Dating and Self-Esteem: How One Affects the Other

Bad DatingBad dating experiences affect our Self-Esteem, but this is the end of the cycle – not where it begins. Our Self-Esteem very much affects how we present ourselves and the impression it leaves on other people. Are we confident? Or do we feel we have little to offer someone? Do we set the bar low, expecting little from our dates, believing this is all we deserve? This is just the beginning of how our Self-Esteem affects our Dating choices and experiences.

Poor self-esteem when we begin dating can initiate a downward spiral of bad dating experiences. This reinforces our poor self-esteem and results in additional bad dating experiences which further lower our self-esteem and result in even worse dating experiences! Soon we feel we can’t be too particular because we don’t believe we have anything special to give.

We tend to attract the same level of SelfEsteem as we have. If you find that you are attracting the wrong people, or unhealthy potential mates, take an honest look in the mirror and see what you really believe about who you are and your value to others. A poor self-esteem is most likely inaccurate. In past blogs we have discussed how easily our view of Self gets distorted in childhood and how past negative experiences leave a negative imprint on our Self-Esteem.

Remember, our early experiences with others – including family – color how we see ourselves. And then we project this view of Self onto others. We form expectations of how the world is going to view us, and adjust how we present ourselves accordingly.

Things to Remember:

  1. As previously discussed in past articles, our Self-Image is formed early in childhood. Even if we have a positive and loving childhood, our experiences in the world still shape our expectations of how we are going to be seen by others. How we see ourselves determines what qualities we project out in the world.
    1. If we feel good about ourselves, we project those qualities that we appreciate about us onto those experiences with others.
    2. If we do not feel good about ourselves we tend to withhold who we really are, trying to project what we believe people want to see in us.
  2. Others do not define our worth!!!! We define our own worth and need to project those qualities that we most admire in ourselves.
  3. Feeling good about yourself is not being cocky or full of yourself!!!!!! It is being HEALTHY!
  4. If you want to meet a healthy person, including friends, you need to have a healthy Self-Esteem! You need to value yourself for others to also value you.
  5. Others cannot see what you don’t show them. Show them what you like about yourself.

How to Improve Your Dating Practices:

  1. Find 3 qualities you most appreciate about yourself.
  2. Practice projecting those qualities to other people.
  3. If you don’t know what good qualities you possess, ask your friends what qualities they most appreciate in you. Then just be who you are when you are with your friends! Be Yourself and those who value those qualities will be attracted to you naturally.
  4. Pay attention to what types of people you are attracting. If you like this type, then no problem. If you don’t, then identify those qualities they have in common and avoid those people. Also you can try to understand what attracts you to those qualities.
  5. Sometimes we want a certain quality in someone, but it may also come with negative qualities. You can’t take a part of someone. You must take the whole person.
  6. Sometimes we think a quality is one thing, when it is actually something else. For example, we might believe that a person living their own life is a good thing because we struggle in doing that. However, that quality might actually be selfishness. Look closely for patterns to see what that one quality might really be about.

Action Items:

  1. Can you identify at least a few positive qualities about yourself?
  2. Are you showing others this quality or do you find you hold back and try to project something you are not?
  3. If you find you can’t identify any positive qualities (which is rare), why is this? Were you taught early on that you would be seen as cocky?
  4. When choosing friends to help identify your positive qualities, make sure they are emotionally healthy and not competitive with you. Females often have a competitive dynamic in their friendships. Look for those friends who will be truthful with you in a positive way.
  5. If you know your Self-Esteem is not in a healthy place then consider seeking professional guidance in counseling. This can absolutely change your negative dating experiences into positive ones.

Further reading:

  1. Mirror Work by Louise Hay 
  2. Self-Compassion by Simeon Lindstrom 
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD 
  4. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Brene Brown PhD
  5. Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw
  6. How to Spot a Dangerous Man by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

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 Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on YourTango.com and on MSN.com.

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