Ask Dr. Berman: Low Self-Esteem Can Plague Your Relationships

By Laura Berman, PhD
Does low self-worth negatively impact your relationships?
Q: I struggle with maintaining healthy self-esteem in my relationships. Sometimes I don’t feel like my partner really wants to be with me or that I am worth the effort a relationship takes. What are some ways I can improve my self-esteem and have better relationships in the future?

A: You are certainly right that healthy self-esteem is crucial in establishing and maintaining a long-term happy relationship. If you don’t feel worthy of a loving, passionate relationship, then you are probably going to settle for less when it comes to picking a mate who is deserving of you. Or, perhaps you will find a wonderful mate, but your own lack of self-esteem will lead to trust and insecurity issues within the relationship. Whatever the case, low self-worth can definitely throw a wrench into your love life — and into your bedroom. After all, how can you really let go and enjoy sexual pleasure if you feel ashamed or unhappy in your own skin?

The good news is that there are several ways you can improve your self-esteem.

First, it’s important to find the source of where your feelings are coming from so you can address the root of the problem. For example, does your low self-esteem stem from negative experiences
in your childhood or from being cheated on or mistreated by partners in the past? Figuring out where your low self-esteem is coming from is the first step in building a stronger sense of self-worth, and you might also consider therapy as a valuable supplement to your exploration during this time. A therapist can help you to “un-learn” painful messages and establish healthier thoughts and stronger self-esteem.

It’s also important to make sure that you are choosing partners who contribute to your self-worth, rather than decrease it. Your partner isn’t responsible for your mood or your self-esteem, and only you are in charge of your own emotional health; however, there is no denying that your spouse can greatly impact you. You should be with someone who values and admires you, even when you are at a low point.

Last, consider reinvesting in yourself and what makes you happy, whether it’s volunteering, exercising, getting into a hobby, or focusing on your dream career. Don’t feel guilty or selfish for focusing on your own desires and interests, even if it’s something as simple as going to yoga class or getting your nails done. You are worth it.   


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