Incels – a term that stands for “involuntary celibates”—is a subculture of men connected by their inability to obtain romantic and sexual relationships. As a group known for real-world violent attacks, understanding the drivers of online membership offers valuable insight into these vulnerable men. The current study used inductive qualitative analysis of over 8,000 posts made by 703 unique posters in two online incel communities to explore common themes within the process of incel membership online. Qualitative analyses uncovered two higher-order concepts: perceptions of injustice and searching for esteem. Within these concepts several underlying themes emerged: victimization, perceived barriers to manhood, psychological responses, and black pill as liberation. The results posit that one avenue to incel membership comes from heightened perceptions of injustice among these users. In addition, the incel forum offers a strategy to increase self-esteem through online membership, which may be a vital draw for disenfranchised young people. Unfortunately, it seems that online incel membership, while a source of self-esteem, shapes incel perceptions, leading members to re-interpret instances in their lives through the lens of extremist ideology.