How To Help A Man With Low Self-Esteem — Based On Science

6 min read

Do you want to know how to help a man you love with low self-esteem?

Perhaps he’s too clingy or insecure, constantly demanding your attention (and that of others).

Or maybe he’s the opposite — distant, cold, or even a bully.

Either way, low self-esteem can destroy relationships.

If a man you know is suffering from low self-esteem, he may need your help to overcome it. 

Here’s what to do.

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What Is Self-Esteem?

Put simply, self-esteem is an individual’s evaluation of their own worth as a person.

Whether you have high or low self-esteem depends on whether you generally think very highly or very badly of yourself.

An important thing to note about low self-esteem is that it is totally subjective and often not based on fact

This means that people with low self-esteem often under-evaluate their true abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and overall value as a person.

People with healthy self-esteem 

  • Appreciate themselves and others
  • Can accept constructive criticism
  • Have healthy relationships
  • And are better at handling stress.

On the other hand, people with low self-esteem are more likely to 

  • Engage in self-destructive behaviors
  • Lack confidence
  • Struggle to maintain healthy relationships
  • And experience mental health issues.

Whether you have high or low self-esteem depends on your subconscious programming — i.e., the conditioning of your mind that began in childhood.

The first people who created an imprint on your mind were your parents (or primary caregivers). 

Depending on whether their messages were predominantly positive or predominantly negative, they instilled in you a sense of high or low self-esteem.

Later, teachers, siblings, and even other children add their voices, and as you moved into adulthood, the ideas and opinions bestowed on you formed a picture of yourself that you carry throughout your life.

This picture affects how you show up in every aspect of your life, and determines your levels of success and happiness in everything, from your career and health to love and relationships.

How to help a man with low self esteem
Image by tom9802 from Pixabay

What Causes Low Self-Esteem in a Man?

There are many factors that can cause low self-esteem in men. If a man is suffering from self-esteem issues, it is very likely those issues began in his childhood.

A man whose parents were highly critical, or even abusive, when he was a child is likely to have internalized that criticism, making it difficult to see himself in a positive light.

Difficulty at school, both in studies and in the social aspects, may also contribute to low self-esteem in adulthood. 

Toxic masculinity

While many aspects of a man’s early life are unique, some are universal. One of those is the presence of “toxic masculinity” in our culture.

From an early age, boys are taught to suppress their emotions, be ruthlessly competitive, and that they must be strong, powerful, and self-reliant.

They quickly learn that any aspect of themselves considered “feminine” makes them less of a man and that they must hide and reject these aspects of themselves at all costs.

This is particularly difficult for sensitive men, who understand early on that there is something inherently wrong with them for falling outside the toxic masculine norm. This sets them up for low self-esteem later in life.

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Negative Life Experiences

Financial problems, losing a job, or going through a separation or divorce are difficult for everyone. 

But, because of toxic masculinity, they affect men in unique ways. For example, a man who loses his job may no longer be the main breadwinner for his family. 

Since men are conditioned to believe their identity and value as a man depend on their financial success and abilities as a provider, such an event is even more damaging for their self-esteem than it might otherwise be without toxic masculinity.

Body image

Although normally associated with women, increasing numbers of men are experiencing low self-esteem due to body image issues.

Unrealistic male bodies are the norm in Hollywood movies, and social media fitness trends also add to the pressure on men to attain the “perfect” body.

Not only that, but hair loss and height are also important factors in a man’s self-esteem. 

Many companies know this and promote hair growth products to cash in on men’s fear of going bald, while others promote elevating shoes for shorter men. 

All of this contributes to the message that men are not good enough as they are, leading to lower self-esteem for many.

Performance Anxiety

If there’s one place no man wants to admit to having a problem, it’s in the bedroom

Men feel enormous pressure in this area, and yet discussing such issues is absolutely a no-no under toxic masculinity. 

This leads many men to suffer from insecurities due to size, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation, all of which contribute to lowering their self-esteem.

How to help a man with low self esteem
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

How Can a Man Boost Self-Esteem?

Men with low self esteem should be proactive about improving their self-esteem. After all, while others can help them, they alone can change themselves.

Some ways men can boost their self-esteem include:

  • Changing negative self-talk
  • Changing their behavior and habits
  • Embracing their mistakes and imperfections
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Focusing on self-care.

However, any man suffering from low self-esteem will need support from a trusted person or people in his life, otherwise, it may feel like an impossible task.

How to Help a Man With Low Self Esteem

If a man you love has low self-esteem, you can support him by holding space for him to express his feelings.

Let him share his insecurities without invalidating them (for example, by saying something like, “Don’t be silly, you look fine!”).

After he has finished sharing, make sure you say what you like, love, and appreciate about him. 

This will help him to see himself from a different perspective and will get him a step closer to changing his perception of himself.

Can You Date a Man With Low Self-Esteem?

One of the biggest mistakes women make when dating men is to take on “projects”.

A project is a man who needs fixing. Often, the woman will believe that she can “save” the man from himself, and they will be able to live happily ever after.

This is the recipe for a toxic relationship.

When two people come together, both partners must be able to show up fully and equally in the relationship.

They need to avoid issues of jealousy, codependence, neglect, and even abuse that can result if one of the partners has low self-esteem.

Another thing to bear in mind is that a man cannot love you any more than he loves himself. If you’re considering dating a man with low self-esteem, you should know that he won’t be able to fulfill your emotional needs until he can fulfill his own.

Therefore, the best way to help him is to give him space to work on learning to like himself. If he can feel love for himself, he’ll be better able to love you. 

For a solid relationship foundation, it is best for both partners to work on their issues separately, and only embark on a relationship when you both get to a healthy place. This will enable you both to give the best of yourselves to the relationship.

How To Help A Man With Low Self-Esteem

How Does Low Self-Esteem Affect Relationships? 

Low self esteem in a relationship can be damaging for both partners. 

It can lead to jealousy, codependence, neglect, mental health issues, and even abuse, and often spells doom for a relationship.

Usually, a man with low self-esteem is either needy and clingy or distant and cold. Both are hurtful to his partner, who may think his behavior is their fault and blame themselves.

The only way to save a relationship in which the man has low self-esteem is for him to do the work necessary to improve it.

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How to Improve Self-Esteem in Relationships

Even so, he will want — and need — the support of his partner to do so. And while it’s not your job to make him better, there are some things you can say and do that are sure to help.

You can help the man you love by letting him know you are there for him. Say how you really feel about him, tell him what you love about him and how you would like your future to look. 

Positive words of love and affirmation will help your man feel loved and will motivate him to make changes in himself.

My Husband’s Low Self-Esteem Is Ruining Our Marriage – What Should I Do?

If you and your husband have tried all of the above and he still can’t get to a place of healthy self-esteem, you may want to consider working with a relationship coach or couples’ counselor.

Remember, although you may want to help him, it’s not your job to “fix” your husband. Sometimes, the best way to overcome relationship issues is to get professional advice.

How to help a man with low self esteem
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Now I want to hear from you.

Have you ever dated someone with low self-esteem?

Maybe your current partner has self-esteem issues?

Share your stories with me in the comments.

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