The topic of self-esteem is new to me.
I’m not someone who paints their own reality just to feel better. I’ve always been aware of my problems, observed them, followed up on them, and worked hard to heal from anything blocking my journey to inner peace.
In my mid-20s, a lot of issues came up to the surface, such as fear of abandonment and emotional unavailability. As the years went by, I was able to unravel more hidden parts of myself and work toward healing them. But still, I felt something was missing.
The pattern was clear in my relationships. No matter how hard I tried and no matter how many parts I worked on, some patterns never changed—they were even clear in the friendships I maintained. I considered therapy for a long time because I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was the hidden wound that made me behave in the ways I did?
I can’t dictate how and when it happened, but last year’s events were a real eye-opener. If I remember well, a specific trauma and a few conversations I had with people opened my eyes to my hidden wound: I struggle with low self-esteem.
Unraveling this wound wasn’t easy, and to be honest, it wasn’t even apparent (at least to me). I’ve always been objective about myself, but that one, damn it—it has been perfectly lurking behind behaviors that hurt me and others badly.
Admitting to myself that I have low self-esteem hasn’t been an easy task. It’s comforting, yet it’s hurtful. It’s liberating, yet it’s damaging. I’m still on the path of healing and gaining the self-worth I never had (or maybe had and lost due to traumas). But I know one thing for sure now: self-worth is the basis of any other mental or emotional issue we have.
Even if we heal every part but still don’t trust ourselves enough, we won’t be able to climb the ladder of healing.
As I’ve always believed, the main purpose of relationships isn’t to make us happy forever after. Relationships are meant to show us our wounds and the ugly parts of ourselves that need healing. Partners do not complete us—they just bring our second half to the light, then the relationship itself becomes complete; never us.
If it wasn’t for relationships, I wouldn’t have realized I struggle with lack of self-esteem. The truth is, we rarely discuss it and how damaging it can be to our relationships.
How about we start now? Here are five signs that could signal we have lack of self-esteem:
Codependency means that we are dependent on someone else. In relationships, we could feel that our identity and value are highly linked to our partner—without them, we feel like we have none. In other words, we need them, we cling to them, and we live for them.
Someone who struggles with codependency evaluates their self-worth based on their partner. We neglect ourselves and stop tending to our needs. As a result, our self-worth gets compromised.
2. People pleasing
I was a people pleaser since I was a kid, and I always thought that I was just being kind. I was wrong. By unconditionally pleasing others, we unconsciously think they could love us or please us back. That, alone, is a huge sign of lack of self-worth.
If we don’t know how to say “no,” it means we don’t have values and boundaries. The first step toward building a good self-esteem is to define what to give, when to give, and when not to give.
Lack of self-esteem means that we don’t trust ourselves—our own choices, behaviors, character, and personality. Exhibiting them in a relationship is scary because we think that our partner might not favor them enough to stay.
As a result, we control our partner to let them stay. We think that if our own characteristics can’t keep them close to us, our controlling behavior will certainly do the job.
4. Trust issues
Self-worth and trust issues work together like flour and water. When we have low self-esteem, we naturally develop trust issues because we think there’s always someone out there who’s better than us.
This creates doubt, jealousy, attachment, and conflicts, and in most cases, people with low self-esteem sabotage their relationships without realizing it.
Having lack of self-worth often creates anxiety. Since low self-esteem creates different problems, we spend most of our days overthinking, not knowing what’s wrong with us, or why we behave in certain ways.
I’m not saying that people who are confident don’t suffer from anxiety, but those of us who think they’re worthless tend to face mental health issues sooner than other people.
Living with low self-esteem is tiring and unhealthy—it hurts us and those around us badly. I’m still learning, and I’m still healing, and I believe that the first important step is to admit how we feel about ourselves.
There’s no shame about it. We just need to understand that it takes time to heal, as having low self-esteem begins in childhood, and we carry it with us throughout our adulthood.
The beginning is tough, but it gets easier and better, I promise.