Relationships and self esteem

When you think of someone with low self-esteem, perhaps you imagine a person who is shy and struggles to contribute to conversation. Or, perhaps you picture that friend who always puts down their appearance – the “do I look too fat?” question may be familiar. However, low self-esteem is not as obvious as these examples and how it affects the individual and their life can be very unique. Low self-esteem especially affects relationships, and can cause arguments, insecurity, imbalance and other types of relationship difficulties. Here are some examples of how low self-esteem can affect your relationships:

Not putting forward your needs. If you have low self-esteem you may find it difficult to ask others for help. You may fear inconveniencing or “burdening” others. For example, someone with low self-esteem may organise removalists to help them move homes; well before thinking to ask a friend to help. This means an individual with low self-esteem may not get their needs fulfilled in their relationships, as they feel too afraid to ask.

Sensitivity. People with low self-esteem may take feedback or simple requests personally. For example, you may feel rejected or hurt when your partner asks for some ‘quiet time’. Your hurt may cause you to recoil or snap at your partner, and an argument may boil over. While your low self-esteem clearly affects your relationship, your relationship also affects your self-esteem, as you may regret your irrational reactions.

Jealousy and insecurity. Low self-esteem can give rise to jealousy and insecurity in a relationship. You may question your worthiness to your partner, and believe it is a fluke they like you. As such, it is normal for people with low self-esteem to expect their partner may be attracted to someone else or fear they will leave the relationship.

Difficulty being yourself. Low self-esteem can make it difficult to be your authentic self in a relationship. You may put considerable effort into being likeable or attractive. For example, you may work hard at entertaining others or to be interesting. Or, perhaps you always try to look your best.

Poor relationship choice. Low self-esteem can affect your choice in a partner or friend. Low self-esteem means you are more likely to ignore your core needs in a relationship. For example, you may stay with your partner, despite their lack of affection for you. Or, you may tolerate your friend’s bad temper, and blame yourself for their reactions.


“Ok, so low self-esteem affects my relationship, what now?”

There are a number of practical things you can do to improve your self-esteem in your relationships. For example, you can start by addressing your needs. Maybe you would like more affection from your partner? Or, perhaps you would like your partner to see your family more often? It may feel overwhelming to put forward all your needs out there at once, so it is best to start small, with things that do not feel too challenging. For example, you may ask your partner for a hug, or invite your partner to a small gathering with just your sister or mum.

You can read more here on – Tips on How to Improve Your Self-esteem in Your Relationship.

Psychologists are trained in therapies that are designed to improve self-esteem. A psychologist can help you change the way you think about yourself, which in turn should improve sensitivity and insecurity in your relationships. Therapies focused on improving self-esteem, include Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Schema Therapy and Narrative Therapy.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are warm and empathic psychologists based in Melbourne, who are experienced and trained in helping individuals improve their self-esteem and relationships. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.

Self-Esteem Makes Successful Relationships

Research has well-established the link between good self-esteem and relationship satisfaction. Self-esteem not only affects how we think about ourselves, but also how much love we’re able to receive and how we treat others, especially in intimate relationships.

A person’s initial level of self-esteem prior to the relationship predicts partners’ common relationship satisfaction. More specifically, although happiness generally declines slightly over time, this isn’t true for people who enter a relationship with higher levels of self-esteem. The steepest decline is for people whose self-esteem was lower to begin with. Frequently, those relationships don’t last. Even though communication skills, emotionality, and stress all influence a relationship, a person’s past experience and personality traits affect how these issues are managed and therefore have the greatest bearing on its outcome.

How Self-Esteem Affects Relationships

Self-esteem suffers when you grow up in a dysfunctional family. Often you don’t have a voice. Your opinions and desires aren’t taken seriously. Parents usually have low self-esteem and are unhappy with each other. They themselves neither have nor model good relationship skills, including cooperation, healthy boundaries, assertiveness, and conflict resolution. They may be abusive, or just indifferent, preoccupied, controlling, interfering, manipulative, or inconsistent. Their children’s feelings and personal traits and needs tend to be shamed. As a result, a child feels emotionally abandoned and concludes that he or she is at fault–not good enough to be acceptable to both parents. This is how toxic shame becomes internalized. Children feel insecure, anxious, and/or angry. They don’t feel safe to be, to trust, and to like themselves. They grow up codependent with low self-esteem and learn to hide their feelings, walk on eggshells, withdraw, and try to please or become aggressive.

Attachment Style Reflects Self-Esteem

As a result of their insecurity, shame, and impaired self-esteem, children develop an attachment style that, to varying degrees, is anxious or avoidant. They develop anxious and avoidant attachment styles and behave like pursuers and distancers described in “The Dance of Intimacy.” At the extreme ends, some individuals cannot tolerate either being alone or too close; either one creates intolerable pain.
Anxiety can lead you to sacrifice your needs and please and accommodate your partner. Due to basic insecurity, you’re preoccupied with the relationship and highly attuned to your partner, worrying that he or she wants less closeness. But because you don’t get your needs met, you become unhappy. Adding to this, you take things personally with a negative twist, projecting negative outcomes. Low self-esteem makes you hide your truth so as not to “make waves,” which compromises real intimacy. You may also be jealous of your partner’s attention to others and call or text frequently, even when asked not to. By repeated attempts to seek reassurance, you unintentionally push your partner away even further. Both of you end up unhappy.
Avoiders, as the term implies, avoid closeness and intimacy through distancing behaviors, such as flirting, making unilateral decisions, addiction, ignoring their partner, or dismissing his or her feelings and needs. This creates tension in the relationship, usually voiced by the anxious partner. Because avoiders are hypervigilant about their partner’s attempts to control or limit their autonomy in any way, they then distance themselves even more. Neither style contributes to satisfying relationships.

Communication Reveals Self-Esteem

Dysfunctional families lack good communication skills that intimate relationships require. Not only are they important to any relationship, they also reflect self-esteem. They involve speaking clearly, honestly, concisely, and assertively, and the ability to listen, as well. They require that you know and are able to clearly communicate your needs, wants, and feelings, including the ability to set boundaries. The more intimate the relationship, the more important and more difficult practicing these skills becomes.

Codependents generally have problems with assertiveness. At the same time, they deny their feelings and needs, due to the fact that they were shamed or ignored in their childhood. They also consciously suppress what they think and feel so as not to anger or alienate their partner and risk criticism or emotional abandonment. Instead, they rely on mindreading, asking questions, caretaking, blaming, lying, criticizing, avoiding problems or ignoring or controlling their partner. They learn these strategies from the dysfunctional communication witnessed in their families growing up. But these behaviors are problematic in themselves and can lead to escalating conflict, characterized by attacks, blame, and withdrawal. Walls get erected that block openness, closeness, and happiness. Sometimes, a partner seeks closeness with a third person, threatening the stability of the relationship.

Boundaries Protect Self-Esteem

Dysfunctional families have dysfunctional boundaries, which get handed down through parents’ behavior and example. They may be controlling, invasive, disrespectful, use their children for their own needs, or project their feelings onto them. This undermines children’s self-esteem. As adults, they too, have dysfunctional boundaries. They have trouble accepting other people’s differences or allowing others’ space, particularly in intimate relationships. Without boundaries, they can’t say no or protect themselves when necessary and take personally what others say. They tend to feel responsible for others’ stated or imagined feelings, needs, and actions, to which they react, contributing to escalating conflict. Their partner feels that he or she can’t express themselves without triggering a defensive reaction.

Intimacy Requires Self-Esteem

We all have needs for both separateness and individuality as well as for being close and connected. Autonomy requires self-esteem — both necessary in relationships. It’s an ability to stand on your own and trust and motivate yourself. But when you don’t like yourself, you’re in miserable company spending time alone. It takes courage to communicate assertively in an intimate relationship — courage that comes with self-acceptance, which enables you to value and honor your feelings and needs and risk criticism or rejection in voicing them. This also means you feel deserving of love and are comfortable receiving it. You wouldn’t waste your time pursuing someone unavailable or push away someone who loved you and met your needs.


Healing toxic shame from childhood takes working with a skilled therapist; however, shame can be diminished, self-esteem raised, and attachment style changed by altering the way you interact with yourself and others. In fact, self-esteem is learned, which is why I wrote 10 Steps to Self-Esteem and Conquering Shame and Codependency. Both books contain lots of self-help exercises. Sharing at 12-Step meetings is also very beneficial. Because assertiveness can be learned and also raises self-esteem, I wrote How to Speak Your Mind — Become Assertive and Set Limits, which guides you in learning those skills.

Couples therapy is an ideal way to achieve greater relationship satisfaction. When one partner refuses to participate, it’s nonetheless helpful if one willing partner does. Research confirms that the improved self-esteem of one partner increases relationship satisfaction for both. Often, when only one person enters therapy, the relationship changes for the better and happiness increases for the couple. If not, the client’s mood improves and he or she is more able to accept the status quo or leave the relationship.

©Darlene Lancer 2016

Erol, Ruth Yasemin; Orth, Ulrich, “Development of self-esteem and relationship satisfaction in couples: Two longitudinal studies.” Developmental Psychology,” 2014, Vol. 50, No. 9, 2291–2303

Happy guy photo available from

Self-Esteem Makes Successful Relationships

Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever


  1. You play the victim

This is one of the trickiest parts of having to deal with your own insecurities. You’re always in fight or flight mode when a problematic situation occurs and never take full responsibility for your words and actions. Instead of acknowledging what went wrong and working through the heart of the matter, you pull your inner child from the closet and hide behind them, hoping things will come clean for you. On the long run, this approach negatively impacts both you and your partner, because frustration grows both sides as you avoid taking responsibility for your own mistakes or misjudgements. Remember: protecting yourself will sometimes mean accepting you are not perfect.

  1. You put them on a pedestal

It’s perfectly normal to be completely and utterly in love with someone, but it’s unhealthy to idealise a person and ignore all their flaws just because they seem amazing to you at some point. Placing someone on a high horse isn’t just altering your own sense of reality, it also feels unnatural to your partner, who may feel they always have to stand up to a standard hard to access for mere mortals.

  1. You feel they should change for you

The truth is people won’t change unless they actually want to or feel it’s beneficial for them. When you constantly think your partner has to change in order to match your ideal of a romantic interest, you belittle their authenticity and set yourself up for failure, regardless of how great they might truly be. Watch yourself and your partner closely and try to determine what is it about them that triggers your wish for change, and what is it about you that rejects their actual behaviours. You might be surprised to discover people are mirrors, and what we normally dislike in others is something that needs work within ourselves.

  1. You get jealous for no reason

Everyone can get legitimately jealous now and then, but it’s good to have a sense of what’s triggering jealousy in you in the first place. Is it because your partner actually engages into flirt with other people or cheats on you, or do you somehow just feel they might cheat because you think you’re not good enough for them? Pay attention to your emotions. Jealousy comes from a deep well of broken self esteem, and thrives on the idea that we’re not capable of achieving what others have.

  1. You think you’re unhappy because of them

In reality, no one can make us unhappy without our consent. If you feel your partner is the reason for your questionable life choices, bad mood or bad temper, try to have a look at what your expectations of them are in first place. Putting your happiness in the hands of another is the 101 of emotional disaster. It’s like giving your heart away to someone and hoping they won’t drop it. Instead, listen to your intuition and pay attention to how your body reacts when you think something’s not right. Hover through the areas in your life that need balance and search for truth within yourself, instead of your partner.

  1. You shy away from leaving them, even when the relationship is bad for you

The most common reason people stick to unhealthy relationships is the deep fear of not being able to survive without a partner. Which is not only totally false – you were happily single when you met them – but also detrimental for your emotional (and physical) health in the long run. Write down a list of all the moments you thought you couldn’t survive without a relationship and add notes on how things worked out each time for you. You will notice that your inner balance is still present and that it will help you make the transition without feeling like you’re disintegrating.

  1. You think you don’t deserve them

This is a tough one, but nonetheless worthy of your attention. Look for patterns in your life that confirm the rule and then investigate ways of breaking this unhealthy trail of thought. Consider analyzing your biggest achievements and channel your inner strength to overcome any outside voice that’s been ingrained in your system to tell you how you’re not good enough. It often takes great persistence and exercise to start believing the opposite, but it’s worth your time and attention to overcome the idea that you’re not worthy of love.

  1. You compare everything they do to your exes

We often fall victims of the past and in our attempts to “better” our relationships, we try to make a fixed profile of what we desire in a partner. The reality is that no partner will be perfect for us, not in the 100% way. It takes time and willingness on both sides to make a relationship flow, and comparing your lover with figures in your past will only rob them of their own authentic self in your eyes. Instead, make a list of all your ex partners and write down their 10 best assets and 10 worst characteristics. Burn the lists down and gently let go of the past in order to be able to look ahead to the future.

  1. You want to do everything together

Repeat after me: I am independent, I am whole, I am blessed. There’s nothing more important to the human spirit than their own passions, their own hobbies, the things that are unique to them and make them channel beauty into the world. Your life doesn’t revolve around your partner’s and while it’s great to spend a lot of time together, you should never place your alone time under the rug. Making sense of yourself is in the little (and big) things that make you tick, and guess what, these don’t even have to be things your partner enjoys as much as you do. So allow yourself the pleasure to run, hit the yoga mat, have dinner with your friends, travel and work on your soul projects without your partner. It’s the light that comes from our own passions that makes us irresistible.

  1. You’re envious at their achievements

This goes hand in hand with #9. One life changing lesson I learned when I was feeling envious at other people’s success was to alter the envy I felt into curiosity. If you feel you’re not doing a great job compared to your partner, sit down with your envy and hear out what it has to say. Maybe you’ve been postponing a project or class you wanted to enrol into but never took the time to actually do it. Maybe you don’t make enough time for yourself and your personal dreams. Maybe you’re simply thinking your partner is too competitive, but here’s the catch: a relationship is not about competing. While you may think you’ll never be as successful as them, turn your envy into curiosity and have your partner walk you through all the details of their work that makes them so brilliant at it. There’s a reason why TED Talks are always so inspirational, and why they trigger such big change in our handle of life. Have your partner guide you through what makes them tick and be amazed that you can learn from the best in the comfort of your living room.

  1. You blame them for your own insecurities

Now, now, that ain’t fair now, is it? While it’s great to have someone to look up to, it’s not so nice to secretly wish you were better than them. Your own insecurities have nothing to do with your partner’s mindset and should not be triggered by their achievements. The key to solve this is to look deep into the garden of opportunities life has offered you and pick only the ones that resonate with your wishes. While you can’t be good at everything, you can for sure excel in your own talents.

  1. You fish for compliments (and feel awful if you don’t get them)

Looking for validation in others is something we’ve all learned, as resentful Millennials, by the book of social media. It’s healthy, though, to be aware that the Likes and Loves you crave for in your relationship will never add enough to your need for being appreciated when that need thrives on a much deeper confidence issue. A compliment is something great to receive, but it shouldn’t be the base note of how one sees themselves. Instead of keeping count of the compliments your partner has (or hasn’t) given you, stay aware of your own beauty, dignity and courage, and compliment yourself each day with a gift of your choice – be it a heads-up, a pep talk, a small present, a good meal or a great book. You are as precious as you choose to be!

  1. You constantly doubt their intentions

Constant reassurance is a huge bummer, even for the most light hearted, kind and empathetic people. When you’re always looking for needles in the hay, you gradually dismiss your partner’s good intentions and end up mistaking them for cruel ones. The worst part: you convince yourself AND them that something is missing, that something needs to be fixed, or (worse) – that they’re not trying hard enough. Not everyone is on to get you or has a secret agenda. Go back to father Freud’s analysis and remember, for once, that sometimes A cigar is just a cigar.

  1. You don’t make an effort to hear what they have to say

The Devil is in the details, and the gift to listen and actually understand what someone has to say is one of those worth expanding throughout a lifetime. It’s the ultimate key to solving conflict and “getting” someone, even when a situation seems dead end. Learn to pay attention to what your partner says – also through their body language. While we’re not all speaking the same language sometimes, the body doesn’t lie, and you might feel relieved to finally unlock the truth in the messages your lover is so hardly trying to send you.

  1. You fight over things they do that remind you of your parents

Some relationships are karmic, they say, and in that sense, they are meant to teach us an important lesson about ourselves, or make us take a turn onto a different path than we did before. If your partner reminds you of the relationship you had with a parent, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good opportunity to address the reasons your relationship with that parent didn’t work out and make the change you need in your life so that you can benefit from this encounter. Remember: not everything is as it seems on the surface, so dig deeper into the depths of your discontent and find the grounds for reconciliation.

10 Ways Low Self-Esteem Affects Women in Relationships

Nothing interferes with the ability to have an authentic, reciprocal relationship like low self-esteem. If you can’t believe you’re good enough, how can you believe a loving partner could choose you? Low self-esteem can make you test or sabotage relationships that have potential, or settle for relationships in which you’re treated in a way that matches your beliefs about yourself. That said, low self-esteem doesn’t always look the same way in relationships. The following are 10 of the many ways that low self-esteem can manifest in your romantic relationship.

(Note that adult manifestations of earlier emotional, physical, or sexual abuses are too complex to be characterized in this post. Trying to do so would not do service to people seeking help, so those pathways to low self-esteem will be omitted from this article.)

1. Bring the Bling

You feel wretched and fantasize that a knight in shining armor will take you out of your circumstances and make everything better. This longing may have formed from falling in love with the fantasy of a father. Maybe yours was unavailable enough that you could idealize him without ever testing his fallibility. You may think you know why your father never “saved” you: It was your fault, not his. Or maybe he did, over and over and your relationship has to make you feel just like that again. Therefore, you may feel compelled to hold tight to the fantasy of perfection as the bar you set for your romantic partners to live up to. Of course they can’t. Even if your partner turns out to be solid, consistent, and loving, you may disqualify the efforts, and find ways to sabotage the relationship.

2. Testing

How could he really love me? He doesn’t really love me, does he? Below the surface these insecurities guide your emotions and actions. You can’t believe you could be truly loved and so you test your partner every chance you get so that he can demonstrate his value (which you don’t believe or trust anyway). You may even sabotage the relationship because you know your partner will inevitably leave anyway. The end of every relationship allows you to say, “See, I told you so. I’m unlovable.” More often than not, there is intense regret in the aftermath when you lose a partner this way.

3. Guarded

If your parents experienced a painful divorce or betrayed each other, you might feel unable to trust a partner now, whether you are conscious of your guardedness or not. You may be hesitant and afraid of allowing yourself to love so that you either abandon your partner before you can be abandoned or you won’t allow yourself to get fully into a relationship in the first place. Without trusting that maybe you won’t be betrayed, you are deeply afraid of exposing yourself to the possibility of being hurt.


Despite circumstances that could contribute to low self-esteem, some women are just built to be resilient. They’re born that way or work really hard to acquire the ability – despite negative experiences – to engage in a positive, substantive relationship as they mature. Maybe there was a figure somewhere in her life that provided guidance and support and helped her to offset her low self-esteem with resilience. Resilience enables women to be more measured in their approach to men, rather than hysterical about it.

5. Boy-Crazy

With low self-esteem, it can seem as if nothing comes easily or naturally to you. Instead, because you don’t see yourself as naturally lovable, you feel like you have to fight and claw and strive for a mate. It’s as if unless you go a million extra miles for something, you’re not going to get it. Unfortunately, this can make you obsessed, consumed, and infatuated with your object of affection in a way that ruins the ability to have a viable trajectory. You’re already so far ahead. When the relationship doesn’t develop easily or on your timeline, it’s hard to tolerate. Instead, this is your cue to work even harder. Just know that it is hard for the man to sustain that level of intensity right along with you, and it may be a more intense experience than he is ready for.

6. Seeking Financial Safety

Are you willing to surrender your hopes for an authentic connection with a partner to guarantee wealth and financial safety? This category manifests as the need to trap a mate with looks or sex or other physical resources while hiding what you see as a shameful inner part of yourself. This also allows the emotional safety of control: you’re in control of your ability to please a man without having to give away your heart. This is different than the rescue fantasy in that you don’t expect to be swept off your feet by a fantasy but to guaranteed financial safety at the expense of other feelings you may have.

7. Seeking Insecurity

Because you are familiar with situations that create low self-esteem – being left, being cheated on, etc. – you gravitate toward relationships in which you’re able to feel this familiar insecurity. When it’s not there, you may even create it. If the relationship becomes too secure, you may become disinterested and bored and you may stray. You’re so used to having to work to save an insecure relationship that these types of relationships become the only ones you gravitate toward. But, at the same time, a deeper part of you tries to push your relationship to the brink and then back again so you can artificially create an experience of insecurity.

8. Settlers

You’re willing to commit yourself to the person who expresses interest in you. You become much less discriminating about who you choose. You may even be willing to put up with behavior that doesn’t satisfy you because you feel lucky to have anyone at all, even though you are aware you are not happy.

9. Scared of Intimacy

Were intimacy and connection in your repertoire growing up? If not, these experiences may feel uncomfortable now. You may get really scared as the relationship progresses because authentic connection feels so foreign and fake. Instead of allowing this connection, you may back away and become more distant emotionally and shut down sexually.

10. Disbelief

It can be hard to imagine and even harder to believe that you can create and sustain authentic connections. As a means of protecting yourself, you assume dishonesty even from an honest partner, which in turn sours the relationship as it goes on. Then, as you disbelieve your partner so often, maybe even relentlessly that he may begin to consider lying a viable option – he is already “doing the time” so why not commit the crime? This, in turn, reaffirms your belief that no one can be trusted.

We all know there are far more ways women express low self-esteem in relationships. But sometimes the self-knowledge gained by evaluating a list like this can help you understand not just pieces of who you are, but also pieces of who you are not. Self-knowledge can help you steer away from some of these patterns of low self-esteem in relationships toward understanding, accepting and integrating your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. Appreciating how your actions have been impacted by your history can help you create an authentic connection here and now.

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15 Make-Or-Break Ways Your Self Esteem Affects Your Relationship

Here’s the damage.

When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to have low self-esteem. After all, it’s probably been some time since you’ve gotten all gussied up for the sake of attracting the opposite sex.

But did you know that when you show signs of low self-esteem, you can actually harm your relationship? Fortunately, the converse is true as well; self-confidence can enable your relationship to thrive.

Here are 10 ways your self-esteem affects your relationships:

1. Low self-confidence is limiting.

If your self-confidence is too low, you will be unable to ask for what you want or set limits on what you don’t want.

2. Self-confidence is empowering.

Becoming self-confident allows you to be assertive, ask for what you want and set limits on what you don’t want. That includes asking for a commitment if that’s what you’re after!

3. Low self-esteem is stressful.

When your self-esteem is not high enough, you’ll be too anxious to please and you’ll hide your own thoughts and feelings to avoid disagreements. Your partner may not know who you really are, and as a result, you’ll be unable to resolve interpersonal conflicts.

4. Self-esteem is self-expression.

With a healthy self-esteem you can express your own thoughts and feelings, and feel free to reveal who you really are. You will be able to tolerate differences and agree to disagree.

5. Low self-esteem is self-destructive.

Without self-esteem, you will lack the belief that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. You will tolerate hurtful behavior from others too often and for too long.

6. Self-esteem is self-respect.

With self-esteem comes self-respect, where you feel you deserve to be treated respectfully and considerately. You will then find it easier to treat others with respect as well.

7. Low self-confidence is unattractive.

With low self-confidence you might be projecting neediness and desperation. That is certainly not attractive.

8. Self-confidence is attractive.

When you project self-confidence, you are attractive. Your partner finds you all the more alluring and may want to make a definite commitment realizing how attractive you are to others as well.

9. Low self-esteem involves fear.

Without enough self-esteem, you will be afraid to trust or show your vulnerability. Too much self-protectiveness limits the extent and depth of intimacy you can have with your partner.

10. Self-esteem includes self acceptance.

With healthy self-esteem, you can accept both your strengths and your weaknesses. You can feel all right about being less than perfect and unafraid to show vulnerability. That kind of authenticity can deepen your intimate connection with your partner.

11. You feel whatever you focus on.

If you focus on what an amazing woman you are, that’s exactly how you’ll feel. The opposite of that is true as well. If you need a little shot of confidence and self-esteem, just close your eyes and remember a time you felt confident, and allow yourself to remember and feel all the details of that time.

12. Your beliefs determine your state.

What story have you been telling yourself about why you are or are not feeling confident? What would you have to believe in order to tell yourself those things? What would happen if you began telling yourself the truth? What will it cost you if you don’t stop lying to yourself?

13. Low confidence results in misunderstandings.

It’s important in any relationship to be able to express what you need. Maybe it’s a desire to cuddle or to have some alone time at the end of the day to decompress. If you don’t share those needs because you’re afraid of your partner’s response, you’ll become increasingly frustrated and he’ll just feel hurt or confused.

14. More confidence means less drama.

Have you ever heard a guy complain about his girl being too “low maintenance”? Chances are, it’s just the opposite! When you feel secure about who you are and what you have to offer, your man doesn’t have to walk on eggshells and your relationship becomes a drama-free zone.

15. More confidence equals more fun.

The better you feel about yourself, the less you’ll worry about what others think of you. You can relax and enjoy yourself and that kind of authenticity and lightness of spirit is irresistible. Let it shine through in silly, midday texts to your guy, surprise weekend plans and playful antics in the bedroom.

RELATED: 7 Things You’re Doing That Give Off SERIOUS Insecure Vibes

Deborah Roth is the Founder of Spirited Living. She’s a Career/Life Transition Coach, Relationship Coach and Interfaith Minister with over 35 years experience coaching, training and speaking in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, for large corporations and small businesses.

Nancy Philpott, R.N., is an Emotional Health Coach/Hypnotherapist and the Chief Transformation Officer for the HeartSyncWellness Center and Founder of

When your self-esteem is in the trash it will follow you through life unwavering no matter where you land. If we continue to pull from an empty power supply–the reserves will become empty. No matter who you are, keeping up with your personal goals, your lifestyle and your obligations will wear you down. This is why many people who follow self-help programs and books fail. The same holds true with our relationships. If your self-worth is in the toilet, your relationship will go down the drain with it. Whatever baggage you have now will follow you into your marriage. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who had a low self-esteem became obsessed with their partner’s rents imperfections. “If my views of you are changing very quickly, thinking very positively about you one minute and negatively the next, that could make the other person feel insecure,” explained Steven Graham, Ph.D., the lead author of the study told Everyday Health. Here is how low self-esteem can further damage your relationships.

You have trouble communicating.

We all need healthy communication to keep our relationships running. If you feel so crappy about yourself, you will allow yourself to become walked on or even abused. Being able to verbalize your feelings are all necessary for a constructive and growing relationship. A person who can’t communicate might start resenting the other person because they assume that they can read their minds. If you’re not comfortable in communicating your concerns–you need to tell your partner this is a struggle for you and go from there. A relationship can’t persevere without communication.

You become toxic.

If you are showing signs like belittling someone on a constant basis, you have a problem. You need to find out why you are behaving this way and sabotaging your relationship. You may fear their rejection or abandonment. There may be thoughts of “How can he love me?” or “When is he going to leave?” These insecurities are driving your actions, Psychology Today shared. “You can’t believe you could be truly loved and so you test your partner every chance you get so that he can demonstrate his value which you don’t believe or trust anyway.” Ask yourself if you are the one that is toxic and be honest about it.

You become overbearing.

You know those friends who are too clingy? Ask yourself is this you? If you’re dependent on your partner for a constant emotional fix and constant attention, it could be taking a toll on the relationship. These expectations are not fair and they are not realistic as your mate is not your source of happiness. What happens is that you will start suffocating the relationship if your happiness is dependent on a person. Never expect your partner to fulfill all your social needs and share every emotion with you as it is not healthy.

You run from confrontation.

When your self-esteem is not high enough, you will not confront or take on any stressful issues. We know that relationships all have them! “Without self-esteem, you will lack the belief that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. You will tolerate hurtful behavior from others too often and for too long,” Your Tango offered. With this, your mate could get away with things that they should not and vice versa. No one likes to deal with conflict and sometimes running away from a fight is good. Yet, you know in your heart that exposure to a confrontation makes you cringe, you need to rebuild your self-esteem. When problems happen, we need to take care of them, not run away from them.

You feel attacked by the person all the time.

When we feel insecure and have a low self-worth, we will always feel that the other person is attacking us. There’s a difference between constructive criticism and being bashed by harmful words. Even if what they’re saying is not be true, people who are sure of themselves won’t let this interfere with their confidence. However, if you are dealing with issues with self-esteem, it’s harder to sort through as you are defensive all the time. Over time your mate might just stop talking to you since they don’t know how you are going to react. “Although happiness generally declines slightly over time, this isn’t true for people who enter a relationship with higher levels of self-esteem,” Licensed marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer explained on

You are possessive.

When someone feels that they have little value of their own opinions and self–it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to maintain relationships. So when they find someone, they latch on for good out of fear. Spending time with someone is important, but when you start to trying to control them and isolate them from people, there is a problem that will only become worse. Wounded people tend to attract wounded people. If you are insecure, your partner might be insecure and then it just becomes mayhem. It’s important that people in a relationship have their own space to breathe. If they don’t, they will become resentful and could start pulling away from the relationship. If you feel that you need your mate for complete fulfillment, it leads to co-dependency. This in itself, could lead you to a marriage counselor. But this might be something that you should consider anyway.
A healthy relationship has purpose, values, morals, trust and a sense of unity. When we are suffering from a power shortage in our self-esteem, we can’t be whole on your own or with someone else. Self-esteem can become a positive force in a union or can break it. Get to the root of what is causing your angst and find freedom as a person and as a spouse.

Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa

Both, according to a meta-analysis of more than two decades of research, published by the American Psychological Association.

“For the first time, we have a systematic answer to a key question in the field of self-esteem research: Whether and to what extent a person’s social relationships influence his or her self-esteem development, and vice versa, and at what ages,” said study author Michelle A. Harris, PhD, of The University of Texas at Austin. “The answer to what age groups is across the life span.”

The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Harris and her co-author, Ulrich Orth, PhD, of the University of Bern, analyzed 52 studies involving more than 47,000 participants (54% female) looking at either the effect of self-esteem on social relationships over time or the reverse effect. The studies, all published between 1992 and 2016, included multiple countries (e.g., 30 samples from the United States, four from Switzerland, three from Germany, two each from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Greece, Russia and Sweden). Participants were 60% white, 2% Hispanic/Latino, 12% other predominantly another ethnicity and 19% mixed ethnicities. Samples ranged from early childhood to late adulthood.

The authors found that positive social relationships, social support and social acceptance help shape the development of self-esteem in people over time across ages 4 to 76. The authors also found a significant effect in the reverse direction. While earlier research had yielded inconsistent findings, the meta-analysis supports the classic and contemporary theories of the influence of self-esteem on social connections and the influence of social connections on self-esteem, according to Harris. The findings were the same after accounting for gender and ethnicity.

“The reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop accumulate over time and could be substantial as people go through life,” according to Harris.

The authors discuss the idea that positive relationships with parents may cultivate self-esteem in children, which leads to more positive relationships with peers in adolescence, which may further strengthen the self-esteem of emerging adults, and so on into late adulthood. However, the field is still in need of an integrated theory that can explain whether relationships have such a cumulative effect across life, or whether certain relationships become particularly important at certain ages.

When self-esteem or quality of social relationships is low, Harris noted, it can negatively affect the other factor, and set off a downward spiral, making clinical interventions especially important to offset this potentially adverse development.

“The fact that the effect did not differ significantly among studies with different sample characteristics strengthens confidence in the robustness of our findings,” said Harris.

“We found a limited number of longitudinal studies on self-esteem and specific relationships in adulthood as well as studies using measures other than self-report, so our findings only begin to speak to these groups, and we look forward to future work oriented towards filling these gaps.”

People with low self esteem tend to have “lower quality relationships” than people with healthy self esteem. Their relationships have less love and trust, and more conflict and ambivalence.

People with low self esteem’s relationships are also less stable (more likely to break up).

Psychologists Dr Sandra Murray and Dr John Holmes developed what’s become a very influential model in psychology to explain why this happens. Their model is supported by lots of studies (including some of mine).

Here’s a summary of it.

Low Self Esteem and Relationships

Part 1: Regardless of their self esteem, people tend to assume that other people see them in a similar way to how they see themselves. For example, if I think I’m warm, attractive, smart, and funny then I’m likely to assume that other people also see me this way.

So people with high self esteem, who generally see themselves positively, tend to believe other people see them positively. They typically think that people who don’t know them yet will probably like them and that people who already like them will keep liking them.

In contrast, people with low self-esteem tend to be less confident that other people perceive them in a positive light. They doubt whether strangers will like them, and they’re not sure if the people they’re close to will continue to like/love/accept/want them.

What’s important to note about low self esteem is that most people with “low self esteem” don’t see themselves consistently negatively. Most people with low self esteem are probably better described as having “fluctuating self esteem.”

Their self esteem might depend on their mood or what’s happened that day, or they might have OK self esteem in some domains and problem self esteem in other domains (e.g. they might be confident about their self worth in the work domain but not in the relationships domain or friendship domain).

Part 2: The reason Part 1 is important is because how people act towards other people depends on how we think others view us. If we believe someone likes us we believe differently towards them than if we believe they don’t like us, aren’t sure about whether they like us, or aren’t sure if they will keep liking us.

Because it’s difficult for people with low self esteem to believe they’re unconditionally loved and accepted by their partners, they tend to hold back from fully committing in relationships or making themselves vulnerable, or engage in other types of behaviours that are unhelpful for relationships (e.g. testing their partners’ love).

Part 3: A benefit of being in a relationship can be increased self esteem or at least increased self esteem in certain domains. For example, if your partner sees you as smarter, more talented, more attractive etc. than how you see yourself, then over time you’ll probably start to see yourself as more of those things. We start to “believe” our partners view of us – that we really are a bit more attractive, smarter etc. than we previously thought.

But, as explained in part 1, the problem for people with low self esteem is that they often have trouble realizing and accepting their partners’ view of them. This means that the people who most need a self esteem boost often have the hardest time getting this benefit.

Self Esteem Test

You can test your self esteem here (Rosenberg Self Esteem Inventory). It’s not a very precise test, so don’t take the results as definitive but it’s a reasonable guide. Look at how far your score is from the high/low self esteem cutoff of 15. If your score is say, 18, you’re close to the cutoff so self esteem might be a problem for you.

What people with low self esteem can do

Now that you know this model you can be aware that these processes might be happening in your relationships or even in your friendships.

If being aware of the model and looking out for times when you might be thinking someone is judging you more negatively than they are isn’t enough, then you might want to see a psychology PhD. For self-help with developing a more stable self-concept, try The Anxiety Toolkit.

For psychology students who want to do additional reading – this post is based on the Dependency Regulation Model (developed by Dr Sandra Murray and colleagues).

Check Out My Top 3 Book Choices for Improving Your Relationships if You Have Low Self-Esteem

Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship

Wired for Dating: How Understanding Neurobiology and Attachment Style Can Help You Find Your Ideal Mate

Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy, and Worried and What You Can Do About It

Tags:Depression, Relationships, Self Esteem

What’s Your Sexual Self-Esteem?

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When you look into your partner’s eyes, what do you see? Hopefully the answer is love, respect and support. Next, answer this question: Do you feel that you deserve those feelings? The answer is important because how you feel about yourself—your self-esteem—plays a major role in your ability to maintain close relationships and enjoy a full sexual relationship.

Simply put, self-esteem is the ability to view yourself as being able to cope with the basic challenges of life and the belief that you deserve to be happy. If you don’t think you’re worthy of happiness, for instance, you may also think you’re unworthy of a full, rich, sensual and sexual life?

There is even such a thing as sexual self-esteem, defined as how you view your sense of self as a sexual being. Do you think that you are sexually appealing? Sexually “competent”? How do you perceive yourself when you’re in bed with someone? These all play into your sense of sexual self-esteem.

Ideally, your sexual self-esteem should be high. But if you’ve been physically or emotionally abused, sexually harassed, insulted or embarrassed, then your sexual self-esteem may have suffered. In fact, the damage can be so great from these negative experiences-even from being called sexually demeaning names-that one researcher called damaged sexual self-esteem a “disability” that can significantly interfere with functioning.

Women with low sexual self-esteem tend to have problems with sex and may be more likely to engage in higher risk sexual behaviors (such as unprotected sex with multiple partners).

If you’ve never been abused in any way, your sexual self-esteem may still be low for other reasons such as being middle-aged or older in a society that values youth and beauty or being sexually adventurous in a society that expects everyone to be part of a more traditional couple.

In addition, let’s talk a moment about how you feel about yourself as a sexually attractive being. Much of this is tied up with how you feel about your body image, particularly your weight. A study out of Duke University found that overweight women were more likely than men to say they didn’t feel sexually attractive, didn’t want to be seen undressed, had little sexual desire, avoided sexual encounters, had difficulty with sexual performance and didn’t enjoy sexual activity.

The whole self-esteem issue also goes in the other direction, with researchers finding that women who have sexual dysfunction also tend to have low self-esteem and lack of sexual desire. The greater their lack of self-esteem, the less likely they were to seek treatment.

So how about this: How about committing to work on your sexual self-esteem and your body image so that you feel empowered and beautiful within yourself no matter what your weight, the color of your hair or what happened in the past?

We’re not suggesting you try this on your own. This is an area where we think a good therapist can help. Before you go the therapist route, find one who is licensed in your state, or close enough for you to visit, and ask about their experience in working with women with low sexual self-esteem. If they seem unsure of what that is, you know this is not the therapist for you. And, if you are in a relationship and have found a therapist you trust, you may want to consider bringing your partner. It’s important that your low desire not be viewed as just your problem to be “cured,” but as an issue the two of you should address as a couple. And one more thing: Check in with your doctor. Sometimes, physical problems can be responsible for a loss of sexual desire.

If you now realize that your sexual self-esteem is low, then we encourage you to work on raising it. Every woman is entitled to a happy, healthy sex life.

5 Ways Your Self-Esteem Impacts Your Sexuality

Believe it or not, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the connection between masturbation (attitudes and practices) and self-esteem and body image. No doubt there are many connections between these parts of our sexuality, and they play out in so many ways in people’s lives.

This week, I thought I’d take a modern look (that thesis is pretty old now!) at several ways people’s self-esteem impacts their sexuality (and vice versa). At it’s core, self-esteem is about holding ourselves in esteem—liking oneself. Do you wake up each day and love being you? Do you support you? We all have self-esteem needs, in which we desire recognition of our achievements by our peers, we develop a sense of competence and have the respect of others. We feel our own sense of self-worth. Here’s how these needs might play out in your sexuality.

1. Sex for the Right or Wrong Reasons

Most of us are familiar with the idea that low self-esteem can mean poor decisions about sex—or the propensity for good decisions with a healthy self-esteem, for that matter. A sense of powerful self-esteem will generally result in someone making authentic choices about their sexuality, who they want to have sex with, whether to use protection and so on. Yet some people do not have a strong self-esteem and will make poor sexual decisions because they lack belief and strength in themselves, second-guess themselves or do not have a strong internal sense of who they are and what they really want.

Some people literally feel (whether or not they are conscious of it) that sex is all they have to offer. They give it to people they don’t really want to give it to, or who do not appreciate their sharing of their body and sexuality because they want to be liked by them and need to build up their self-esteem. Thoughtful, authentic, healthy sexual decisions hinge on the presence of a fortified self-esteem.

2. Confidence and Sexual Self-Esteem

Henry David Thoreau

Self-esteem is about building self-confidence, liking oneself, having a healthy level of achievement in one’s life and gaining the respect of others. A lot of people have some kind of awareness, even if it’s subconscious, that when they feel sexually powerful that confidence shows up in many ways. Confidence is universally considered sexy. Many people feel they are good at sex, even if they are not good at other things and it gives them a sense of self-confidence. People who can consciously nourish their sexual energy can improve their own confidence and use that energy as fuel to their life the way they really want to live it.

By the same token, lack of self-esteem is usually lack of sexual confidence. That can show up deceivingly as exaggerated or arrogant sexual posturing.

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3. Sexiness or Over-sexualization?

Women are very conditioned that it is our job to be pretty and sexy and men are very conditioned to be sexually virile and desirable—and to mark their notches on the bedpost when they “achieve” another sexual conquest. There is a big pattern in many women of having sex, over-sexualizing themselves or using their sexiness in order to feel worthy of something or good at (for) something. When your self-esteem is built around your sexiness, sexual ability or sexual prowess, it’s built on a house of cards. Perhaps for some people it works—it can be superficial but if they are good at it and their sexiness becomes their thing, they can really hinge their self-worth here for the better part of their lives. There is so much media emphasis on how we should look, behave, and perform sexually that this idea of sex = self-esteem is really unavoidable. Ultimately, you will need more than just your sexiness to develop your self-worth.

4. Sex for Approval Seekers

Looking for approval?

People with low self-esteem will constantly seek approval from others, even if they are unaware of it. Certainly for most people who are seeking approval, wanting to know you are desired is important and it gives you a confidence boost. This is of course, based in the ego and it involves you leaving yourself, thinking you need someone else to like you or praise you rather than you giving that praise to yourself. It’s nice to be desired, and to be reminded of your desire. But if you NEED it to feel okay, something is awry.

When we base our esteem on external factors, we are not really in charge of our lives and that makes us vulnerable and easily victimized. It can also lead us to act inauthentically or out of integrity.

5. The Desire to Be Good (at Sex)

Living in a time when we have so much more info about sex is a great challenge for some “sex geeks” who are committed to being the best they can be when it comes to sex. These are people who love a challenge of learning something and learning it well. You go! They will out-perform most people when it comes to sex because they have really taken the time to learn how to be good at sex.

Of course, the flipside of this one is that being “good” might be overly important to you. If you have to be good at everything to be okay, you are probably missing a lot of the fun of your life experience, and it might also indicate some internal self-esteem issues underneath all the high-achievement A+ sex you are having. But hey, at least you are having A+ sex.

How do you think sex and self-esteem are related? Please comment below. I want to hear from you.

Improving your self-esteem can improve your sex life

Gravity is not kind to your body as you age. Nor are childbirth, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and the hormone declines that lead to muscle loss, loose skin, and thinning hair. Worry about having your partner see your sagging skin or generous waistline can discourage you from having sex, or you may demand that sex take place only under the covers, with the lights out. Needless to say, these conditions don’t leave much room for a sense of closeness or inspired lovemaking. Often, a preoccupation with your appearance while making love will prevent you from initiating or responding to sexual advances.

A negative self-image isn’t always rooted in your appearance. Career setbacks or other disappointments can lead to feelings of failure and depression, both of which sap desire. For men, episodes of impotence can undercut confidence in their masculinity.

No matter what its cause, a poor self-image can take a toll on a couple’s sex life. When performance anxiety develops as a result, it can spark a downward spiral of repeated sexual failure and diminishing self-esteem. Correcting this problem demands serious attention to its origin.

By shifting your focus away from your perceived flaws to your attributes and to the strengths in your relationship, you can boost your self-esteem and establish your own standards for attractiveness. Think back on what it was that made you attractive in your younger years. Was it your soulful brown eyes, your crooked smile, or maybe your infectious laugh? Chances are, those qualities are still as appealing as ever.

Also, try directing your attention to the experience of giving and receiving pleasure during sex. This can help you find the confidence to give yourself over to the experience. Great sex is often the outgrowth of a deep emotional connection—something that’s not guaranteed by having a perfect body.

For people who are overweight, exercise can help foster weight loss, as well as provide a mental and physical boost. Even if you lose only a small amount of weight, being active can tone your body, which can improve your body image and, in turn, your sexual interest and response.

To learn more about how sex can change for older adults and how to realize the full potential of later-life sex, read Harvard’s Special Health Report, Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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