Most (if not all) of us get our sense of self from others. We tend to depend on others for our self-esteem.
If our friends, co-workers and family members like us, then we like us. If they feel good about ourselves, then we feel good about ourselves (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201002/self-esteem-or-ot…).
It really starts to get intense when the feelings become intense. If others love us, then we feel good about ourselves.
The problem is the flip side of that. If others don’t like-or more importantly love-us, then we are not good. Rejection is a at the very least uncomfortable, and at the most, downright horrible.
The bottom line is that we depend on others to feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, usually this is not a case-by-case situation. It can be cumulative.
People with a history of little or no emotional support end up with feelings of general low self-esteem. For some people it gets to the point where they don’t feel deserving of love.
In the very extreme, there are those whose self-esteem is completely defined by approval from others. These people live their lives solely for another person.
They are at the mercy of their partner’s approval and will do anything for that person’s affection and attention. This is someone who is codependent or an enabler (http://bpdfamily.com/content/codependency-codependent-relationships).
When someone is completely dependent on other people’s or another person’s affection to feel worthy and validated, they will do anything for that person. It becomes an obsession and/or an addiction.
In order to feel worthy, they have to fund some lost soul who needs saving. These people end up being people who look for people to save them because they are constantly in trouble through chemical abuse and/or breaking the law.
Although this is the extreme, many (again, if not all) of us engage in codependent relationships to some degree. This is because we are always seeking approval in order to feel good about ourselves.
Since all of us need some degree of approval from others in order to validate our esteem, we tend to sometimes do things either not in our own best interest or going along with the crowd against our better judgment just to be accepted.
Aside from intimate relationships, this is also how peer pressure affects us.
Of course, doing things for others is not entirely bad. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The distinction is in the motivation. Are we being altruistic it codependent?
The answer is how we feel about ourselves. The distinction is whether or not we’re emotionally independent. When our sense of esteem comes from ourselves rather than others, we don’t engage in relationships that are detrimental.
When our self-esteem is self-directed, we don’t need validation from others. We engage in relationships because we want to, not because we feel we have to. Our relationships are healthy instead of detrimental.
We develop native self-esteem by developing a relationship with ourselves. We do that in the same way we develop a relationship with someone else.
We get to know ourselves. As we get to know ourselves, we come to appreciate ourselves and thus like ourselves.
One way to do this is by keeping a journal. Write in it everyday. Write down your feelings, whatever they are, and do not criticize or censor. This is your unconditional acceptance or yourself.
In focusing inward, we sort of re-parent ourselves giving ourselves the love and affection we didn’t get from others. It’s not really productive to blame them; after all, they didn’t really know any better.
So start developing your own self-esteem, and you will find your relationships change for the better.