Self-esteem in relationships
Have you ever thought about the story you tell about yourself to yourself and others? Generally, we could all find enough information to tell either a positive or negative story about ourselves. If you find that the story you tend to tell is a negative one, then this may indicate low self-esteem.
There can be a myriad of factors that may contribute to a low self-esteem from being bullied at school to setting unrealistic expectations of yourself. Unchecked, a low self-esteem can lead to issues such as depression and anxiety, as you convince yourself that you are “not good enough” and tend to withdraw and become isolated.
In a relationship, low self-esteem can cause a number of problems that may make relationship issues more challenging to deal with. Firstly, low self-esteem may lead you to view negatively both yourself and your relationship. You may feel that your partner is too good for you and put them on a pedestal. Alternatively, you may view your relationship as less than ideal and become prone to criticising your partner in an attempt to express your disquiet about the state of the relationship.
Indeed, it is important to be aware of the impact negative comments can have. Negative comments from you can undermine your partner’s self-esteem and, at an extreme, become a mechanism of control where you lead them to believe that no-one else would want them. This can be triggered by your own self-esteem issues where you undermine your partner so that you can feel in control and, from your own perspective, limit the risk to the relationship. However, this behaviour is deeply destructive to your partner and your relationship.
If your partner has low self-esteem, you can help them by being clear about what you value and care about them. Help them challenge their own negative self-beliefs by highlighting the evidence to the contrary – it's surprising how many degree-educated people view themselves as stupid! It is important not to trivialise how they feel but to offer gentle encouragement to recognise the positive aspects in their lives. However, if you are concerned that your partner’s low self-esteem is causing a mental-health problem or contributing to relationship issues then helping them to seek appropriate support may be the best course of action.
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About Eugene Gallagher
Eugene Gallagher is a relationship therapist and works with individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship based issues. Eugene has an MA in relationship therapy and is a member of the BACP.