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6 Self-Esteem Traps that Poisoned My Relationships

I Am Second

September 06, 2013 | 3 minute read

You deserve love. Yes, you. No matter how ugly, stupid, weird, or unlovable you think you are, I am here to tell you that you are loved and you deserve it. And until you recognize this, these six low self-esteem traps will poison all your relationships, at least they poisoned all mine.

1. The Everyone-Thinks-What-I-Think Belief

What you think about you is not what everyone else thinks about you. Maybe some people don’t like you or make fun of you. There will always be the haters. And believe me, I know.  It's no fun knowing some people don't like you or disapprove of something you said or did. But you have to decide that the track you hear in your head is wrong. “I’m too ugly” or “Nobody likes me” or “I’m not good enough”, whatever you’re hearing is lies. I have learned that it's not about silencing that voice as much as it is choosing to ignore it, to NOT believe it. It’s been 14 years since I had my first major breakthrough with my self-esteem, and I still hear “You’re weird. Nobody likes you,” in my head. I just choose not to believe it. And if you want to have healthy relationships you must too.

2. The Self-Thinking Spiral

Low self-esteem is driven by, among other things, an over awareness of self. Not everybody is looking at you. Not everyone is whispering nasty things behind your back, or laughing at the way you look. There was once a time in my life where I convinced myself that everyone was always judging me. Come to find out, most people were doing just what I was doing, wondering if anybody noticed them or liked them. Stop worrying so much about what others think of you and start loving them. You will find you have less time to self-doubt.

3. The Timid Love Syndrome

Everyone is looking for love. You can spend so much time wondering if anybody likes you, that you forget that everyone else is asking the same question of themselves. I used to avoid the center of a room, thinking everyone would stare at me. I would cover up my elbows, afraid everyone would point and laugh. Then I realized, nobody really cared about my elbows or my butt or my bottom lip (yes, I had a problem with that too). What they cared about was if anybody loved them. When I learned to think about the emotional and relational needs of others, I found myself surrounded by friends. Be bold with your love and you will find others will be bold with their right back.

4. "I Deserve Bad Treatment" 

You don’t deserve to be abused. Period. Whether its physical, sexual, or emotional, nobody deserves to be abused. The first emotion abuse victims typically  feel is worthlessness. They feel in some twisted way, that they deserved this treatment or that having received it are too dirty or ruined to ever move beyond it. You are better than whatever terrible experiences others have put you through. If this is you, watch this film and talk to someone today!

5. The Self-Sinking Complex

I still remember the first time Jacob asked me to see a movie with him. Up to that point, I thought I was his pity friend. We were friends at church and at school but I didn’t think our friendship was anything beyond a public goodwill project. I had convinced myself that he only talked with me out of some sense of charity or pity. Then one Friday night, he called me up and asked if I wanted to go see a James Bond movie with him. He smuggled in some candy and shared a cherry lollipop with me. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I realized that night that we were friends, real friends, that I was loved. I still have that lollipop today as a reminder that I can be loved. You can be, too. Don't get stuck sinking your own relationships.

6. You Don’t Know You Are Loved

I always believed in God, went to church, knew about the whole Jesus died on the cross for our sins thing, but I never really got that he loved me, personally. That happened years later, when at a simple little birthday party I saw God answer my prayer. I cried myself to sleep countless nights asking God for a friend, one person who cared, who knew my needs, looked beyond my failures, and just plain liked me. I asked him to give me one friend and at my sixteenth birthday party he filled my house with friends. I realized that the one friend I had always wanted was the one friend he had always promised to be. Jesus wants to be your friend too, if you let him. Maybe this sounds corny to you, it did to me once too, but trust me its for real. He really does want to be your friend. Check out my full story at

Doug Bender is Director of Content for I am Second and author of best selling book, I am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.Watch his story about loneliness, self-esteem, and finding true friendship at

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