I often say that from the most hardened criminal to the gentle elderly woman who lives next door, the one thing we all want is love. Frequently, the women who come to me for guidance and support are struggling with their relationships. Some got married before they really knew themselves and are now "waking up" in marriages that no longer work. Others have been through multiple relationships that either become destructive or just don't seem to last. And then there are women flourishing in relationships as solid today as they were back when they started. In examining them all, it is clear that a critical correlation exists between self-esteem and the ability to make choices from a place of strength and clarity in life and in love. As our self-value grows, so does our ability as women (and I would argue, as people in general) to cultivate and foster wonderful, meaningful relationships. The reasons are many.
1. You are more likely to choose a partner who also values you just as you are. There is nothing like being loved and appreciated to inspire continued growth whether you are 5 or 55. Having a healthy dose of self-value in place upon choosing a partner has the extraordinary benefit of not only making your chances of creating a healthy relationship that much better, it also ensures the continuation of your own personal growth. On the flip side, being in a state of diminished self-esteem when choosing a partner can plop you square in the middle of an unhealthy relationship, while curtailing your own individual growth.
2. You will choose a partner from a place of clarity. Positive self-esteem generally translates to an ongoing commitment to self-discovery and the honoring of one's own path. This brings clarity to all the major decisions you make in life, including the choice you make in a partner. How can you communicate to another what you want in life - your values, loves, challenges, strengths and so on, if you don't know yourself?
3. The better you feel about yourself, the more attractive you are to others, especially your partner. Often, the confidence you exuded when your partner first met you was the very thing that drew him/her to you. It is beautiful and powerful to watch and be around someone who is in tune with her/himself.
4. It's easier to receive love if you feel worthy. A healthy, lasting relationship requires that the fire between you and your partner is constantly being fueled. On a tennis court, if the person on the other side of the net doesn't receive and then return the ball, you are essentially playing with yourself. This is neither fun or invigorating. Making sure you have chosen someone who consistently gives you love, believing you are worthy of receiving the love your partner gives and then returning it, are all prerequisites to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship.
5. When you feel good about yourself, communication comes more easily. Obviously, open, honest communication is essential to a healthy, lasting relationship of any sort. In a romantic context, the relationship ceases to be in any healthy, meaningful form unless both parties are committed to and capable of genuine communication with each other. Self-value is necessary for authentic communication because it translates into believing that what you have to say holds value and is worthy of being spoken (or written, painted, sung, etc.) to your partner.
6. Valuing yourself is a prerequisite for believing in your ability to make life decisions, small and large. A partnership is about shared decision making. When one or the other partner is not contributing to this process because they feel unsure of their decision-making ability, it can begin to feel like a dictatorship. This often leads to resentment for one or both parties. Further, your ongoing value of your own personal journey within the relationship will ensure that you continue making decisions, throughout your relationship, that honor your own path and personal growth.
7. The happiness bar you set and achieve is directly related to your self-esteem. There is a strong correlation between your positive self-esteem and the belief that you are worthy of having and capable of creating happiness in your life. This, in turn will greatly influence the criteria you set for choosing a partner and creating a relationship that supports your happiness. It will also raise the bar for what you both can and will achieve together as a couple.
8. The small stuff feels small when you feel good about who you are. Even the perfectly matched couple runs into the trials of daily life and the challenges of maintaining a healthy relationship. Self-confidence goes a long way in leading you to feel that no matter what life throws you, you can handle it by yourself or when appropriate, as a team.
9. Self-value and good health go hand-in-hand. How can you have a healthy relationship without that? Studies have confirmed a direct correlation between low self-esteem and the willingness to engage in health-compromising behaviors. These behaviors include everything from allowing one's self to stay in a stressful or abusive personal or professional situation to poor eating habits, exercise habits and substance abuse. The desire and ability of each person in a relationship to be her/his best self is essential to building a strong, healthy, lasting relationship.
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