It’s no secret that how you feel about yourself colors everything in your life. But if you are feeling low self-esteem in a relationship, that coloring doesn’t stay inside the lines. It spills over into the relationship itself and muddles the satisfaction both of you feel within it.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, you know how it weaves itself throughout your life. Every aspect of your life is subject to second-guessing, self-diminishment and self-doubt. Socially you may be withdrawn out of a self-assigned notion that no one wants your company or your opinion.
Finding a relationship is tough enough when you have low self-esteem. In a relationship and trying to make it work? You may be surprised by some of the ways that how you feel about yourself wreaks havoc with the vitality of your union.
Before discussing how to fix low self-esteem in a relationship, it’s important to recognize how it shows up. Here are some of the most telling signs. (Do you recognize any of them in yourself or your partner?)
- Testing and sabotaging
Because you don’t see yourself as lovable, you can’t believe that someone else can, either…so you test your partner. You set him/her up to prove love and demonstrate value to you. You may go so far as to sabotage the relationship because you are convinced s/he “is going to leave, anyway.”
You won’t allow yourself to open up to the relationship, and don’t trust your partner, even when there is no reason not to.
- Afraid of intimacy
Authentic connection feels foreign or fake, so you back away emotionally and sexually.
Because you don’t value yourself, you believe you are “lucky just to have someone.” You may avail yourself to relationships that match your diminished view of yourself and leave you unhappy — not just within yourself, but within your relationship.
Perhaps your formative years fostered a fear of abandonment or a denial of self-worth. Either way, feeling low self-esteem in a relationship can diminish the trust between you and your partner and lead to more conflict.
Making your relationship work in spite of your low self-esteem will involve work within yourself, work with your partner, and a shift in your mindset.
Here are some helpful tools for helping your life and relationship rise above a low self-esteem:
- Understand your past
Go after your life story like a detective seeking to explain the present. You can’t change the past, obviously, but you can use it to make sense of your present choices and actions…and give you options going forward.
- Get honest about how you express insecurities in your relationship.
Do you go MIA? Are you needy? Do you test and sabotage?It takes tremendous self-awareness to call yourself out on behaviors and attitudes you may not like. But doing so allows you and your partner to be on the same page when you can communicate your “style” of low self-esteem expression. It also gives your partner the opportunity to respond with knowledge, awareness…and love.
- Be assertive.
When your self-esteem has a ball and chain wrapped around you, you may feel too insecure to express your feelings and opinions, let alone ask for what you want. Practicing assertiveness will help you find your voice. And having a voice feeds a sense of self-importance.
By not just “going along with whatever,” you play an active role in shaping your relationship to look like a blend of you and your partner. You also express trust in your partner to receive your thoughts and feelings…and still love you.
- Ask your partner for help.
Risk asking your partner to “listen without solving.” Be honest about what you struggle with and let him/her know that it is difficult for you to ask for help. While your partner can’t single-handedly resolve your low self-esteem, in a relationship the two of you can work together to grow intimacy in the context of vulnerability and trust.
- Show self-compassion.
Acknowledge your humanness, just as you would for someone you love. Allow yourself to experience and express your emotions without shame. Remember that they don’t define you, and that how you express them can make all the difference in your relationship.
It is only natural to seek out what feels familiar when entering and building a relationship. By doing the tough work of learning and understanding where your “familiar” comes from, you can be proactive in how it plays out in your life.
We all yearn to be loved for who we are…exactly as we are. But healthy relationships are also about growth. They are both a balancing act and a sensitive, intuitive dance. One step…a response step…another small step…an adjustment as needed….And always with trust and communication as you feel the music within you…and between you.
Looking for more support in elevating your self-esteem? We can help you now. You can reach us here.