This is definitely going to be one of the most important posts I will write, given the fact that I’ve been dealing with self-doubts and low self-esteem for most of my life. It is the reason for why I often end up with shady guys who not really have my best interests at heart. I search for recognition and appreciation in relationships, because I cannot give these things to myself. I’m addicted to being loved by others, because I have difficulties loving myself. However, the shady guys that codependent people with low self-esteem get into relationships with only make matters worse: They will eventually disappoint us, leave us heartbroken and therefore make us question our own part in the relationship. More often than not, this will only lower our self-esteem further and have us wonder if we are not worthy of being loved and treated with respect.
The most ironic part of my last relationship with Mr. Unavailable was that he told me right at the beginning that he had the feeling I had rather low self-esteem and tend to sell myself short when it comes to relationships. He also told me to be more confident, that I had all the reasons for believing more in myself, and that I should apply a more “careful screening process” when it came to guys. I felt like I had won the lottery: Had I finally found a guy who would be attentive to my feelings and treat me with appreciation? How was I supposed to know that he would turn into exactly that kind of guy he had warned me against? Was he unconsciously (or very consciously) warning me against himself? Looking at it in retrospect I can’t help spotting the irony…
In the end, Mr. Unavailable did absolutely nothing to help me improve my self-esteem. To the contrary, he shattered it to pieces and left me feeling like an empty shell, doubting everything about me (and especially my part in the relationship). Almost everything he did had me doubt myself, my behavior, even my own sanity.
The strongest source for my self-doubts came from the fact that he would often not call, leave a message or contact me in any other way for several days in a row. There were times when I wouldn’t get to see him for several weeks in a row. For me this was just heartbreaking and agitating. I would have loved to spend as much time with him as possible and it was affecting me that he didn’t seem to be able to make time for me. Agonizing thoughts were constantly revolving in my head: “Why doesn’t he call or leave a message? If he really cared about me, he would have contacted me. Is he interested in me at all? He must be really detached to not call at all…Or am I maybe asking for too much? Am I turning into an obsessive person?” My friends and family would repeatedly assure me that he is not treating me fairly by not calling me and not seeing me in weeks. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I preferred to put all the blame on myself and suppressed the suspicion that he might not be that interested after all.
Another source of self-doubt came from his continually voiced desire to leave the country and fly back to the U.S. I constantly blamed myself for not being able to stay more emotionally detached. Why did I invest all my heart, energy and time into someone who might be leaving soon? Why do I blame him for being more detached than I am? After all, isn’t this the reasonable way to handle all of it? But why does he even bother seeing me then? Why does he insist on continuing to go out with me? Why did he want to meet my parents, if he wants to leave? I couldn’t make any sense of his behavior and chose to blame myself for everything instead.
The fact that he still lived with his exgirlfriend and often pushed me aside because of her also didn’t add much to my self-esteem. I’ve already dedicated two entire posts to his hysteric, insulting exgirlfriend who did not allow him to see me. I therefore don’t need to go into further detail at this point. Allowing him to turn me into an option while his exgirlfriend still had priority had me seriously doubt my worth as a person. Why do I allow him to treat me like that? Am I only good enough to be a secondary option? Am I not deserving of the same care, appreciation and attention that she gets? Are the two of them secretly mocking me? Am I just the person he goes to to load off the emotional baggage from his last relationship? My mind seemed to be obsessively occupied with him and his exgirlfriend, painting the most painful scenarios. I felt absolutely worthless, disrespected and unappreciated because my feelings just never mattered as much as those of his exgirlfriend. It can leave you feeling so small…like a real loser.
I don’t think I have to go on pointing out more instances that caused me to seriously doubt myself. Suffice it to say that being with a Mr. Unavailable can be absolutely shattering to your sense of self worth. Through their emotional unavailability they have you doubt just about everything about yourself. Instead of accepting that they are to blame for not being able and willing to give us what we want, codependent people blame themselves and see themselves as not worthy of being respected, cared about and loved. We question our behavior throughout the entire relationship and keep wondering where everything went wrong. Instead of realizing that Mr. Unavailables won’t even give us the bare minimum of what we want, we see ourselves as too needy, too dependent and try to be satisfied with the little breadcrumps they are feeding us with.
Even if we manage to see through their shady and disrespectful behavior and realize that they are unwilling and unable to fulfill our emotional needs, we still find ways to blame ourselves: Why can’t I find the strength to free myself from this painful relationship? Why do I keep allowing him to disrespect me? Why do I still feel so much for a man who obviously doesn’t really respect and appreciate me? We are just really good at addressing reproaches to ourselves.
I’ve finally managed to see through the patterns that kept my self-esteem on a very low level. It doesn’t mean that I turned into a confident and self-assured person over night. I’m still struggling with self-doubt and find it hard to accept my flaws and the mistakes I make. I tend to be too hard on myself. But at least I’ve finally managed to realize all of it and I guess it’s the first step towards improvement…So if there is anything positive I can draw from all that pain, drama and suffering, it is that it really opened my eyes to the fact that I need to change my mindset. Only if we are good to ourselves can we have healthy relationships with people who also genuinely want to be good to us.