Self-esteem and relationship

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

Psychology of blaming

If an unexpected, bad or tragic thing happens in our life, we start to look for its cause. Often we don’t want to know just its cause, also we look for who caused it. “Whose fault is it?” “Who is the responsible for it?” Why is it so important to blame someone for what happened, looking for the scapegoat?

Principle of causality

Looking for the guilty one has few very simple and obvious reasons. One is the characteristic of our way of thinking, like we interpret our world in a relation of cause and effect. It’s clearly visible in children. The principle of causality is a very important element of our socialization and education, part of our motivation to understand our world. Also psychological factors are behind.

What is in the focus of attention?

The other simple reason is the focus of attention. If we are in a situation like actively, then our focus is on the outside world and on other people’s actions. Since mainly just external factors are in our focus, almost natural to see that the cause of our current situation is caused by an external factor. In an experiment psychologists asked people to talk about their own life stories. The subjects attributed more responsibility and attached more importance to themselves when they told their life stories when they sat in front of a mirror. Why? Simply because in this case they got into their own focus of attention.


I’m a good person!

The background of blaming doesn’t consist of just mental and perception factors, also consists of emotional factors. The most important of them is the protection of our self-image and self-esteem. The principal of causality would automatically make a question that how we are guilty or responsible for this situation or happening. Did we make a mistake? If the answer is yes, that would debase our self-esteem and this is when the well-known cognitive dissonance is starting to work. We are motivated to maintain our – positive or negative – self-image. If this self-image is positive, the consideration of doing something bad can cause tense inside. We can reduce this tension on a several way, like shifting responsibility upon another and blaming someone else is guaranteed as a successful solution of reduction this tense. Of course these kind of solutions don’t support our personal growth. We also can amplify this kind of exemption to our family, our working place or to our community or even to our country members. They get exemption to take responsibility. We truly believe when we say, someone is an adult, that is automatically means that person takes responsibility for own actions. If we start to observe truly ourselves we will see, how many times actually we don’t take responsibility for our actions. It requires a proper self-knowledge which allows and supports to see ourselves as we are truly and after recognition we are able to change.

Why is blaming others so dangerous?

Shifting responsibility upon others to protect our self-image keeps us from learning from our own experiences and mistakes which is one of a requirement of personal growth. It’s the same for those people who have a negative self-image, who always blame themselves for everything because this is in tune with their self-image. This negative distortion keeps them from growth as well. Finding the guilty means we found a scapegoat, we hold the scapegoat responsibility for bad things and we are able to overwhelm with them our negative feelings and anger. Making scapegoats also a very strong cementing force of a group. Like, “together we hate the boss”. Image of the enemy increases a group cohesion which usually doesn’t end up on a positive way, we already have experienced it from our history.

Faith in the righteous world

Why do we look for a scapegoat even if bad thing actually didn’t happen with us? When we are not involved. Like when we see an accident on TV. “Why did he go there?” “Why didn’t he take care of himself?” Or “He must have been drunk!” We say these things without knowing exactly what happened. This kind of behaviour protects our belief in the righteous world. To admit that bad things or tragedies happen with good or innocent people that would shake our belief which is us and our beloved ones are safe. This is the same heart breaking feeling like an attack against our own self-image since the world image is also part of our self.

Instead of looking for a scapegoat we can try to observe ourselves, understanding our actions and take responsibility for them. It’s emotionally challenging indeed but we will be able to see our real self instead of a fake picture what we paint day by day to others. The real danger is when this self-image is quiet far from the reality and nothing sticks. If blaming is permanently present in a relationship that is a real toxin, drop by drop everyday which is a staright way to suffer loss. Here it comes a great book which popped up in my mind while I was writing this post. I recommend it! Oscar Wilde: Dorian Grey


From self-pity to gratitude

Stop feeling pity for yourself! Often heard sentence if there are honest people around but it’s not easy to break a self-pity habit. Being trapped in it, is a very passive condition, part of the learnt helplessness. Often people who feel pity for themselves just keep complaining and waiting for someone to solve their problem, not doing anything to change their situation.

How does gratitude work?

In any desperate situations we can find something to be grateful for. Feel gratitude has several positive effects. Gratitude makes our relationships with other people more opened. Saying “thank you” not just a sign of good manners but also makes us to connect with others easier. Showing gratitude can create new opportunities.

With gratitude we can improve our empathy and decrease aggression. Grateful people behave more on prosocial way even if others don’t interact with them on a nicely. A research of the Kentucky University shows objects with gratitude were less willing to take revenge for offences than those without.


Beneficial results of gratitude

Gratitude improves our physical health, people being grateful experience less physical pain and feel better than people without. They pay attention more to their health, do sports and having screening examinations which improves their quality of life. The psychological health is also gets re-established. Grateful people experience less negative emotions, like greed, anger, frustration and regret. Several researches proved that feeling gratitude often increases the feeling of happiness and decreases depression. Gratitude also supports to sustain our mental strength. Grateful athletes have stronger self-esteem and generally their achievement is better as well (Journal of Applied Sport Psychology). Gratitude reduces social comparison, instead of being offended by other people – who have more money or better jobs etc. (which is the typical sign of low self-esteem) – we will be able to appreciate other people’s achievements. If we recognize all of those own values what for we are able to be grateful it can help us to survive even if we are going through very difficult happenings. Gratitude makes us mentally stronger and that power is able to be used to get out difficult situations.

Keeping a gratitude diary can induces serious changes in us

We all have the capacity and opportunity to entertain the feeling of gratitude. Instead of complaining about what we miss, keep your mind on what you have already. Improving our attitude to feel grateful is one of the best way to amend our satisfaction with life. Write a gratitude diary! Write 5 things or happenings what you experienced on that day what you can be grateful for, just few sentences and after 30 days keeping your gratitude diary you are going to experience significant changes on yourself. It requires persistence but it pays off if you go on with it!

Few words onto the margin: nowadays everywhere you look, you can see and feel the consuming society. You are pushed to buy more and better things. Trust me, they will not make you feel more satisfied with yourself or with your life, not on a long term. There is always something missing, life is not perfect or all the time completed.

Picture: Radiant Life Chriropractic