If you have low or lowish self-esteem, you probably don’t believe that you’re a very appealing package for someone to date. When you feel insecure or stressed, low self-esteem often causes you to engage in any of the following behaviors – each of which will quickly sink any relationship. Get out your magnifying glass and see if any of the behaviors outlined below resonate for you.
1. You get too needy or clingy.
Perhaps no other behavior turns off others quite like neediness. Men and women understandably get turned off by extreme clinginess or neediness because they are looking for an equal and a romantic partner; they aren’t looking to take care of someone else as if that individual were a child or a psychotherapy client. Men and women want someone who complements their life, not someone who drains their energy.
If you have a habit of getting too clingy or needy, make a concerted effort to make a new friend or two so that you don’t burn out the person you’re dating. Try reaching out to a co-worker or ask an acquaintance to go for lunch or dinner. Focusing on activities that absorb some of your mental energy helps, too, by taking the focus off of your significant other and balancing it with other things. Join a book club or, at least, pick up a couple of new books each month; try an exercise or dance video online; and write in a journal about some goals you would like to achieve in the next six months. The clock is ticking, so come on!
2. Your jealous streak keeps coming out.
Jealousy and low self-esteem often go together. It makes sense, too, if you think about it: If you don’t believe that you’re an awesome catch, you’re going to fear that you’ll lose your significant other to someone else. Jealousy is an awful color, but one that we all feel from time to time.
To kick your jealous streak to the curb, first admit that you have an unhealthy jealousy streak. Mention to a friend or two that you are working on becoming less jealous (so that you are making a verbal contract of sorts). Come up with one simple sentence that you can chant to yourself when your jealous streak gets triggered (e.g., “I am going to distract myself with something else because I won’t let my jealousy take over;” “I need to take a step back so my jealousy doesn’t overpower me”).
3. You start fearing that the person you’re dating isn’t sexually attracted to you.
If you struggle with low self-esteem, fears about sexual attraction can overwhelm you. Was he ever really sexually attracted to me? Is she as attracted to me as she was to her ex? What if he was attracted to me once but not anymore? Doesn’t it seem like she avoids sex lately? Simply put, these fears stem from low self-esteem issues and they can quickly destroy a romantic relationship.
Remind yourself that your significant other could leave the relationship at any time, which means he or she still wants to be with you now. Are you the perfect manifestation of his or her dreams and ideals? Probably not – and you don’t have to be. If there are major performance issues in the bedroom, talk to a professional; otherwise, stop overthinking things and move on to an activity that distracts you.
4. You need your significant other to constantly reassure you.
Healthy individuals are looking for an equal and a companion, while some unhealthy individuals are looking for a proxy daddy or mommy. Why? Because they didn’t get enough attention, love or consistency when they were very young.
As adults, these individuals are terribly insecure and they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop in a relationship. They don’t like being alone and they feel too dependent for their own good. If you are someone with lowish self-esteem, make sure to ask yourself the following questions. Do I ask for a lot of reassurance? When I am upset, do I usually look to my partner to soothe me or do I try to soothe myself? Does my partner feel like there’s nothing he can say that will ever satisfy my need for reassurance? Do I need frequent reminders that I am attractive, thin, or sexy? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you need to take a step back and start doing some work to improve your self-esteem. Join an extracurricular activity; work out regularly to improve your body image; and research self-esteem boosters online to get motivated.
I know very few people – personally or professionally – who have either awful self-esteem or amazing self-esteem. The vast majority fall somewhere in the middle, meaning that they have some emotional issues but they feel, overall, okay enough with who they are. If you frequently find yourself feeling bad about who you are, please be very careful in romantic relationships. If you don’t check your behavior, you could damage your relationship.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve