Reasons for Holding On 2: Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

In many of my previous posts I have commented on the lack of self-respect and self-esteem, and the part it plays in being abused by narcissistic, unavailable men. It affects our relationship to those men to such an enormous extent and on so many levels that I now decided to dedicate an entire post to it. I have already declared countless times that had I been more self-confident and self-assured, I would never have allowed a guy to treat me the way I was treated those past few months. Loving and respecting myself would have led me to see that this is not what I deserve and to set up some clear boundaries, which I should never allow a guy to overstep. I did such a poor job at being good to myself that I let the emotional abuse go on for far too long without acknowledging how much damage it did to me.

Having low self-esteem and finding it hard to love and respect ourselves affects our relationships in at least three different ways: First, it makes us more prone to enter into a relationship with narcissistic, unavailable men. Second, it leads us to accept the little breadcrumps of affection those men are throwing us, and last of all, it makes us shift all the blame to ourselves and think that we are at fault for the shitty treatment we receive at the hands of the narcissist. In this post, I will shortly comment on each of these aspects and point out how they were mirrored in my relationship to Mr. Unavailable.

For as long as I remember I have struggled with self-doubt and low self-esteem. I tend to question every decision I ever made in my life, I’m never really satisfied with anything I do, and I’m often inclined to put all the blame on myself whenever I face a conflict or difficulty. Being so hard on yourself all the time is emotionally draining and leads you to be dependent on others for love, approval and reassurance. Because of the low opinion I hold of myself, I’m addicted to the feeling of being valued and appreciated that (ideally) comes from being in a loving relationship. My addiction to approval and love often drives me into relationships with shady men. I’ve often felt that being in a relationship – no matter how painful – is better than being alone with all my self-doubts and inner conflicts. Lunging into a relationship without giving the matter much thought offers me the distraction and excitement I’m longing for. If I was just happy being on my own, I would not be so inclined to enter a relationship with the first guy that shows interest in me. However, I’m addicted to signs of affection and interest and therefore rarely assess the situation rationally before I am already in too deep.

The second reason why having a low self-esteem is an important factor in our relationships with narcissistic, unavailable men is that it makes us hold on for much longer than is healthy for us. We fear being abandoned so much that we keep going back to them and try to make things work (even though it is not really in our power to do so). We not only accept the little breadcrumps of affection they are throwing us, but often think that this is all we deserve. Having little self-respect we allow them to trample all over us and still come back for more of the humiliation and disregard. This was particularly true for me: I allowed him to cancel our dates in the last minute; I allowed him to prioritize his exgirlfriend and continually break his promises; I allowed him to ignore me for days, not answering to any of my messages. Still I came back for more, not wanting to be alone again, clinging to the little signs of affection he was showing me occasionally. I readily turned him into the center of my life and focused all my thoughts on him, while he was treating me like a secondary option, to be discarded whenever he felt like it. I was too blind and too addicted to being loved that I never really took a moment to question what was going on and what I allowed him to do to me.

Having little respect for ourselves we not only accept to be treated with less than the bare minimum of consideration and affection, but it also leads us to put all the blame on ourselves. If they ignore us for days, we think we did something wrong and thereby triggered their emotional distance. If we are put into a secondary position behind exgirlfriends, we question ourselves and believe that we are just not attractive, interesting, special enough to deserve his full attention. Sometimes rationality pushes through and we realize that we are getting less than we deserve. I’ve reached that point on numerous occasions and was once led to write him an email, telling him that I felt treated unfairly and dishonestly and how much I suffered from his disregard and neglect. I got an angry reply in which he shifted a lot of blame on me. Instead of telling him to fuck off (excuse the language!), I readily accepted the blame and wrote a long email in which I apologized and begged him to forgive me for my accusations. Looking back at it now, I can only shake my head at how readily I debased myself, how I accepted blame even though the only thing I did was voice my justified concerns. I was absolutely brainwashed at the time, so blind and dependend that I blamed myself for just being honest and standing up for myself…

Even when trying to cope with the effects of emotional abuse we are often affected by our lack of self-respect and self-assurance. We readily accept the label “codependent” and hold a firm belief that we were complicit in our own abuse. We often utter phrases like “It takes two to tango” and think that we are at least equally to blame for everything that happened. It was exactly the same for me: When I started to recover I blamed myself for allowing others to disrespect me and readily thought of myself as being a codependent who needs to reassess her behavior and mindset. I still think this is partly true, but I’m slowly starting to take a stand against this kind of thinking. No matter how low the opinion is that we have of ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we deserve to be emotionally abused and exposed to all that mindfuckery and manipulation. We need to put more blame on the narcissistic abusers who took advantage of our insecurities, doubts and need for affection in order to boost their own egos! Simply labelling ourselves as codependent and blaming our own insecurities is not right. We also have to see that others took advantage of us, manipulated us, wounded us and turned us into emotional wrecks, and that it is never right to be treated that way, no matter how little self-confidence you might have…

2 thoughts on “Reasons for Holding On 2: Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

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