How To Fix Low Self-Esteem In Your Marriage

Last week, we met Mimi and Jordan, a lovely young couple whose dating relationship was marked by Mimi being attracted to Jordan precisely because he did not fawn over her. Mimi, although very pretty, smart, and nice, had low self-esteem. She kept that well-hidden with great social skills but in her heart of hearts she did not believe in herself; she felt weak and unsure. Therefore, if a boy would be too admiring, she foolishly felt that it could only mean one thing: He would expect her to take leadership in the relationship and that was something she didn’t feel she could do. Jordan was reserved. He was a responsible person and a hard worker and did not seem to expect anything from Mimi except to be there for him. Oddly enough, once the marriage got underway, Mimi felt the absence of the very thing she had been afraid of in other boys — attention. Actually, this makes sense: The attention made her insecure while dating but once married she felt needy because of her own insecurities. The more she complained to Jordan, the more irritated he felt; she was no longer the same sweet girl he had been dating. Now that Mimi and Jordan have been married for six months and the marriage seems to be heading to that unnecessary and terrible place starting with the word “d,” is there a way to avert this tragic next step? Of course there is. Mimi and Jordan engaged in a short course of counseling to address three issues: Mimi, Jordan, and them. Issue #1: Mimi: Mimi needed a little time...

The Most Important Thing You Must Do When Dating

Mimi was all excited. She was getting ready for a first date with Jordan. She was looking forward to the date because she had heard such glowing reports about him from all his references: He was smart, likable, and a great earner. Jordan was punctual, a good quality. He smiled very pleasantly at Mimi as she opened the door. Jordan took Mimi to a coffee shop inside a hotel lobby not terribly far away. He was very proper; he did the polite things like opening doors for her but he also held himself back a little, too. When there were those awkward silences over coffee, Jordan didn’t seem to need to rush in to fill the silence or smile with embarrassment. He simply sipped his coffee slowly and carefully and waited patiently until one of them would think of something to say. Mimi, herself felt somewhat uncomfortable with those moments and Jordan didn’t rush in to salvage her from them. It felt to Mimi, in a strange sort of way, good: He was giving her space to be who she was, awkward and all. She would look up and be the one with the nervous smile. At the end of the date Mimi honestly didn’t know whether she had impressed this boy favorably or not. That was unusual; generally, they made it clear that they found her interesting and attractive. Instead of enjoying all that admiration, it would unsettle Mimi; if a boy needed her, then whom did she lean on? But Jordan was different; he held himself back and this was another example of it. As a result,...

Women: Are You About to Give up on Your Marriage?

Your marriage is in tatters. You cry nearly every day. Or you are just about ready to have an affair. You cannot stand it anymore. Your husband ignores everything and nothing works: Being nice, not being nice, being a listener, not being a listener, nagging, not nagging. And you are sick of reducing yourself to HIS level, being just as bad as he is. That’s not you! And you do not know what other choices there are. What they really need is a 2 X 4! Well, I mean the verbal equivalent. Actually, I don’t. I would never want to encourage you to be abusive in retaliation. That is the LAST thing you should do. So by 2 X 4 what I REALLY mean is something powerful. Something that will make your spouse stand up and take notice. But by powerful, I DO NOT mean to dish it back. a) That doesn’t work; it just escalates things. b) It is really a sign of weakness, not power. Real Power is being able to get someone to do what you want without hardly saying or doing anything. Let me give you a fantastic example of that kind of power: My father (May he rest in peace). In my whole life til he passed away (I was 27), my father never raised his voice. Not one time. He did not yell. I don’t remember him being angry at me more than once. But he had power over me. Whoa. You know why? Because we had a relationship. Real Power Comes from The Relationship I adored him and wanted to please him....

What To Do With Your Child’s Anger

I was rereading a therapy magazine from 1999 — so the problems were full-blown even back then– and it related the following: In a difference of opinion between a child and her mother who wanted the TV shut off, as the mother’s demand became stronger, the child finally used a swear word on her mother, something like, “F-you, mommy.” That child was eight years old. And this is not an inner-city family. It is a socio-economically privileged family whose mother spends time toting her daughter to after-school activities and the like. This young girl also does well in school and is liked by her peers. What’s going on? Why the language? The article was filled with similar stories including those of kids who hit and kicked their parents when they didn’t get their way and another young child who didn’t like anticipating the arrival of a new baby and smashed a baseball bat into her mother’s belly. The author, Ron Taffel, was compelled to interview parents to try to find out what was missing in their approach. It turns out that parents — who may have suffered harsh discipline themselves growing up — are afraid to do the same to their children. So they do nothing. Maybe their child needs to “get out” their anger, they’re thinking. If so, then letting them vent should be a good thing. No, it isn’t good. First, because the venting never ends. But this is only the beginning of the problem. What Taffel found is that these same parents who are afraid to injure their children by punishing them also don’t like their...

How to Build Healthy Self Esteem in Children

Research shows that low self-esteem is associated with depression in adolescents and lower achievement in school.  How can parents help their children to build healthy self esteem? High self-esteem can be dangerous One would think that it is obvious that children should have high self-esteem, but research shows otherwise. For example, a child told he is “so smart” when his ability is only average could, conceivably develop an unrealistically high opinion of his abilities. He could then be in for quite a shock when he performs below what he expected. Another outcome could be that he stops making an effort to do well because he falsely assumes he doesn’t need to put effort out since he’s so smart. Being told he’s smarter or better than others can lead to arrogance and callousness as well. Going to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, John Rosemond, an author in this area, recommended breaking down children’s self-esteem so that it does not become artificially inflated. That’s really bad advice. The result of that tactic can also be a child giving up trying: He figures that his parents are telling him he’s not so smart after all, so why make an effort to reach for the impossible? The same conclusion came from research reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2007. Investigators attempted to encourage failing children to make more effort in school by sending them emails that said, “Students who have high self-esteem not only get better grades, but they remain self-confident and assured.” Therefore, each one needed to “hold your head-and your self-esteem-high.” That plan backfired; those...

Self Esteem, Selfishness and Selflessness

Okay, here’s a question: Do you put yourself first or others first? Here’s another question: What is the right thing to do regarding the first question? Third question: Who told you that? Where did that message come from? And the final question: Where does self-esteem come in? Does putting yourself first demonstrate self-esteem? How about if you put others first? Is This Selfish? David walked into the house hungry. He’d had an incredibly difficult day. Things did not go well with the partners in his new business. They didn’t believe his year-end predictions and they wanted more data than he could give them. He was really annoyed about that, angry actually. He was in a huff as he walked in. “Hi,” Doris said as he came in. No matter how challenging it was, she always tried to be pleasant. But she didn’t get a reciprocal greeting. “Where’s dinner?” was all David said. We don’t need more information than this to say that it appears that David is selfish or self-centered. He seems to put himself first, but more than that, his wife wasn’t on the list at all. Well, I shouldn’t say that. David has learned that in order to get some of the things he wants he must attend to others – to a point. So there might be a time when he gives a gift or a “Hello.” That logic still filters events through “Me” as the operator: If it’s in my interest, then I will cater to others. This approach keeps the behavior in the category of “selfish.” Is there a time when this is right?...

The Biological Reason For Low Self Esteem

“I know I’m a good person,” Phyllis said earnestly. “I do a lot for my friends. They can count on me and they know it. I would never hurt anyone. I’m kind. The only thing is,” here, she hesitated, “I don’t treat myself nearly as well as I treat everyone else. Although I know this is ridiculous and objectively, I disagree with it, but deep inside, I don’t believe I deserve it.” A case of low self esteem that doesn’t have to be. It’s as if Phyllis is split between her logical self which knows she is a good person in the same way that you and I “know” E=mc2, a knowing at a distance, and her inner self which thoroughly believes she doesn’t deserve to be treated well. It is the illogical, inner self that seems real and the logical self that seems fake. How did this happen and how can Phyllis get past it? Toxic Messages Are Just Stronger Neural Pathways To answer this question requires a short side-step into the world of neuroscience. There is a lot of fascinating research going on all over the country on how the brain works and how it connects to our thoughts and feelings. Apparently, the more we hear a message, the stronger the neural pathways in our brain become. That is, if certain of our actions were followed by particular messages by our parents as we grew up, then a pathway was constructed in our brains so that the instant we would behave in a certain way or something would happen, it would trigger the neurons firing. The more...

Dating Advice: Loneliness Is Better Than Abuse

We all know what positive reinforcement is: Something you give to someone to increase behavior you want. You give it following the behavior and, if done with skill and intelligence, it will lead to more of the same. For example, you tell the woman you’re out with, “You’re so pretty,” just after she accepted another date with you and you can be fairly certain that, barring anything stupid you do, you’ll get still another date out of the deal in the future. That’s positive reinforcement.   Punishment you know only too well. It’s something that follows an undesired behavior and serves to decrease the probability of that behavior happening again. When your date got up and walked out following your picking your teeth at the table, that was punishment (unless of course you wanted her to walk out).   Watch Out For Negative Reinforcement In Your Dating Relationships   It’s negative reinforcement that confuses people, and that’s bad because it’s dangerous. It’s the decreasing of pain following some behavior of yours. So, for example, on April 15 you file your yuchy taxes and on April 16, you breathe a deep sigh and feel like the world is no longer resting on your shoulders (unless, of course, you had to send a very large check with the return, in which case this example doesn’t apply). That’s negative reinforcement: the relief and joy you feel when you are no longer suffering.   Another example: You broke your back, your shoulders, your rear end, your brain and whatever else studying for some awful exam. It’s over–yaaaay! Whew. Negative reinforcement.   So here’s...

The “Adult Content” Lie

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, pp. 12, 20 One of my pet peeves is using the word “adult,” as in “adult movie” because, in fact, the nature of relationships in the so-called “adult” scene are so juvenile. Who watches such things? People with self-esteem and who esteem their significant other? People who know how to get satisfaction without manufacturing artificial means? People who know how to give satisfaction to those they love? Not at all. The people who have made that particular industry a billion-dollar industry are partially-developed people. What Does It Mean To Be “Adult”? So what is “adult,” then? A true adult is not afraid of intimacy. You see, the purveyors of the “adult” nonsense are capitalizing on people’s juvenile fears of real intimacy. They use fantasies to forget that they have such fears in much the same way that sad people often drink to forget their sorrows. I can see the owner of an “adult” website filled right now with righteous indignation. “Hah!” he’s saying. “That makes no sense. Not only are my people not afraid of intimacy, they engage in it all the time! In fact, they are so self-possessed and have so much self-esteem that they are completely uninhibited, completely comfortable—completely free—doing things that you [he’s shooting darts with his eyes as he speaks] may not be.” Actually, he may not want to, but he’s making my point for me. One of the loveliest developments of the last decade of the twentieth century was the awakening of desire on the parts of a large number of Americans to connect with their...
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