By Ally Lopez > Senior > Journalism > University of Maryland, College Park; Photo by Arsh Raziuddin > Sophomore > Graphic Design > UMBC
How Self-Esteem Can Make or Break You(r Relationship)
When one struggles with low self-esteem, though a seemingly personal issue, it has no limits to those it affects: a lack of self-worth or confidence can interfere with an individual’s ability to hold relationships.
“Self-esteem plays a huge role in a dating relationship because it basically sets up the field as to what can and cannot be done, or what will and won’t be tried during the relationship,” said Foster Wright, a senior at Towson University. “Self-esteem can create great trust issues in the relationship as well as insecurity.”
No matter the initial causes for insecurity, it is important to take a step back, recognize your own negative behaviors, and work on ways to prevail over them – recognizing that you may be undergoing this low point is the first step in conquering it.
According to Alexis Gross, a junior at Johnson & Wales University, an individual with low self-esteem must take initiative to improve his or her life in order to remedy difficulties with loving and holding relationships.
“They must learn to love themselves for who they are,” she said. “Yes; age, sex, and the media will all affect a person’s idea of themselves, but they have to learn to not be so in tune with what everyone else is doing and worry more about themselves.”
Gross’ suggestion is correct: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of The Enchanted Self: A Positive Remedy, a book that aims to help people bring meaning into their everyday lives, recommends focusing on your own positive traits rather than outside distractions and judgments.
“We have to learn to pat ourselves on the back,” she wrote on her website, TheEnchantedSelf.com. “I suggest a self-pride list. During the coming week, write down at least one item a day that you can take pride in having handled well. For example, ‘I was polite and kind to several people in the supermarket checkout line, even though I was tired.’”
Wright, whose former girlfriend experienced this problem, said patience and communication on both his and her part were key in overcoming the issue. “[My girlfriend] had to learn how to tell me what was going on in her head and what I could do to make her feel comfortable and … like our relationship was something worth working for,” he recalled.
Relationships alone often bring about problems, especially when mixed with busy college lives. However, with low self-worth in the mix, the recipe certainly calls for disaster: an increase in stress, arguments, and doubt with oneself only fuels a person’s anger and frustration – which, in turn, may relay onto his or her significant other.
North Carolina Central University senior Jasmyne Prescott recommended that suffering individuals take a break from their relationships to improve their self-image independently.
“Whatever is best for them. While they’re on that break, the person needs to work on themselves to make them a better person,” she said.
Working towards becoming a more confident and positive individual allows for a relationship to thrive, creating a more relaxing and loving environment where both partners can be free to be themselves.
While it is healthy to be independent, Holstein also stressed the importance of allowing yourself to socialize and belong, and not isolate. Doing so will allow one to develop a support system and be a mentor to others in need, she said.
“I personally go through a constant struggle with self-esteem, and I have found that the best way to fight it and get over it is personal encouragement and support from loved ones,” said DJ Onafeko, a business major at Prince George’s Community College.
According to a recent study conducted by Ohio State University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, college students prefer receiving self-esteem boosts like compliments above friendships, favorite foods, and even sex.
Onafeko added, “Most important though is building confidence, because confidence is sexy.”