An inflated ego is not a highly appreciated attribute in a person, so much so that s/he might be annoying or disliked no matter if it's case of egotism or egoism.

However, an overly deflated ego can also be detrimental to one's success or psychological well-being, especially in modern day society where it's often important to stick out from the crowd and show yourself in the best possible light.

Is there a word, noun or adjective, that describes a person who's ego is so low that it might be detrimental for his/her own best? Please note that I am not referring to low self-esteem, or being insecure.

Speaking of low ego, the word humility comes to mind, but to my ears, it's a positive attribute so I don't think it captures the idea entirely.

  • Given that you say "...where it's often important to stick out from the crowd and show yourself in the best possible light", then I assume it's an antonym for egotism that you require - the competitive element that's missing from egoism. Have you considered modesty.
    – JonLarby
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 10:25
  • 1
    The whole topic of Ego is so complex and often poorly understood, it should be addressed on the Psychology and Neuroscience SE. Psychologically, things are rarely as they seem to be on the surface. There is a great deal of potential for subjectivity (i.e., opinion). Typical / normal mental phenomena such as psychological defense mechanisms and compensations must somehow be taken into account. Psychology is a very deeply specialized subject of study, and I don't advise delving into Pop-psychology on ELU SE.
    – Bread
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 10:42
  • For example: 1) What appears to be egotism is often just a compensation for an underdeveloped ego. 2) what appears to be modesty / humility can in some cases be signs of the aloofness and detachment associated with egotism.
    – Bread
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 10:45
  • Perhaps unassertive or even shy are terms that you'd find useful. It is indeed possible to be self-confident and still be without arrogance--to have some humility or respect for others at the same time. But as @Bread said, these are complicated questions about more then language.
    – Xanne
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 10:48
  • How about self-deprecating? Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 12:37

3 Answers 3


(This caught me immediately) To start, Freud used the term 'Ego' to define a healthy awareness & balanced self. Not 'grandiosity, flamboyance, and superiority'. What you are describing is a deficient ego - a lack of a healthy self identity. Deferential, acquiescent, compliant, submissive are forms of action(s) which can be detrimental to someone's reflective self value. Low self esteem and a lack of self confidence are exactly what you are discussing if your main question is 3 sentences in. Otherwise, there is, sycophant; someone who humbles himself as a sign of respect; who behaves as if he had no self-respect.


Please consider the word "milquetoast" and synonyms in answer to your question.


  • "A timid or feeble person." I don't think it conveys the right message. If the person doesn't dare to speak up, then perhaps it would be fitting. I am more intrigued by the case if the person just doesn't see the need to speak up.
    – posdef
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 14:13
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    I see your point. How about "self-deprecating" in the comment above. Might that be better?
    – user22542
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 14:20

How about a word being universal or all embracing that is opposite of self identification that is,showing humility but not arrogance. Say "modesty".

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