It’s true. Ultimately, we are all responsible to take the actions necessary to help us feel good about ourselves. As children our parents were supposed to give us the feedback that helps us appreciate our strengths and have a healthy, realistic humility about our weaknesses. When that happens we feel that we belong, have important things to offer others, and need others also.
When that goes awry, as it easily does, then we have to take up the task of building self esteem later and work on it for ourselves. However, it easy to blame others when we don’t feel good about ourselves–and especially our spouses.
Who we spend time with certainly does affect our self esteem, so it’s inevitable that our spouses have a big effect on our self esteem. They can make it easier or more difficult to have a good self esteem. However, the ultimate responsibility to develop and maintain a healthy self esteem is our own.
I deal with this a lot when I treat husbands who have sex addiction, which is understandably destructive to the self esteem of their spouse. However, five years later after the husband has put much effort into recovery and become much more effective in demonstrating love, honesty, and commitment some spouses will essentially hide behind their husband’s past behavior instead of addressing feelings about themselves they often had before they ever married.
There are too many aspects to building a good self esteem to cover here, but I do want to put forth the basic idea that we can and must take responsibility to develop a loving and healthy relationship with ourselves. Trauma in childhood–and later in life–intrinsically hurts self esteem, as do the events that affect our physical appearance or ability to perform physically or mentally. To combat this, having a rich circle of colleagues and friends is important, as is getting professional help when needed.
There are genuine obstacles to overcome in our work of feeling good about ourselves, but they must be addressed actively. Your self esteem is a treasure that you possess. Build it firmly and guard it carefully.