Your Relationship Behavior: A Barometer of Your Self-Esteem
We’ve all had cringe-worthy moments that we can shelve in the ‘not my finest hour’ section of our memory banks. These are the moments where we acted in a manner that was beneath us, where we didn’t stand up for ourselves, where we let ourselves be used.
When we are raised in environments where we had to ignore our own wants and needs, we never learned how to judge and rely on our feelings to guide us. Emotional manipulators taught us how to ignore these things, they instead instructed us to be passive, over-givers, and to seek outside validation, because we had learned that own feelings had no merit. We weren’t shown how to value and protect ourselves and because of that, we now find ourselves struggling in our adult relationships, still using the same dysfunctional beliefs and habits that we were taught by our dysfunctional caregivers.
The reason I started this blog was the hope that I could spare others what I had gone through and to pass on what I had learned from my relationship struggles. I have done most of the behaviors listed below, with painful and disastrous results. Many years and a lot of work later, I realized that the message I believed I was expressing, was in reality, the exact opposite. What I was not aware of was that everything that I had said and done, to attract a man and to keep a man, showed exactly how much I didn’t love myself. So take a look at the following behaviors and notice if you are making these same mistakes:
Begging and Pleading: Breaking up is painful and you’re going to be emotional, but there is a line here. If someone has made the decision that they don’t want to be with you, no amount of begging or pleading is going to change that. It makes you look weak and unstable and you’ve just affirmed for them that they made the right decision. You can’t express how hurt you are enough to get someone to come back to you. Put yourself in their position – if your ex came to you the next day, or the next week after you broke up with them and they are calling you, crying and begging to take them back – what would you be thinking? This person is coo coo right? And that they’re instability is starting to scare you. It’s humiliating and harmful to your self-esteem – don’t do it. If you’re in agony and need to talk – call your friends, go out – distract yourself until the initial sting wears off – but do not beg and plead with someone to take you back. There is no amount of hurting and sobbing that you can present to these types that will get them to change their mind. Narcissists feast off of your suffering – show them nothing, but how well you got over them.
Chasing: If someone has indicated by word or deed that they’re no longer interested in you, you don’t need to chase them down to get confirmation. You don’t need someone to say the words – you really don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been involved for 10 months or 10 years – if your partner consistently treats you like gum on the bottom of their shoe, or you suspect that they’re cheating and you’re miserable, you don’t need to catch them in the act or a lie. You don’t need to be a detective and have definitive proof, you don’t need their permission or their admission – you have the right to leave if you’re unhappy and if their behavior is affecting your life in a negative way. Besides if you’re involved with someone shady and they blow hot and cold, they don’t want to give you closure. They like the door left open, even if it’s just a crack, so that they always have the option of walking through it again. Don’t act like a detective, don’t call their friends, family or place of employment trying to confirm where they are and where they’ve been – all that does is show that you’re unstable and when they tell the story of the break up – everyone will believe the part about you being nuts. If you’re with someone that is acting like you can’t trust them – then you can’t, all you can do is relieve yourself of the anxiety and walk away from it. The more you chase something the more it will elude you.
Acting in demeaning ways to get attention: If you’re taking and sending nude pics of yourself to someone, always wearing sleazing/ provocative clothing, sleeping with guys/girls on the first date, or acting in other ways that detract from you – you need to stop and ask yourself why you’re doing it. I’m not a prude – if someone wants to send their husband a boob shot – all the power to them, but if you’re behaving in harmful ways to keep someone or attract someone, or have them pick you – don’t do it.
I’ve sent some nude pics to a certain boomerang Narcissist – don’t judge. I remember getting asked for certain posses and as I was taking them I felt – what’s the right word? – a combination of stupid, foolish and slutty. Your true inner feelings always know what’s right for you. It’s just that most of us have been trained to ignore these feelings. I’m not talking about feelings that are guided by ego or a lack of self worth. I’m talking about that powerful inner knowing.
After that day I never took another nude pic. Thankfully I was at least smart enough not to include my face. At the time I hoped he would think that I was sexy – there is some power in getting someone to want you sexually, but really what I was saying was, look at how little I value and respect myself. Had I refused to take the picture as my intuition had guided me, he would have respected me more.
I got a call a few weeks back from Max, my local Narcissist and he told me that he went on a date with a girl he met on the dating site, Plenty of Fish. He was confused and disturbed by the date and said that she showed him a calendar with dates circled on it in red, “What are those dates?” He asked her. “Those are dates when I’m on my period,” she replied. He also noticed a lot of dates circled in blue and asked, “What are these dates?” “Those are days that I’ve slept with a guy,” she replied. He said, “That’s a lot of circles.” She was offended, he was grossed out, and so he suggested they end their date less than twenty minutes in.
When he got home she text him a nude picture of herself saying, “You probably live with your parents and don’t have a job.” He replied, “I’m sorry I don’t think it’s going to work out – please stop contacting me. I’m not interested.” She responded, “I have perfect breasts.”
What didn’t surprise me was that neurotic and narcissistic Max attracted an equally messed up individual, but what did was the level this poor girl was willing to go, to be wanted and desired by someone who rejected her. If she thought she was making him regret his decision – she couldn’t have been more wrong. This didn’t say, “I’m sexy and mysterious and you missed out,” it said, “I’m desperate, I need external validation, I can’t handle rejection, I act out inappropriately, I’m unstable, I have serious unresolved issues and I don’t love and respect myself.”
I’ve been to clubs where I’ve seen girls making out with other girls and they weren’t even slightly gay or bi, they were just trying to get attention. They think they look like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, but what they really look like are desperate girls, who don’t value themselves enough to know that they don’t need to act this way to get attention. If you have to act in a demeaning manner to attract a mate – that mate isn’t worth having. Don’t do it – keep it classy – you’ll get more respect.
Giving gifts: If just being you isn’t enough to keep someone then that’s not the relationship for you. If they are only with you for what they can get, then are you prepared to give away all of your resources to keep them? And what happens when you have nothing left to give? People that have a deficiency in their self-worth tank believe that they can’t be loved just for who they are. They believe that they have to be perfect, be more, do more, give more than the next person, because all by themselves they just aren’t enough.
I remember one particular Valentine’s Day several years ago, I was out shopping for a Boomerang Narcissist, who had left me and come back at least 3 times, and here I am buying him presents. It wasn’t until I got home and looked at these gifts that my inner voice started speaking to me. I kept thinking, “This guy doesn’t deserve anything. What the hell am I doing? He’s not going to get me anything. He probably won’t even show up.” So I kept the gifts for myself. Even if you like to give, it sends the wrong message when you give to people who have used you in the past. It says, “I’m open for you to use and abuse me some more. I appreciate your scraps of attention.” When you reward bad behavior, it’s a green light for more bad behavior.
Keep taking them back: There is no better measurement of an individual’s self-esteem than the manner in which one deals with their ex. When someone has broken up with you, or just stopped talking to you, with no explanation, for the 100th time and you let them waltz back into your life, to pick up where they left off, that says a whole lot about where you are emotionally. The message you’re sending is, I value myself so little that I am willing to accept a faux relationship, all on your terms and being disrespected and treated like garbage is ok with me. There is no amount of pain or hurt that you could be in, that could ever make it ok to keep letting someone walk all over you. If the agony you feel is greater than your desire for self-respect, then this is your wake-up call and you need to realize that you’ve got a problem.
Never in the history of time has someone used and abused and then that abuser just suddenly changes their mind and thinks, ”You know that Suzy really is a nice girl. I should marry her.” And they trot and live happily ever after. It doesn’t happen.
The change has to come from you, for once you’ve entered doormat territory, the only way out is if you stop acting like a doormat – permanently – which means you don’t ask them politely to step off your mat – you shove them off and you don’t let them back on. If you don’t respect yourself you can’t expect anyone else to.
When someone is being a shit to you they know they’re being a shit. It’s not a surprise to them. They expect you to be angry – it’s part of why they blow cold – they don’t want to hear it, or take responsibility for what they’ve done and what you’re feeling. What does come as a surprise to them, at least initially is your capitulation – when you surrender your will and your self-esteem and take them back after they’ve treated you atrociously, but once you’ve done it they will expect your acquiescence every time thereafter. But think about how that looks, they’ve just finished kicking you and you are writhing around on the ground in agony and as they leave to walk away, you’re grabbing at their pant leg and they’re dragging you and you keep begging them to keep hurting you some more.
A lot of people ask me – Why doesn’t he just go away? – this is why – you’ve taught him that you aren’t serious and that you don’t have a back bone – all he has to do is try harder and eventually you’ll cave in, because you always do.
Being a doormat doesn’t prove how nice you are, or how big your heart is. It doesn’t show them that you are full of unconditional love, or that you are a safe place for them to come back to – the only message you’re sending out is that I don’t love and respect myself enough to tell you to hit the road– period.
A part of the healing process is learning the little things that you should have been taught as a child, but weren’t. So understand that it’s not ok for someone to hurt you. It’s not ok for someone to use you, or take advantage of you. You are good enough all by yourself, you don’t need to be perfect, or better than anyone else. You’re allowed to be yourself and still be loved. Getting angry and taking action is the appropriate response to someone that mistreats you – it’s the difference between being healthy and unhealthy.
The most important thing to remember is that your feelings matter. That inner knowing that you’ve been taught to ignore is the most important part of your defense system. It is your radar that something isn’t right and that appropriate action is neccessary. You’ve ignored your feelings your whole life – you’ve rationalized and minimized things you know you shouldn’t, but thankfully your feelings are still working – it’s time you started to pay attention to them and do right by you.
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net