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How Low Self-Esteem Affects Relationships

When you think of someone with low self-esteem, perhaps you imagine a person who is shy and struggles to contribute to conversation. Or, perhaps you picture that friend who always puts down their appearance – the “do I look too fat?” question may be familiar. However, low self-esteem is not as obvious as these examples and how it affects the individual and their life can be very unique. Low self-esteem especially affects relationships, and can cause arguments, insecurity, imbalance and other types of relationship difficulties due to our attachment styles. Here are some examples of how low self-esteem can affect your relationships.

Signs of low self esteem in a relationship

Not communicating your needs.

If you have low self-esteem you may find it difficult to ask others for help. You may fear inconveniencing or “burdening” others. For example, someone with low self-esteem may organise removalists to help them move homes; well before thinking to ask a friend to help. This means an individual with low self-esteem may not get their needs fulfilled in their relationships, as they feel too afraid to ask.


People with low self-esteem may take feedback or simple requests personally. For example, you may feel rejected or hurt when your partner asks for some ‘quiet time’. Your hurt may cause you to recoil or snap at your partner, and an argument may boil over. While your low self-esteem clearly affects your relationship, your relationship also affects your self-esteem, as you may regret your irrational reactions.

Jealousy and insecurity.Man sitting on a couch with head in hand

Low self-esteem can give rise to jealousy and insecurity in a relationship. You may question your worthiness to your partner, and believe it is a fluke they like you. As such, it is normal for people with low self-esteem to expect their partner may be attracted to someone else or fear they will leave the relationship.

Difficulty being yourself.

Low self-esteem can make it difficult to be your authentic self in a relationship. You may put considerable effort into being likeable or attractive. For example, you may work hard at entertaining others or to be interesting. Or, perhaps you always try to look your best.

Poor relationship choices.

Low self-esteem can affect your choice in a partner or friend. Low self-esteem means you are more likely to ignore your core needs in a relationship. For example, you may stay with your partner, despite their lack of affection for you. Or, you may tolerate your friend’s bad temper, and blame yourself for their reactions. Researchers have identified that individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to stay in dissatisfied relationships longer than those who have a higher degree of perceived self-worth.

“Ok, so low self-esteem affects my relationship, what now?”

There are a number of practical things you can do to improve your self-esteem, within your relationships. For example, you can start by addressing your needs. Maybe you would like more affection from your partner? Or, perhaps you would like your partner to see your family more often? It may feel overwhelming to put forward all your needs out there at once, so it is best to start small, with things that do not feel too challenging. For example, you may ask your partner for a hug, or invite your partner to a small gathering with just your sister or mum. You can read more here.

Psychologists are trained in therapies that are designed to improve self-esteem. A psychologist can help you change the way you think about yourself, which in turn should improve sensitivity and insecurity in your relationships. Therapies focused on improving self-esteem, include Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Schema Therapy and Narrative Therapy.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with low self-esteem in your relationship?

We are a team of warm and empathic psychologists based in Hawthorn, Armadale, and Prahran who are experienced and trained in helping individuals improve their self-esteem and relationships. If you would like some professional assistance, contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology on 1300 766 870.


If you relate to the article above, you may also benefit from learning about how adult attachment styles impact relationships. You can read more here and here. Do you suspect you have an anxious attachment style and feel like you’re the only one? Actually, a great number of people struggle with anxiety in relationships! Read more about it in No Shame in Relationship Anxiety. Some people also fall into relationship habits like ‘people pleasing’ in an effort to sooth anxiety but find it doesn’t help? Learn more about The Price Paid for People Pleasing and how to combat it!