Did you know that feeling better about you could translate to relationship magic? Read on for five ways to boost self-esteem, then reap the sweet rewards!
We are our own worst critics. We exaggerate our failures and our shortcomings; we worry about our physical appearance and how others “see” us.
If these insecurities are reinforced by those around us as we grow from childhood to adults, we end up with low self-esteem—not a good place to be in a competitive, fast-paced world or in relationships, especially romantic ones. When individuals with low self-esteem are in romantic relationships, they do a number of things:
- They become “pleasers.” Because such individuals believe deep inside that they are not worthy of another’s love, they are desperate to maintain that relationship by doing anything to keep a partner. They spend their time trying to figure out what the partner may be thinking, feeling or wanting, and then try to meet those needs, neglecting other important life tasks and responsibilities. The relationship becomes all-consuming, and it is, quite frankly, exhausting. No one can keep up this pace permanently and all will come crashing down eventually.
- They become “fixers.” If anything goes wrong, or if there is an argument, the partner with low self-esteem will immediately go into “fix it” mode—even if it means demeaning oneself or allowing emotional (or, God forbid, physical) abuse. Fixers become doormats and life becomes filled with anxiety and stress.
- They cannot stand the thought of being alone. They have equated being alone with oneself as being lonely; but there is a huge difference between being lonely (e.g., missing someone who is far away for a period of time) and getting comfortable being alone with oneself. Positive alone time allows for introspection, reflection and personal growth, and those with good self-esteem learn to welcome and relish it. Those with low self-esteem must be in a relationship at all times and often jump from one to the next with no in-between time at all.
- They are needy. They need to be with their partners during all non-work hours; they need to hear “I love you” all the time; they are willing to give up other good relationships in their lives and want their partners to do the same. These behaviors smother a partner and the relationship is ultimately doomed.
Good Self-Esteem Means Healthy Relationships
When an individual has a good sense of self, is comfortable in his/her own skin and understands that a sense of worth comes from within, behavior in a relationship is totally different:
- Rather than become a pleaser, this individual understands that each partner in a relationship has needs and wants, and allows his/her own needs to be known. Pleasing one another is a two-way street to the person with good self-esteem.
- This individual does not assume the role of “fixer.” If there are bumps in the relationships, these are worked out jointly by compromise. If compromises cannot be reached, the relationship may end, and that is sad, but okay.
- An individual with strong self-esteem enjoys alone time and relishes in an evening to self-indulge with a take-out meal, a good TV show and a beer or glass of wine. S/he knows that time for oneself is renewing and that renewal makes each of the partners more balanced.
- Individuals with good self-esteem are not “needy,” nor will they tolerate a partner who is. Each individual in a partnership is responsible for his/her own happiness and does not base that happiness on the consuming attention of the other.
Repairing Low Self-Esteem to Have Healthy Relationships
This is a tall order and one that is a process—there is no “magic bullet.” But there are five things you can begin with (right now) that can make a huge difference, especially in who you choose to develop a relationship with!
The High School Reunion
How many of us have attended a 20-year high school reunion, only to discover that some of the most popular, self-assured kids have turned out to be not so successful in life and that some of the “nerds” and “outsiders” have done wonderful things with their careers? If nothing else, this should serve as a reminder that many people who perhaps had low self-esteem growing up overcame it and have wonderful productive lives and great relationships.
Adults with low self-esteem need to re-visit their pasts and confront their demons from long ago. What events or circumstances have led to this poor self-image? Girls may have had an absent or wholly undemonstrative father and came to believe that they were unworthy of love. They may have had painful teen years of not being popular or pretty. Boys may have failed to meet expectations of parents or had a bad father role model or a cold and unloving mother. Perhaps they were “outcasts” during their teen years. Looking for these causal factors is important, because you can gain good perspective and understand that those factors are not in your life now and need not be impacting who you are today. Recognizing this is a great step toward healing.
Honesty is Always Best
If an individual working on self-esteem is currently in a relationship, it is important to be honest about what behaviors that condition causes in relationships. Explaining the nature of insecurities and where they came from is good information for a partner who can then assist with overcoming them.
Empathy for Oneself
We humans tend to have a lot of empathy for others—putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding/accepting their perspectives. We are not similarly kind to ourselves. Give yourself a break! When your insecurities rear their ugly heads, acknowledge them, but do not condemn yourself for having them. With acknowledgement comes the power to work through them.
Take Care of Yourself
What are some interests you have that your partner does not? Pursue those interests on your own, by yourself. Establish relationships with others at work or school and plan activities that do not involve your partner. Acting like someone who has a sense of self actually fosters that sense of self!
Separate Your Performance from Your Self-Esteem
Everyone has failed, including Bill Gates. While this is a difficult concept, you really are not defined by your failures; you are defined by your successes, no matter how small. Place your thought on those successes, and watch your self-image grow!
When you become a strong independent person, you will attract others who see that as valuable. And therein will lie the right relationship!
[image: via Andréa Portilla on flickr]
About the Author
Julie Ellis believes that, only through experiential knowledge does one become an engaging and creative writer. Her degree in Journalism and a host of real-world study and experience, has made her a permanent and popular blogger for PremierEssay.net.