Self esteem is a subject which comes up often in this forum, in one form or another -- directly or indirectly. And most of us agree, it seems, that healthy self esteem is necessary for healthy relationships. So a "thread" on self esteem might be helpful. Especially if those with lower self esteem can learn HOW to improve their self esteem from others who have at some time had lower self esteem and improved theirs.
Have you improved your self esteem at some point in your life? Do you know how you managed to do so?
How does poor self esteem affect relationships? and why?
I definitely agree that self-esteem plays an integral role in any relationship, although, contrary to what many people believe, I don't believe one must love oneself before one loves another. My wife and I both fell in love with each other before we fell in love with ourselves, and to be honest, we're still working on the second one.
I would say that throughout my life my self-esteem has wavered. There are periods of my life when my self-esteem was soaring and other periods where it was dwindling. It depends on circumstances, personal successes and failures, and how I judge myself.
This is the way I see it. Poor self-esteem affects relationships because poor self-esteem and high self-esteem have different frequencies. When we are resonating at one level, we're not resonating at the other. So if we have a shift in our own self-esteem, we emit different "frequencies" and begin to attract and repel different people. This in turn reflects our relationships since the people we relate to resonate at the same frequency as us.
Self-esteem is important for so many reasons.
First, it's important for your own continued mental health. Thinking well of yourself is a need, not a want. Having suffered through depression for many years (and still struggling with it today), I know from experience the detrimental effects having a low self-image can have on your life as a whole. When you think well about yourself, you take better care of yourself, you maintain that image of wellness. And being around people who feel good about who they are makes other people feel good, too.
Second, self-esteem is generally more attractive than low self-esteem. This is important in attracting new partners to your relationships, but it's also important in the maintenance of your current relationships. Everyone wants to be with someone they find attractive, and a poor self-image can damage a person's attractiveness in very unpleasant ways. Moreover, it's contagious. When one person in a room feels down about themselves, it brings the people around them down, too. This can be a real strain on continuing to like someone.
Third, and I think maybe the most important, if you feel good about yourself, you're inclined to give the best of yourself to your partners. They get to see you at your pinnacle. And I know that, for me at least, when I see my girlfriends at their best, it makes me indescribably proud to be with them, to be a part of their lives. I can only hope the same is true for them. ^_^
I think that self-esteem is a lifetime struggle. Some people seem to work it out better than others, but it is most definately critical in relationships because too often low-self esteem generates insecurity towards your loved ones. When I can't seem to manage my self-esteem, I atleast try to make myself recognise that some of the feelings that I have are coming from preceived conditions and may not be the way things are. This is always helpful in getting it back on an upwards trend.
I have so much to say on this subject, though I really hate to ramble on. This year I have changed my self esteem dramatically. As a teenager I hated my life. I was a headcase who struggled with depression and anxiety disorders related to having no self esteem.
It took less than a month for me to reverse all that. I am now a confident optimist. I feel powerful everywhere I go, in everything I do.
I think the biggest realization I made was that humans are too goal oriented. We get so wrapped up in succeeding that we don't know how to handle failure and we forget to have fun either way.
There are things in life that give us a false sense of self worth. School, work, romance etc.. Say you ace an exam in school. You feel great about it, but if you fail the next one, you feel useless again. you would have relied on something external to make you feel good about yourselves. If we try a different approach though, and try to learn the subject material for the sake of learning, there is no pressure. Just ignore the outcome and focus on the path. Not only will you probably get a better grade, but you will also handle it better if you get a poor grade.
This can apply to almost any aspect of life. If you can force yourself to enjoy a boring every-day task, you will stop worrying about the outcome. This is a hard part at first. I just try to turn everything into a game. Pick a tile on the floor in front of the washing machine. Now do your laundry really fast without stepping on that tile! Silly but it works. The outcome does not matter, only that you enjoy yourself while doing it. Enjoy yourself and your self esteem will never be a problem.
I also notice that I can change my mood almost instantly by forcing myself to change my body language. Here's some random things that help:
Posture: Keep you back straight and your chin up. Take deep breaths drawing air into the bottom of your tummy. It takes practice to keep this going all the time, but it's worth it. Throughout the day, ask yourself how your posture and breathing are.
Smile. If you don't feel happy, then fake it until you do. I imagine a sort of "inner smile". Like a face inside my head just behind my actual face. Imagine it smiling and pulling you into a real smile with it. alternately look in the mirror and smile. I mean just the biggest most absurd smile you can manage. Think about how dumb you look by doing that and laugh about it. Did your smile just become a real one?
One last thing. And it's important.
If you have low self esteem, you probably think about what other people think of you...more than they actually think of you. Try to stop caring about what other people think of you. I know, easier said than done.
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