Often we hear an approach whereas we should set up a strong, stable and permanent self-esteem because (if we can!), and from that moment it doesn’t matter what people say or how they act with us, it won’t affect our personality negatively. The other approach is the opposite, that is when someone completely surrenders him-or herself to his/her surroundings and his/her mood wavers according to other’s opinion or appreciation (or lack of appreciation). This behaviour is called co-dependency which makes an equality based relationship impossible. Sometimes these kind of people use their partner as a self-definition which is very adverse if their partner doesn’t have a stable and healthy personality. Noticeable that people with damaged self-esteem or being co-dependent usually don’t have a partner with healthy self-esteem or healthy personality. They have a partner with the same problem or the opposite.
We can find the truth somewhere between those two extremes behaviour. The happy medium as always!
I think that person who states that; we can have a stable self-esteem in a relationship where she/he (or his/her opinion, emotions, decisions) is neglected, abused or reviled, or kept in suspense where she/he must be anxious about if the other wants or doesn’t want him/her; is wrong.
Namely to respect my own feelings, my values, my time and my body is also part of building and keeping a healthy self-esteem. If our partner cancel a program in the last moment using petty excuses and expect us to conform to him/her all the time; or after months still doesn’t undertake our relationship in public; or perhaps threatens us to leave when we express our needs which are out of his/her comfort zone and after all how can we state that all these things don’t influence our self-esteem? Usually we are reacting like “this is our problem” after undertaking our negative feelings relating to the relationship which is a kind of denial. More painful to see the reality than to wop it under carpet using self-justifications.
Clients with seriously damaged self-esteem often ask themselves that “What if I give the reason for him/her to behave with me like that?” or “What if I provoke him/her?” “What if I’m really a difficult person to live with?” “What if I should feel grateful because she/he is with me?” – when they experience unacceptable behaviour from their partner.
(If seriously self-esteem damaged people have a self-centered partner (very often, more than we think), usually the answer is – “Yes, you are, I’m treating you like this because you give me reason to do it.”- self-centered people always find a reason to do it.)
They continuously think about how could they understand their partner’s behaviour (which is necessary to handle it) at the same time the most important question is missing (maybe because already existing trauma from childhood): Do I let him/her to treat me like this?
Typical symptom of damaged self-esteem in relationship that clients very often experience helplessness. “I would like to have more or better – but do I deserve another?” “I would like to express my needs but are they just?” These people struggle on this duality, sometimes for a long time, like years.
There are two choices; one is to admit that I’m not treated well, it hurts so I must do something for myself (change); or claiming that I’m bad and it’s understandable I’m treated like that (doesn’t require change). You can guess which one what people choose statistically more often.
First step of healing damaged self-esteem is to resolve our denials and other own lies what with we protect our relationship and excuse our partner from treating us badly. Which means “Yes, what is happening with me is destructive!”
After that we have several options, but this first one can’t be skipped. The whole status quo remains as long as we use several different kind of self-justifications, excuses and lies. We can lie but the fact is not changed; we are in a destructive relationship and it’s undermining our self-esteem.
To recognize having a destructive relationship is very difficult for people who are co-dependent for instance. They just can’t imagine that they can exist without their partner even if they are treated badly now. They rather crucify their own well being than change.
To recognize damaged self-esteem and its roots is not so easy, usually requires professional help. Sometimes those roots are buried so deep and very difficult to identify and change them.
Good news is self-esteem is improvable after finding the destructive effects’ origin. If you feel that your self-esteem is vanished, please don’t hesitate to ask an appointment and start your mental training with me.
“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence. It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”
― Jim Morrison
Picture: Kate Swaffer