Part Two: Improving Your Self-Esteem In a Relationship

In Part One, we discussed why self-esteem is so important, especially healthy self-esteem. Next, we’ll talk about improving your self-esteem in a relationship.

First, let’s take a closer look to fully understand how you got low self-esteem and how you can improve your view of Self. 

Why Do I Have Low Self-Esteem? How Did I Get it?

There are lots of ways this occurs:

The most significant part of creating healthy self-esteem is understanding why you feel “less than” others deep down inside yourself.

For some, if they look back in time, they will remember instances of parents blaming them or scolding them. Sometimes parents were blamed as children, so this is what they learned. Or perhaps their parents believed that to raise a child properly, they needed to make them strong by criticizing them often.

But as you may now realize, that doesn’t do anything positive for the child. They most often will carry that blame, and it destroys any healthy self-esteem they could have developed.

Usually, parents who shame and blame their child most often experienced the same dynamics in their childhood. Therefore, they believe that shaming must be the way to go. Sometimes some of these children become adults and can be hurtful to others to feel better about themselves. However, sometimes those deeply hurt as a child never deliberately hurt others because they remember what it felt like as a child.

Once you understand that it was done to you by someone else, it’s easier to know that it was not necessarily an accurate view of yourself as you may feel inside. It was more about the person who treated you that way.

Sometimes, your parents were not nurtured in a positive way growing up, so they may never have learned how to nourish their children. Some parents don’t set out to be mean or unloving. They may not understand or remember how it feels to a child.

That lack of understanding often ends up derailing a child’s natural ability to value themselves. It’s also essential to understand that as an adult, you can fix this!

So How Do You Know How to Create a Healthy View of Yourself? 

In the first part of this topic, we discussed some different ways of improving your self-esteem, even when in a relationship. Here are some additional ways of improving your self-esteem, even if you are in a relationship:

  • Often, children learn early on that they are not worthy of being accepted by others. It’s essential to allow yourself to be open to moving forward, even if you can’t yet see how you can get healthier self-esteem.
  • You need to accept the concept of possibly having an inaccurate view of yourself, likely from childhood. If you can understand this concept, it will enable you to move forward with a more open mind.
  • See if you can override the negative beliefs about you that others have told you. Are there times when you felt good about something you did for someone or accomplished? See if you can remember other good moments where you felt good about yourself. Write them down in a journal or private place to look back on those things.
  • Remember, it’s not as much what others have told you that was negative. It’s more important to let in those things you believe about yourself to be positive and accurate.
  • Identify those things you believe you do well. Can you let those feelings in and accept them? 
  • Often, it is beneficial to seek a psychotherapist who can further help you move forward. Many therapists are listed under your insurance company.


Friends Can Be Helpful in Your Journey of Improving Your Self-Esteem

Your friends likely know you well. So why not enlist their help in you improving your self-esteem? Now, there is a word of caution here. You must pick those friends who demonstrate they truly value you and your friendship.

  • Do you have friends who genuinely value and believe in you? If not, it may be that you have attracted other insecure people, but if they want to be healthy, great. However, if they continue to put others down, that will not be healthy for you to improve your self-esteem.
  • You may not necessarily want to drop your friends if you enjoy and value them. However, it would help if you were around those who demonstrate that they truly respect and value your friendship.
  • Look for healthy people around you. For example, look for those people who value others and demonstrate that. You will notice they don’t compete with others, nor do they put them down.

If your friends seem to compete with you, it may be challenging to move forward because they may compete with you. It’s not about competition. It’s about moving forward positively to truly value yourself.   


Is Healthy Self-Esteem Necessary to Have a Nourishing and Romantic Relationship and Marriage?

Having healthy self-esteem is very important, especially in relationships, which are challenging on their own. Here are some reasons it’s so important:

  • Healthy self-esteem makes it easier and more likely to attract an equally healthy mate.
  • You will be able to recognize emotional health in others, as friends, lovers, etc.
  • It’s easier to navigate the relationship, which at times may be challenging, as it is for everyone from time to time.
  • Healthy self-esteem makes talking through things easier and more productive.
  • It’s easier to acknowledge your mistakes, apologize, forgive, and continue to grow in healthy ways. 
  • Healthy self-esteem allows you to grow and learn new things on the way.


What About Improving Self-Esteem In A Relationship When You’re Already Committed?

The answer is an easy “Yes.” Improving your Self-Esteem is possible even when you are already in a relationship. If you find you have a healthy mate, then it’s more about “how” you go about improving your self-esteem. The easiest way to do that is to connect with a psychotherapist who can help you update your self-esteem to a healthier and more accurate view of yourself.

That way, you will discuss the relationship issues that come up for you, especially the more challenging ones. A professional therapist will be able to help you navigate in a way that is comfortable and effective.

However, if your mate is not very emotionally healthy, then it is more of a challenge. It’s still essential to seek help with or without your mate if you cannot learn how to be healthier on your own.

If you don’t want to work with a psychotherapist, it may be very challenging to navigate on your own. Remember, we “don’t know what we don’t know.” By that, I mean you may not have been aware of how psychotherapy works, how to choose the right therapist for you, etc. These are things that make the process easier to navigate.


What Happens in Your Relationship if Your Self-Esteem Improves But Their Self-Esteem Doesn’t?

This issue is a bit more complicated. However, you do have some options:
  • Ask your mate if they are willing to try couples therapy or to first go on her own. Sometimes, if you start with couples therapy first, the couples therapist may recommend that both of you also have your own therapist. That way, it may be easier to talk through tough issues to help you navigate in the couple’s sessions.
  • If your mate chooses not to do her own counseling and couples, then you are left with seeing where the couples therapy can take you. However, sometimes, down the line in counseling, someone gets more comfortable with the therapeutic process. 
  • They may find it easier for them to do individual counseling to help navigate the couple’s work with support. However, it’s not always necessary.
  • Lastly, if you feel better about yourself and your mate has not made any movement forward in healthy ways, things may become more difficult to navigate. Also, it may feel more frustrating if you know things could be better with help, but it’s not happening. It would be beneficial to talk to a therapist about your options.


Final Words

So as you can see, the healthier you are, the more likely you are to pick a healthy mate. If you are in a challenging relationship, see if you and your mate are open to couples counseling. If not, you need to seek therapy to navigate your current relationship to the best of your ability. Or you may want to find a healthier relationship with guidance.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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