Smarter Dating and Relationships
Wednesday, August 18, 2019
Who you attract and are attracted to directly reflects your sense of self. Not only that, but the people around you, and virtually everything that you bring into your life mirrors your inner beliefs about your own value and worthiness. So if you find yourself consistently involved with people who are unsupportive, neglectful, critical, disloyal, or difficult it may be time to consider how your feelings about yourself are driving this pattern.
In order to begin make changes, let’s consider what robust self-esteem looks like. First of all, high self-esteem or self-regard is not to be confused with narcissism. The narcissist’s excessive self-focus, grandiosity, and need for admiration is an over-compensation for deep feelings of self-doubt and loathing; it indicates a very fragile sense of self-esteem that requires constant shoring up. On the other hand, a person who has authentic self-worth is self-accepting, believes in their own competence, and feels and believes that they are worthy of happiness and deserving of love. Their sense of self is not dependent on other’s approval and they do not feel guilty about doing or acting in their own enlightened self-interest (i. e. acting on one’s own behalf in ways that do not violate the basic rights of others). In the context of relationships, the person with high self-esteem will be attracted to and attract people who are basically respectful and supportive and whose moral values are in alignment with their own. They understand on a deep level that they are responsible for their own happiness and are capable of acting to achieve this. They do not look to others to “complete” them, make them feel better about themselves, or “meet their needs”. They take full responsibility for meeting their own needs and for their own happiness; they view relationships as an opportunity to share what is already a great life with another.
So how can you improve your self-esteem if it is too low? Contrary to what some may believe, self-esteem is not dependent on other’s appraisals, getting awards, or mindlessly repeating self-affirmations. Instead it flows from and and is increased by seeing yourself acting in a ways that are consistent with your highest beliefs, moral values, and aspirations. Essentially, you don’t think you way into higher self-esteem, you behave your way there. Here are a few examples of the ways in which people violate their core moral beliefs (i. e your highest values, global beliefs about right and wrong):
- You believe in monogamy, but you are dating a married man or woman. You value achievement but you procrastinate, make excuses, and play it safe rather than making tough decisions and taking disciplined action to achieve something of real value in your life. You admire persistence and hard work in the face of obstacles, but you have a pattern of giving up on your goals and ambitions at the slightest resistence. You believe a parent should protect his/her children from harm but you remain married to an abusive spouse.
To get some idea of how these violations erode self-esteem consider how you would feel about a friend or acquiantance who exhibited similar behaviors.
Before you can address your self-esteem problems, it helps to do an honest appraisal of those behaviors and areas of your life in which you are violating your core values. Of course, you need to be aware of what your beliefs and moral values are in order to have some idea of how to live them. If you have trouble with this, think about who you admire and why – this can be a good jumping off point for identifying personal standards of which you may not even be fully aware and may suggest changes you can begin to make in order to start building your sense of self-worth.