Nothing interferes with the ability to have an authentic and reciprocal relationship as weak self-esteem. If you can’t believe you’re good enough, how can you believe that a loving partner could choose you? Low self-esteem can cause you to test or sabotage relationships that have potential, or settle for relationships in which you are treated in a way that matches your beliefs about yourself. That said, low self-esteem doesn’t always show up the same way in relationships. Here are 10 of the many ways low self-esteem can show up in your romantic relationship.
(Note that manifestations in adults of sexual the abuses are too complex to be characterized in this article. Trying to do so would not serve those seeking help, so these pathways to low self-esteem will be omitted from this article.)
1. Bring the Bling
You feel miserable and fantasize that a knight in shining armor will take you out of your situation and make everything better. This desire could have been formed by falling in love with the fantasy of a father. Maybe yours wasn’t available enough that you could idealize it without ever testing its fallibility. You might think you know why your father never “saved” you: it was your fault, not his. Or maybe he has done it over and over again and your relationship has to make you feel like this again. Therefore, you may feel compelled to hold on to the fantasy of perfection as a bar that you set for your romantic partners to live up to. Of course, they can’t. Even if your partner turns out to be strong, cohesive, and loving, you can disqualify the efforts and find ways to sabotage the relationship.
How could he really love me? He doesn’t really like me, does he?
Beneath the surface, these insecurities guide your emotions and actions. You can’t believe that you could be truly loved and you test your partner whenever you get the chance so that they can demonstrate their worth (which you don’t believe or trust anyway). You can 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. I am not lovable. Most often, there is intense regret over losing a partner in this way.
If your parents had a divorced or you betrayed yourself, you might feel unable to trust a partner now, whether you are aware of your caution or not. You may be hesitant and afraid to allow yourself to love so you either abandon your partner before you can be abandoned, or you don’t allow yourself to fully enter a relationship in the first place. Without trusting that you may not be betrayed, you are deeply afraid of exposing yourself to the possibility of being hurt.
Despite the circumstances that might contribute to low self-esteem, some women are simply built to be resilient. They are born that way or work very hard to acquire the ability – despite negative experiences – to engage in a positive and meaningful relationship as they mature. Maybe there was someone somewhere in her life who provided her with advice and support and helped her make up for her low self-esteem with resilience. Resilience allows women to be more measured in their approach to men, rather than being hysterical about it.
With low self-esteem, it may seem like nothing comes easily or naturally. Instead, because you don’t see yourself as naturally lovable, you feel compelled to fight, hold onto, and fight for a partner. It’s like unless you drive a million extra miles for something, you’re not going to get it. Unfortunately, it can make you obsessed, consumed, and enamored with your object of affection in a way that ruins the ability to have a viable trajectory. You are already so far away. When the relationship doesn’t develop easily or stick to your schedule, it’s hard to tolerate. Instead, it’s your signal to work even harder. Just know that it is difficult for the man to maintain this level of intensity with you, and it can be a more intense experience than he is ready for.
6. Seek financial security
Are you ready to give up your hopes of a genuine connection with a partner to ensure wealth and financial security? This category manifests as the need to trap a partner with stares, sex, or other physical resources while hiding what you see as a shameful inner part of yourself. It also allows for the emotional security of control: you control your ability to please a man without having to give your heart away. This is different from the rescue fantasy in that you don’t expect to be carried away by a fantasy but guaranteed financial security at the expense of other feelings you might have.
7. Search for insecurity
Because you’re familiar with situations that create low self-esteem – being left behind, being cheated on, etc. – you are drawn to relationships in which you are able to feel this familiar insecurity. When it’s not there, you can even create it. If the relationship becomes too secure, you can become disinterested and bored and you can go astray. You’re so used to having to work to save a fragile relationship that these types of relationships become the only ones you gravitate towards. But, at the same time, a deeper part of you is trying to push your relationship to the brink and then backtrack so that you can artificially create an experience of insecurity.
You are ready to make a commitment to the person who expresses interest in you. You become much less discriminating about your choice. You may even come to terms with behavior that is unhappy with you because you feel lucky to have someone, even though you are aware that you are not happy.
9. Fear of intimacy
Has the intimacy and connection in your repertoire grown? Otherwise, these experiences can be uncomfortable now. You can get really scared as the relationship progresses because an authentic connection feels so foreign and false. Instead of allowing that connection, you can step back and become more emotionally distant and stop sexually.
It can be hard to imagine and even harder to believe that you can make and maintain authentic connections. To protect yourself, you assume dishonesty, even from an honest partner, which in turn undermines the relationship as you go. Then, since you don’t believe your partner so often, maybe even relentlessly that they can start to envision lie a viable option – there is already time for it, so why not hire the criminality? This, in turn, reaffirms your belief that no one can be trusted.
We all know there are many more ways that women express low self-esteem in relationships. But sometimes the self-knowledge gained from evaluating a list like this can help you understand not only parts of who you are, but also parts of who you are not. Self-knowledge can help you move away from some of these low self-esteem patterns in relationships to understand, accept, and integrate your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. Appreciating how your actions have been affected by your story can help you make an authentic connection here and now.