How to Deal with Low Self Esteem in a Relationship?

Low self-esteem can harm a relationship, and brushing it off won’t make it go away.

Hence we asked 8 experts, “How to deal with low self-esteem in a relationship?”

Learn from their helpful tips below.

Gabrielle Freire

Gabrielle Freire

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Self-esteem develops and evolves throughout our lives as we build an image of ourselves through the experiences we have with different people. Experiences we had as children play a significant role in shaping our self-esteem. Often that results in an inner voice, often described as a critic.

Let’s face it, relationships can trigger insecurities even with someone who has healthy self-esteem so if you suffer from low self-esteem a relationship may have its challenges and may negatively impact your relationship

So, let’s look at the consequences of low self-esteem and how they can impact your relationship:

Low self-esteem often results in stress or anxiety, loneliness and an increased likelihood of depression, it can cause problems in friendships and relationships, it can impair your work or job performance and it can lead to an increased chance of using drugs or alcohol.

With that being said having low self-esteem can definitely impact your relationship.

So, if you’re the one with low self-esteem there are three steps I recommend you try:

Rebut that inner voice aka the inner critic

You can do that through stopping the negative voice (when you catch yourself thinking that way) and then replace that thought with one that is positive or healthier.

You can do things to nurture yourself such as practicing some self-care even if you don’t feel like you deserve it.

Try picking up a hobby which may push you out of your comfort zone

Try exercising a couple of days of the week to contribute to you feeling better about yourself so you have some more confidence than you normally would.

Having a “Fake it” until you “make it” attitude can also help in developing new skills because of you “fake it” until you begin to feel comfortable with the skill or activity, slowly you’ll come to believe it.

Get some support from a guidance counselor or therapist

An important step is to get some support from a guidance counselor or therapist to talk about your low self-esteem.

A trained professional can explore the underlying thoughts and feelings that could be impacting your current self-esteem but let’s face it, if you have low self-esteem this may be challenging for you so talk to your friends about your low self-esteem and ask them what they like about you or ask for time to vent while you start to figure out the problems in your life.

Whatever you decide, self-exploration is key in raising your self-esteem. Talk to your partner, share your strengths and areas that you may need some extra support and remember that ultimately you take care of you.

Dr. Jess O’Reilly

Dr. Jess O’Reilly

Resident Sexologist, Astroglide

How you feel about yourself affects how you perceive and treat others, which in turn, affects how they perceive and treat you.

It’s important to note that confidence isn’t a fixed state, but an experience that fluctuates over time. You may feel confident one day and face challenges in self-esteem the next.

If you’re dealing with low self-esteem:

Consider your social circle

Do they treat you well? Do they treat one another well? Are they kind to themselves?

The people with whom you surround yourself influence your self-image and self-esteem.

For example, body image is contagious and if your friends speak disparagingly about their bodies, you’re likely to do the same. You may need to cut off conversations that center on body-negativity or subvert these dialogues by talking about how much you like your body.

Repeat compliments to yourself three times

When someone criticizes you, you’re likely to replay their criticism over and over again (until you begin to believe it).

Flip the switch and do the same with compliments. Instead of brushing them off, say thank you with grace and then repeat the compliment to yourself a few times in your head (e.g. I’m really witty).

Be honest about your vulnerabilities so that you can address them head-on

Oftentimes, we avoid dealing with issues (e.g. insecurity, jealousy) because we refuse to name them.

Instead of pretending that you’re not jealous, acknowledge the feeling. Jealous is a universal experience and if you can admit why you’re jealous, you can make behavioural and cognitive changes in order to address it effectively.

If your partner is dealing with low self-esteem:

#1 First you need to accept that in a healthy relationship you’re not responsible for their self-esteem; you may influence how they feel about themselves, but ultimately, they have to take responsibility for their own thoughts, behaviours, and feelings.

You can, however, support them with words of affirmation. Even if something seems obvious (e.g. they’re really smart), be sure to verbalize your positive perceptions of them and model receiving compliments with grace when it’s your turn.

#2 Be aware of their soft-spots or triggers.

For example, if you know their low self-esteem is related to how their parents treat them, be mindful of how you approach the topic.

They may complain about their parents, but you may want to avoid joining in on the criticism. Instead, help them to reframe how they see their parents treatment (e.g. perhaps their parents are highly critical of them, but it’s a reflection of their own perceived shortcomings).

#3 Give them space to grow on their own.

Self-expansion theory suggests that we’re happiest in our relationships when we are given space to grow and embrace new experiences.

You may be inclined to try to be their sole source of support in order to boost their self-esteem or you may want to protect them from potentially deflating experiences, but they’ll be better off if you offer support while also making space for individuality and personal growth.

Self-esteem can be improved through long-term positive interactions

Low self-esteem often feels like a trait to those who struggle with it – something constant and unchangeable. This is often due to a long history of carrying around self-doubt and anxieties around fitting in with others, being rejected and/or not being good enough for a whole host of reasons (physical, psychological, social and the like).

Nevertheless, I’ve found that self-esteem can absolutely be improved through long-term positive interactions and a resetting of expectations and perspective.

Some examples of techniques that are relevant here broadly are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness.

While there are many ways that individuals deal with low self-esteem in their everyday lives, being in a relationship can prove especially challenging for anyone struggling with low self-esteem because they can often either a) look for their partner to fix their self-esteem struggles or b) isolate and detach from the relationship due to feeling of low self-worth.

In my experience, one of the best solutions for this is transparency in the relationship and a deepening of the connection, often specifically around the internal struggles.

I’ve found that, while many individuals try to avoid or ignore the self-esteem problem, being open about it can lead to much more constructive long-term solutions.

This is obviously most relevant in long-term very intimate relationships (such as among married or engaged couples) because it can take time to work through the shame of revealing the struggles in the first place and then building the long-term trust needed to negate the low self-esteem itself.

As self-esteem is often linked to fears of rejection, building trust and intimacy in a relationship can sometimes go a long way towards addressing the issue since the internal fear that “if anyone knew how I see myself they would leave me,” can be somewhat alleviated by ongoing honest conversations about self-esteem that don’t result in a break in the relationship.

Nevertheless, exploring these issues can sometimes feel unsafe enough to require professional help or guidance, at least at the outset.

Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt

Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt

Clinical Psychologist | Founder, Loving Roots Project

Remember that your self-esteem is not the responsibility of your partner or of the relationship

Self-esteem can be very challenging and when we are lacking in confidence, it can feel impossible to change that. It is also very difficult in relationships because people can project their own insecurities onto their partner or take out their frustrations and lack of confidence in others.

So working toward building your self-esteem is essential. It is also important to remember that your self-esteem is not the responsibility of your partner or of the relationship.

We should not rely on our partner’s feedback and viewpoints to help validate and build our own self-esteem.

Of course, partners should be supportive of one another, especially when one is struggling with any sort of issue, but it is important to remember that self-esteem is about the “self” and one’s own internal viewpoint.

When in a relationship and a partner is struggling with self-esteem issues, remember to be supportive, reduce criticism and express genuine positive feedback when you can.

If you are looking for ways to boost your self-esteem, again remember not to rely on your partner, but to rely on yourself.

You can implement coping skills that will help you to express negative emotions, such as journaling, writing, practicing yoga or meditation and also exercise or daily walks.

You can also engage in daily positive affirmations where you come up with a few positive things about yourself that you can recite and say to yourself.

Another self-esteem booster is to practice gratitude. The expression of gratitude and things that we are thankful for often helps to boost how we feel about ourselves and our own positivity so think of a way you can incorporate a gratitude practice in your daily routine.

This could be reflecting in a journal each evening about something you are grateful for that day or it could be to express to someone else something that you are thankful for.

Practicing gratitude can make others feel good as well as ourselves and it can boost our self-esteem and our own happiness.

Rori Sassoon

Rori Sassoon

NYC’s Relationship Expert | Co-founder, Platinum Poire

Communication can solve a lot of problems

You need to talk, otherwise, you will not know how they feel. Work towards establishing a comfort zone with your partner.

When you can be open, honest, and safe to communicate how you feel with your partner, there will be no issue that you can’t work on together.

Actions speak louder than words

If you’re communicating that you feel there are certain inappropriate actions that your partner is doing that is making you insecure (within reason) or you’re communicating something that makes you feel bad and your partner doesn’t make changes to their behavior, maybe you need to evaluate if your partner meets your needs.

Are you a good fit for them? If your partner is stepping up to the plate and backing their words up with action, not just the “I love you’s” “I miss you’s” and “I want to spend time with you” – then you can create a relationship that works for both of you.

Synchronize, don’t compromise.

It starts with you

When you feel safe and secure, you will feel more secure with them. Take a look at yourself first.

If the behavior that is making you insecure is something that wouldn’t be tolerated in an office environment, chances are you have a legitimate reason to be insecure.

Choose wisely

Make the right choice for a partner. Know what works for you and be discerning.

Vikki Ziegler

Vikki Ziegler

Divorce Attorney | Relationship Expert

Low self-esteem can cause a person to have negative thoughts and feelings to put themselves down and make them feel more critical and react explosively want to a situation does not warrant that type of behavior.

When you’re in a relationship with someone that has low self-esteem you must be very careful the way you choose your words.

Anything you say can make someone feel less than and worse about themselves and they already do. You need to figure out a way to properly communicate so that you don’t push this person into a corner and make them shut down.

You also should go to therapy with your significant other and tried to work on your relationship skills as well as them working on their own low self-esteem issues to enhance their lives and your happiness.

People with low self-esteem have to be able to distinguish who is trying to help them in who is trying to hurt them so they can ask what your intentions are in a circumstance so that they may discover someone is trying to help them or is projecting anger or opinions negatively.

When you’re dealing with someone with low self-esteem you can show them after an argument how to change and try to refocus the negative consequences and guilt into a positive experience by explaining what you meant and why they are perceiving it in and in proper fashion.

It’s important to journal things that you believe trigger your partner with low self-esteem and then create safe words that if you feel as though they’re going into a negative space that they can try to snap out of it or think of a happy time or place so that you can try to reposition a re-focus the conversation.

Encourage your partner to do things that they perhaps wouldn’t normally do. And take them out of their comfort zone to see that there really is no fear and feeling good about yourself and doing things that aren’t so comfortable.

Try to show your partner that comparing yourself to other people or past relationship is not healthy. Being unique in having your own DNA makes the person special and try to remind them why you love them in the first place.

It’s important for you to support your partner with low self-esteem to join support groups online read books and try to work out childhood issues so that you can have a healthy and long-lasting relationship with somebody that loves himself because if you don’t love yourself you can never love somebody else authentically.

Caleb Backe


Health & Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics

One of the more profound reasons for why self-esteem is so important lies in the understanding that if you aren’t able to see the intrinsic worth within yourself, how are you supposed to do the same in others?

Self-esteem affects everything from your motivation, to your drives, to your basic innate ability to feel good about yourself and where you’re heading.

It sounds like an abstract concept but really, it’s simple: if you don’t value yourself, how can you value anything within the ‘bubble’ that is your life – including your partner?

With this in mind, there are various ways to deal with low self-esteem in a relationship:

Affirmations – Talk to yourself positively to improve your self-esteem. Say nice things out loud to yourself, and even to your partner. This will help you to notice your intrinsic self-worth as well as your S.O’s.

Self-Care – A large aspect of your inability to see your self-worth lies from the fact that you don’t give yourself the time or space to do so.

Set time aside (ideally, daily) to practice self-care. Whether that’s a bubble bath or a yoga practice, do something to remind yourself that you deserve good treatment!

Communication – Communication is vital in any relationship, but it’s all the more crucial to articulate yourself and your emotions when you suffer from low self-esteem.

Practice being assertive and know that your needs are important and deserve to be met.

Steve Clark

Steve Clark

Blogger ,

A partner with low self-esteem can have a detrimental impact on the couple’s relationship.

Their low self-image can make it difficult for them to receive positive words of affirmation from their significant other. A husband looking to complement his wife on her appearance may have his words and good intentions met with negativity.

Because of her feeling about her appearance, she may receive his words as insincere or she may just downplay them altogether.

In time he may begin to lose this patience and stop trying to compliment her. Why try when she is just going to reject his compliment?

When your partner has low self-esteem, it’s important that you take steps to build them up and reinforce your feelings and commitment.

Some actionable steps you can take to help improve your partner’s self-image include:

Routinely use sincere words of affirmation

Use your words to build up your partner on a routine basis. Make sure they know that they are loved, supported, and valued. It cost nothing to be nice. People can generally tell when someone is being insincere.

Giving a partner with low self-esteem an insincere compliment can be devastating to them and your relationship. You may struggle to regain their trust. If you can’t be sincere, then just be quiet.

Praise them to family and friends

Seek out opportunities to speak well of your partner to others. Be sure they are around to hear your compliment. People generally love it when someone they care about notices good things they have done.

Pay attention to what is going on in your partner’s life and make sure others know how great they are doing.

Volunteer with them

People generally feel better about themselves when they are doing good for others. Look for areas in your community where you can volunteer together.

Be patient

Understand that it may take some time for your partner to feel better about themselves. Your job is to love and support them. Let them know of your commitment to them and your relationship.

I think it is natural at times for all of us to have some self-doubt. We need that loving and supportive person in our life to pick us back up. If your partner is at a place of self-doubt, use the tips above to help them regain their confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is low self-esteem a red flag?

Low self-esteem can be considered a red flag in a relationship. It is important to pay attention to how someone’s self-esteem can influence their behavior and interactions.

People with low self-esteem may have a harder time trusting others, struggle with communication, or exhibit other behaviors that can make maintaining a healthy and stable relationship challenging. 

However, it’s important to remember that having low self-esteem doesn’t automatically make someone a bad partner; everyone has their own journey, and with support and understanding, people can work on improving their self-esteem and overall well-being.

What are the signs of low self-esteem in a relationship?

Constant need for reassurance: People with low self-esteem may frequently seek validation and approval from their partner, as they may not feel secure or confident in themselves.

Difficulty in trusting: Low self-esteem can make it difficult for someone to trust their partner, leading to suspicions and fears that may not be warranted.

Overly critical: They may be overly critical of themselves or their partner, as they may be projecting their own insecurities onto the relationship.

Avoiding conflict: They may avoid conflict or difficult conversations, fearing that addressing issues might lead to rejection or the end of the relationship.

Jealousy and possessiveness: Low self-esteem can make someone feel more possessive or jealous, as they may worry about losing their partner to someone they perceive as better or more attractive.

How can low self-esteem affect my relationship with my partner?

Low self-esteem in relationships can stem from various factors. Understanding these causes can help you foster a healthier and more supportive partnership.

Past experiences: Negative experiences in past relationships or childhood, such as emotional or physical abuse, can lead to feelings of low self-worth. These past traumas can shape a person’s beliefs about themselves and their place in a relationship.

Unrealistic expectations: Comparing your relationship to unrealistic standards, such as those portrayed in movies or social media, can contribute to feelings of inadequacy. These expectations can leave you or your partner feeling like you’re not good enough or that the relationship is lacking.

Communication issues: Ineffective communication can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings, which can affect a person’s self-esteem. It’s essential to establish open lines of communication and actively work on improving them.

Trust issues: Trust is a fundamental component of any healthy relationship. If trust is broken or there’s a lack of trust, it can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem and ability to feel secure in the relationship.

Dependency: When one partner becomes overly dependent on the other for emotional support or validation, it can lead to low self-esteem. Striking a balance between independence and interdependence is crucial in maintaining a healthy sense of self.

How can I help my partner who has low self-esteem?

Supporting a partner with low self-esteem can be challenging, but there are ways to help them feel more confident and secure in your relationship:

Offer reassurance: Regularly express your love, appreciation, and support for your partner. Remind them of their strengths and talents, and acknowledge their efforts and achievements.

Encourage open communication: Foster an environment where your partner feels comfortable discussing their feelings and insecurities. Listen attentively and validate their emotions without judgment.

Be patient: Change takes time, and building self-esteem is no exception. Be patient and understanding as your partner works on their self-esteem. Remember that it’s a process; small steps can lead to significant improvements over time.

Help them set realistic expectations: Encourage your partner to set achievable goals and expectations for themselves and your relationship. This can help them to focus on what’s within their control and prevent feelings of inadequacy.

Encourage self-care: Promote a healthy lifestyle by supporting your partner in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep. This can help improve their mood and overall well-being.

Suggest professional help: If your partner’s low self-esteem significantly affects their daily life or your relationship, encourage them to seek professional help, such as therapy or counseling. A mental health professional can provide valuable guidance and support in addressing their self-esteem issues.

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