09 Dec Week 14: ARP (Trait #3 Low Self-Esteem)
Hello Fellow Recovery Ninjas,
It’s Week 14 of the Asshat Recovery Program! If you’re just arriving for the first time you’ll want to start your journey HERE.
This week is Character Trait #3 found in partners of Asshats: The dreaded LOW SELF-ESTEEM.
Low Self-Esteem isn’t just for middle schoolers battling the Triumvirate Of Terror: zits, body odor and, in boys’ cases, the Unwanted Erection.
There are plenty of adults who still haven’t slain this dragon.
All areas of our lives, from the bedroom to the boardroom, are affected by low self-esteem, but today I want to focus how it keeps us stuck in toxic, romantic relationships.
Low self-esteem is tricky.
It’s hard to know whether it causes us to select toxic relationships? Or whether our toxic relationships cause low self-esteem.
Before my client Rosemary (a pseudonym) fell in love with her first beau in college, she didn’t think much about self-esteem.
She was feeling fly because her first-choice college accepted her after a great high school run as senior class president and Homecoming Queen.
She was The Shit. Until he made her feel like shit. (You may quote me.)
Once Rosemary became sexually active with her college beau and was madly smitten, the emotional abuse began.
Criticism, inconsistency, moodiness and infidelity.
Rosemary had a lot of rock bottom moments that included stakeouts of his apartment at three a.m. trying to catch him cheating.
She remembers thinking … How did this happen?? I was voted “Girl Who Contributed The Most To Her School” just last spring! How have I sunk so low??
Rosemary suspected low self-esteem had been lurking in the shadows her entire childhood just waiting to pounce, because she’d gotten most of her self-esteem from being praised by other people.
Especially her father, a distant, critical man, whose approval was paramount.
She brought home good grades like a dog fetching her master a newspaper and waiting to be patted on the head. She was competitive with other girls for boys’ attention and was a compulsive braggart.
Dr. Sorenson of The Self-Esteem Institute has this to say about low self-esteem:
“Desperately seeking reassurance that they are lovable, those with low self-esteem look outside themselves and at the behavior of those closest to them, to find answers to the question of being lovable.”
Dr. Sorenson goes on to say that if the person who professes to love them does not act in ways that they think would indicate this love, LSE sufferers make these 3 mistakes. They:
- “Try harder to please in order to win the love and attention of the significant other.
- Become angry when they feel the significant other is withholding giving them what they need.
- Feel they must be deserving of this treatment and conclude that they are indeed, unlovable.”
Rosemary’s low self-esteem cycle looked like this:
My guy is moody, inconsistent and maybe cheating so I’ll be really good in bed (she wasn’t) and I won’t nag (she did.)
Get angry when his moodiness, inconsistency and infidelity persist, throw a tantrum, threaten to leave, storm out dramatically
Get home, feel a pit in my stomach as I worry I blew it. Think I’m a loser. Slink back to beau and kiss his butt so he’ll take me back, because I’m lucky to have him and can’t do better.
In the midst of Rosemary’s last toxic relationship, just this year, she knew she had to build her self-esteem if she was ever going to break her pattern of choosing toxic men.