humility is an admirable trait in a person.

When someone has no humility at all, and constantly brags about their successes, I usually think they’re a little insecure. And as it turns out, the experts agree with me!

Why? Because when you talk about your accomplishments, you usually do it to impress someone or receive a compliment. Which isn’t a problem and we all do it!

The problem comes when you cross the line – and talking becomes bragging. Someone crosses this line if they go on and on about how good they are at something.

Or if they keep bringing up the same success over and over. Or if they bring up their good news at inappropriate times (like immediately after someone else shares their good news).

Final thoughts

People who lack self-esteem aren’t terrible people. But their behavior can often come across as rude and even cruel sometimes.

Even when you know their behavior is due to their own insecurities, it’s still hard to get past the things they say and do.

And actually, I’d even argue that you don’t have to accept their behavior just because you know it isn’t coming from a bad place! Hurtful behavior is hurtful behavior – regardless of the reason.

I always find that setting boundaries is the best way to protect yourself from someone else’s insecurities. But cutting them out (provided that’s possible) can sometimes be just as effective!