Most of us were not taught how to conduct relationships effectively, harmoniously and happily. We learned in a haphazard way through the role modelling we experienced and as adults just do what we learned from our parents and other significant adults. If those relationships were unhappy and dysfunctional we come into our adult relationships with a recipe for unhappiness.
If we add low self worth to this mix then we are in trouble because the typical behaviours that go with low self worth will steadily poison and destroy the best of relationships. So here is a brief glance at 8 behaviours that get played out.
1.Tolerance of Disrespect and Abuse
Low self-worth tells you that you do not deserve any better. This is the best you can expect so you have to make the most of it and get what happiness you can. If you are experiencing disrespect or abuse from a partner then this attitude gives them the message that they can continue with the behaviour. What’s worse, they may be so unaware that they do not even realise that they are disrespecting and abusing you.
2. Acceptance of Weak Ineffective Boundaries
We all need boundaries, even in intimate loving relationships. Each individual is the sacred presence of the Divine in human form, and clear effective boundaries acknowledge and respect that.
If you have low self-worth you will probably not see that in yourself, and may struggle to create boundaries that honour and respect you. And there may be fear about establishing boundaries because of real or imagined consequences. Many people are too scared to establish boundaries, and yet as they continue their journey of healing that is one of the things they end up having to do.
3. Seeking Approval and Validation
We all want to feel good about ourselves but if your sense of worth is low you will find it almost impossible to supply that validation from within. So the trap is becoming dependent on getting it from an outside source, such as your partner.
This is a weak position and you become vulnerable to being manipulated and dominated. Again you are tempted to tolerate unacceptable behaviours as a trade-off for the validation you hope to receive. Even if the other one does honour you and provides it in a healthy way, you are still dependent and in a weak position. This tends to lead to a number of compulsive dysfunctional patterns.
4. Being Controlled by Fear
Fear sabotages so many relationships, and the lower the self-worth the more prone you become to fear. Typical fears include the fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of not measuring up, fear of being judged, fear of abandonment, fear of losing yourself, fear of expressing your feelings, and the fear of having your heart broken. Many relationship arguments are fuelled to some extent by these types of fears.
5. Blaming and Victim Thinking
Listen to any argument and you will hear so much blaming from both sides. Blaming is one of the behaviours of victim thinking and every time you are tempted to blame your partner you are playing the victim.
The way to healing, freedom and mastery in our relationships involves self-responsibility but that requires high self-worth. High self-worth tells you that you have the right and the power to make a change or take charge right now. If you continue to point the finger you avoid the opportunity to stand tall and honour yourself, the other person, and the relationship itself.
6. Lack of Authenticity
Authenticity and self-worth go hand-in-hand. I have asked many people what has been their biggest challenge in difficult relationships, and being truly authentic has usually come second. The first is almost always communication.
It is a basic psychological and spiritual need to feel authentic, and the lack of it can leave you feeling like an empty fraud – not a nice feeling. Once again, low authenticity can strongly tempt you to tolerate behaviours and conditions that do not serve you. We can see how they are all intertwined.
7. Personalising and Defensiveness
Low self-worth may also mean fragile self-worth that can be riddled with sabotaging beliefs, such as I am not good enough, or I am a failure. This is a challenge in communication because everything that is said is taken as a personal insult or attack. It becomes impossible for you to accept any constructive feedback or observations because it is always seen in this light.
Because you already feel bad about yourself, everything that is said reminds you of that. But instead of looking at your own self-beliefs you blame the other person for saying you are not good enough, or a failure. Up comes the defensiveness, followed very quickly by an argument.
8. Baseless Hope
So many people endure unhappy relationships because they live in baseless hope. This means that they are always hoping it will get better someday. To remain in this illusion, they ignore, minimise, justify or deny the ongoing daily reality.
You see this when one person starts making excuses for unacceptable behaviour from the other. They say things like, “Well he/she is very stressed at the moment, but it will get better”, or “There’s a lot going on at present; he/she is not always like that.” Turning a blind eye to what is right in front of you in the hope that it will improve someday will never heal or transform the relationship.
Another example is the delusion that you will change him or her if only you persevere long enough. It takes courage to get real about what is going on and to take responsibility for changing it, and that courage comes from raising your sense of worth and knowing what you truly deserve.
It can be sobering and frightening to read through such a list and recognise the ways you may play out some of those patterns. It can make you doubt your ability to conduct a healthy relationship but there is very good news here.
Awareness is the key to growth and change because you become aware of what may have been unconscious then you know what to change. It may still feel daunting because the next question is how to change any or all of that. Once more the good news is that there are many resources available both online and offline and if you feel you need support to improve and heal your relationship I urge you to seek out whatever resources will help you.