Family Wellness Counseling

How your low self-esteem impacts your boundary setting

Who is this for?

This information is going to be tailored to the relational needs of individuals who are in the modern family.  I want to say too that if you do not find you identify with one of these labels please stay and i think you’ll find this to be helpful information. Labels are tricky they help provide clarity but invariably they leave out an important part of the population. On the topic of labels… single mom vs single parent. This workshop is about relationships. I know you’re here for self-esteem and boundaries. And that is absolutely what we’re going to talk about but the truth is if you are seeking support in any of these areas it goes without saying that your relationships are suffering. 

Self-esteem is a relational issue as much as or more than boundaries. 

Is Self Love really the solution?

In the context of the self-love movement, I won’t negate the fact that finding worth in yourself and growing to accept yourself holds internal or intrinsic value. Of course, it does! But one of the things we need most in this world is love and connection. Healing our sense of self and deepening our understanding of how to have relationships that meet our needs and do not impair our personal liberty is as essential as air. Well… maybe not as much but quite close.

Connection is a basic human need

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which you’ve probably heard of if you’ve had an intro psych class categorizes our basic needs as humans from a standpoint of most urgent or necessary to least urgent. Of course, everything on the hierarchy is desirable but some things we cannot go without.  Most of us know what’s at the top and bottom of this hierarchy. At the bottom are our physiological or physical needs and at the top, we have the all-elusive and infamous self-actualization. We talk less about what’s in the middle. 

So, after our need for food, water, the oxygen we have a need for safety, health, somewhere to live. Okay so we’ve got our physiological needs, then our safety needs, and do you know what comes next after that? Our need for love and belonging. Not our desire. Our NEED for love and belonging. We’re talking about friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection. How many of you here have convinced yourself that these things are a desire and not a need? These narratives often help us cope with the absence of this need. However, if we’re going to get to the hard work of healing we have to start by acknowledging this vulnerability and acknowledging that we feel the absence of this need the same as we feel hunger after going too long without a meal. Many of us are starving for love and connection and guess what? When we hit that point we begin to compromise our boundaries to get this need met and if this need was not met for us when we were young we may struggle to have enough self-esteem to repair and replace necessary boundaries for healthy and happy relationships. 

Low self worth is a barrier to getting your connection needs met. And that is why this work is essential to moving forward. 

So why is this topic so important to our work here at FWC? Why does it matter to you? If you are here with us today and you do identify as a single parent, co-parent, dating parent, or step-parent It means you have had at least one major rupture in relationships. Relational trauma can open up old wounds. 

You may be having relational trauma and you may find you are struggling to get your attachment needs to be met. Attachment needs simply refer to that need for love and belonging. However, when we talk about your personal attachment we are looking at your personal pattern of being to connect and “attach” to people in your life. And your ability to exchange comfort, care,  and pleasure.  Your attachment pattern begins to develop before you can even speak. It is largely determined by the degree to which your parents met or neglected your attachment needs. 

The Four Major Attachment Styles

  • Secure 
    • As adults, those who are securely attached tend to have to trust, long-term relationships. Other key characteristics of securely attached individuals include having high self-esteem, enjoying intimate relationships, seeking out social support, and an ability to share feelings with other people.
  • Ambivalent
    • As adults, those with an ambivalent attachment style often feel reluctant about becoming close to others and worry that their partner does not reciprocate their feelings. This leads to frequent breakups, often because the relationship feels cold and distant.

These individuals feel especially distraught after the end of a relationship. Cassidy and Berlin described another pathological pattern where ambivalently attached adults cling to young children as a source of security.

  • Avoidant
    • As adults, those with an avoidant attachment tend to have difficulty with intimacy and close relationships.9 These individuals do not invest much emotion in relationships and experience little distress when a relationship ends.

They often avoid intimacy by using excuses (such as long work hours) or may fantasize about other people during sex. Research has also shown that adults with an avoidant attachment style are more accepting and likely to engage in casual sex. Other common characteristics include a failure to support partners during stressful times and an inability to share feelings, thoughts, and emotions with partners.

  • Disorganized 
    • No clear pattern due to inconsistent caregivers. Caregivers who are hot and cold. Cruel and unkind or warm and difficult to predict. 
    • You may struggle with calm and predictability and might look to create tension to relieve your discomfort 

How do you think about yourself?

There’s a helpful question to get at how you think about yourself? Often when asked directly how you think about yourself you might struggle to give a full picture of yourself. So I’ll ask a more important question. How would the important people in your life describe you? How would your boss, your friend, your mother, your child, and/or your partner describe you? I don’t believe their opinion matters more than yours. Instead, I’m aware that we very accurately project our feelings towards our own selves on others. For example, if you are self-conscious about an outfit and how it makes you look. It may seem as though you’re conscious of how others perceive you. Instead, you don’t like what you see about yourself. There are two components to our self-concept. What we think of ourselves internally and externally. And then we decide from our self-appraisal what our worth is. What kind of friends do we deserve or attract. What kind of job is a good fit. What kind of partner will we attract. Then we begin acting that out. If you’ve decided you’re unattractive and that your partner will likely be average if you’re lucky or unattractive with a good personality then you will only open yourself up to those interactions. If an attractive person expresses interest your brain will think “oh they just want to be friends.” Or if you do find the courage to date someone you perceive to be “above” you then you’ll struggle the entire relationship-seeking affirmation and reassurance or tolerating behavior you know is inexcusable because you are just lucky to have someone. 

  1. Ask yourself, what do others think of me? Use that same list we referred to earlier. 
  2. Get naked, stand in front of a mirror and describe what you see. 

Starting your journey of healing

  • Ask yourself, what do others think of me? Use that same list we referred to earlier. 
  • Get naked, stand in front of a mirror and describe what you see. 
  • This is an only a start, but a worthwhile start. To really get at the deeper work of understanding how you think of yourself and how you came to view yourself in this way it will take more time. Depending on the depth of the wounds that contribute to your self-worth or self-esteem you may need to seek the support of others or a therapist on this journey. I won’t say much here because I generally think that most of you are self-aware enough to know whether therapy might be right for you. Some of you may be here with us today because you’re trying to get a sense of whether someone else can offer value in your life. And I’m glad you’re taking the time to reflect on this.