Dear Papa Bear,
My mate and I have been dating for a little over a month now. So far the only problem that I've found is his self esteem. He constantly says that he's fat and ugly, but he's not. He's 6' blond hair, blue eye, 160 lbs and he rock climbs so he's tone. My question to you is how can I make him feel better about himself when I feel the same way about myself? It's hard to be strong and supportive for some one when you cant be strong and supportive to myself. Do you have any advice for me? All I want to do is make him happy.
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There seems to be a low self-esteem epidemic in America today, despite the misguided efforts of our broken education system to remedy it. Papabear runs into it constantly. Indeed, I have struggled with it myself. It is doubly hard for you to help your mate, seeing as you also have low self-esteem issues.
Low self-esteem has its roots in childhood, which is the time our self-images develop. If we are told from a young age that we are worthless, ugly, stupid, and so on by the adults in our lives, and if we are told this often enough, then, eventually, we will believe it. There are many possible results of low self-esteem. With me, it has been the drive toward perfectionism and to please other people. Others suffer from sadness, anger, bad body image, feelings of worthlessness, and more. Recognizing the connection between cause and effect is part of the battle.
You and your mate both need to recognize that your low self-esteem is the result of listening to other people, and not a reflection of reality. As you note, your mate is handsome and athletic. He is probably a great guy, too, or you wouldn’t like him so much. I bet if you asked him what he likes about you, he would also point out your many good characteristics.
One problem with mates flattering each other, though, is that each will say, “You’re just saying that because you have to, because you love me.” Therefore, you are at a disadvantage in trying to boost your mate’s self-esteem.
Finding a therapist can help, and if the two of you can afford professional counseling, that is a good way to go. If not, you can do other things to try and help yourself:
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