Self-esteem, Relationship and mental health

Throughout my experience facilitating therapy groups for addictions, and in my private practice, I came across a recurrent theme, that of self-esteem. So, I became curious and began to research the subject, as I see people hurting for being strangers to the feelings of being enough for themselves therefore navigating through life making ill-informed choices in relationships and lifestyle.


How we see ourselves and how we value ourselves massively dictates how we relate to others and even what kind of people we feel attracted to. Reciprocally, our social and romantic relationships and how we experience ourselves in those relationships are contributors to developing positive self-esteem.

Several studies have been conducted regarding the relationship between self-concept, self-esteem and a sense of well-being (Evans, 1997)[1]. That being self-concept generally being a combination of one`s internal conscious sense of self and external evaluation from others about their personality.

I have encountered clients feeling lost and confused with their own self-evaluation, and self-identity and consequently struggling in building relationships and/or maintaining one. Self-concept and self-value awareness play a major role in how we show up in the world and how we choose love partners. For example, I have encountered many people feeling hopeless and lonely because they seem not to be able to “get it right” when it comes to picking a romantic partner.

Further down in the therapeutic process, we understand that the tendency to that is the manifestation of unsolved emotional issues from the past, for example, people pleasing due to feeling excluded back in secondary school (as adults we will tend to neglect our need and well-being for the other); or feeling less than a partner, therefore, having no boundaries of self-respect in the relationship (tendency to attract controlling and abusive people).

I am highlighting some of these discoveries followed by great life transformations, as I see numerous people feeling unhappy, unfulfilled and lost in their love life and yet there are limited textbooks on the subject of self-esteem when it comes to relationships. As self-concept consists of the combinations of our belief of our traits qualities and feelings about ourselves, getting to know those layers of being is of crucial importance on how we treat ourselves and others, which kind of environment we thrive in and in general how we are guided to navigate the social world including job application and performance.

Furthermore, in theories such as Erickson`s 1965, 1968[2] point out, when a person is confused or unaware of their self-identity it reflects on their ability to self-assure and support, their low level of confidence and unstable self-esteem. In some of the cases I came across that match the latter, clients stated that they experienced themselves as not knowing who they are, not certain of their qualities, and are ashamed of acting on what they need and want because they feel that they don't deserve. So as one can imagine, a fragmented sense of self and poor self-esteem can be detrimental to one`s mental health as well as healthy template in relationships.

Social isolation (Erzen E 2018)[3], depression and low moods, food disorders, body dysmorphia and substance abuse are among the symptoms reported in therapy. In exploring their intimate inner selves, we normally find that they struggle to elaborate on who they are and normally have a negative narrative about themselves. A self-positive image besides supporting and encouraging social engagement also offers a strong mental tolerance against bad experiences in general.

Tools that can help support and nurture your self-esteem.

  • Avoid engaging in the culture of comparison with others.
  • Engage in therapy to discover origins of negative self-perception and how to boost a positive one.
  • Foster and internalise positive opinions of yourself and avoid self-deprecating jokes.
  • Make a list of attributes that you appreciate about yourself (this one can be hard; you can ask for help from someone you trust and feel safe with).
  • Challenge your negative thoughts (do I really believe that about me?).

In conclusion, it's likely we all navigate through life believing that we are what our growing-up environment made us believe that we are. In most cases, we carry ourselves unaware of our many layers of authentic identity, I mean who we really are underneath social conditioning, and currently, social media pressure, that can cause us to be terribly self-critical, establish unrealistic perfect self-images and engage in the pursuit of the ideal other half.

There is a need more than ever to turn our attention and care inwards, to get to know ourselves in an intimate way and to accept and value our unique presence and contribution wherever we are. Most importantly, to feel wanted and that we belong because we feel appreciated by us and the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

As a mental health practitioner, I want to encourage us all to get to know ourselves to build a stronger, loving and resilient self-esteem for all the reasons stated above and more importantly so we can have a better chance in keeping our mental well-being and for positive relationship practices.


[1] Evans, D. R. (1997). Health promotion, wellness programs, quality of life and the marketing of psychology. Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne, 38(1), 1–12.

[2] Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2017, April 24). Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development.

[3] Erzen E, Çikrikci Ö. The effect of loneliness on depression: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Social Psychiatry. 2018;64(5):427-435. doi:10.1177/0020764018776349

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Written by Sandra Stein, MBACP, MSc Dip Counselling Therapist Integrative humanistic.
London NW1 & W1G

I am a humanistic Integrative Counsellor Therapist, group facilitator and writer.

I am passionate about making therapy inclusive, sensitive and educational. I strive to self-educate to offer my clients a therapeutic alliance that they feel is unique and understood.
I would love to write more and share my personal and professional experience.

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