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  • Writer's pictureAlexa von Oertzen, LMFT

Is Your Self Worth Damaging Your Relationship?



  • Do you stick around in a relationship even when you know you deserve better?

  • Are you afraid of being alone?

  • Do you worry you don’t deserve better?

  • Do you tend to lower your standards and expectations in relationships?

  • Do you tend to self-sabotage when someone does treat you right?


If any of these questions sound like you, it may be time for some self-reflection about how you’re valuing yourself and what you think you deserve. Low self-worth is a breeding ground for toxic and unfulfilling relationships. Often, the work of healing needs to center around improving self-love.


What is Self-Worth?


Self-worth is correlated to self-esteem, one’s opinion of themselves, confidence, perceived personal success and self-respect. Self-worth is a critical aspect and influence on mental health.


  • Negative self-worth can look like dissatisfaction with oneself, being overly critical and negative of one’s self, and fear of failure and rejection, all of which are risk factors for anxiety and depression.


  • Positive self-worth looks like taking pride in oneself and accomplishments, having a good attitude more often than not, being able to identify one’s positive skills and attributes and feeling capable in comparison to one’s peers.


There are many factors that influence someone’s sense of self-worth. It can stem from early childhood trauma, an anxious attachment style, a history of rejection, poor academic performance, family dynamics and continuous comparison to others, to list a few.


Self-worth goes beyond someone’s opinion of themselves, but it is also influenced by events in the social sphere: our environment, interactions and experiences. Therefore, low self-worth can cause dissatisfaction, low standards, conflict and compromising on key values in relationships.


Self-Worth & Relationships


What’s more, self-worth functions on a cyclical feedback loop. Low self-worth negatively affects relationships, which further validates and reaffirms low self-worth, which creates a spiral of toxic relationships and low self-esteem.


Toxic relationships are often characterized by lack of support, lack of validation of feelings, lack of communication, manipulation and can exhibit physical/emotional abuse. However, many people who stay in toxic relationships do so because they have low-self-worth and want to keep any relationship, even if they know it’s not good for them. This is mainly because they don’t think they have the positive characteristics to bring into and support a healthy, loving relationship.


Another significant way low self-worth presents itself in romantic relationships is through an anxious attachment style. In a romantic relationship, an anxious attachment style is characterized by desiring affection and intimacy with your partner, but being fearful these feelings and actions will not be reciprocated. This can be a very self-deprecating situation that contributes to low self-esteem and self-worth and thus continues the toxic relationship cycle.


So, How Can You be Happier With Yourself and With Your Relationship?


On the bright side, self-worth and esteem can be changed and influenced. Often this can be done with the assistance of a therapist using a few different approaches. A therapist can help you identify cognitive distortions, realize your thoughts are not fact, and reframe your thoughts to be more realistic and based on evidence, not the lies spun by your anxiety.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help improve communication, conflict resolution and identification plus communication of emotions. This can help you accept, improve, or change certain aspects of your relationships to make both individuals happier and more fulfilled in the relationship.


  • Narrative Therapy for low self-esteem is another helpful approach to increase happiness with self and relationships. Working with a narrative therapist can help individuals understand and change the stories they tell themselves about their lives. One aspect of narrative therapy that can be particularly helpful for individuals with low self-esteem is its focus on externalizing problems. In this approach, individuals understand that their low self-esteem is not inherent to their identity but rather a problem they can work to change. Additionally, individuals can identify and challenge negative self-talk and beliefs and develop a more positive and empowering narrative about themselves.


  • EMDR Therapy can help clients change their negative views of themselves by taking them back to their family of origin, healing relational trauma, desensitizing negative beliefs, and installing new positive thoughts that help change toxic behaviors and seek healthier interpersonal connections. You will realize that the behaviors that you learned to use to keep you safe are no longer serving you in adulthood.


5 Minute Journal Exercise to Increase Your Self-Esteem


Identifying your positive qualities and affirming these to yourself is key. Consider initiating a journaling practice by setting aside 15 minutes a day and working through prompts about self-worth:

  • What are my strengths?

  • What are 5 things I like about myself?

  • What are 5 things I’m proud of that I’ve accomplished or helped with?

  • What have I learned from past relationships?

  • Where was I able to set boundaries or speak up for myself?

  • What do I bring to a relationship and what do I expect of my partner?

  • What are my values and expectations in a relationship?


As cliche as it sounds, it is important to love, value and respect yourself first and foremost.


Fortunately, we can help you get to the root of how and why your self-worth is damaging your relationships and help you work on loving yourself and increasing your self-esteem. If you’re ready to improve your relationship with yourself and others, therapy can help! Call today at 954-391-5305 for a complimentary phone consultation to see how we can help.


Alexa von Oertzen, LMFT specializes in helping teens and adults get past their struggles with self- worth and set themselves up for healthier relationships.


For more information about Alexa and her approach, click here. She provides counseling and EMDR therapy for teens and adults in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs, Florida as well as online therapy across the state of Florida via our secure telehealth platform.


We look forward to helping you live your best life!


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