Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Confidence in a relationship is something we all seek and is based on many factors including trust in your partner. There are, however, many psychological factors that helps us feel confident in any relationship. On this page we will look at how self-esteem and self confidence play an important role in your interactions with others, and what you can do to improve how confident you feel in any relationship.
Feeling self confident and secure can improve relationships because you are likely to have a more positive opinion of yourself and your partner. This will help make the difficult times easier to cope with. Murray et al. (2000) claim that confidence in a relationship comes from high self esteem.
Feeling self confident and secure can improve relationships because you are likely to have a higher opinion of yourself and your partner. This will help make the difficult times easier to cope with. Murray et al. (2000) claim that confidence in a relationship comes from high self esteem and so one way to build self confidence in a relationship.
How you feel about yourself influences how you relate to others. For example, Morry (2009) in her article writes how self esteem affects how we think of ourselves and our partner, and that high self esteem has a positive effect on our relationships. Morry also found that low self esteem individuals experienced lower relationship satisfaction. But why exactly is this?
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How Does Self Esteem Affect Self-Confidence in Relationships?
According to Murray et al. (2000), those with low self esteem have lower opinions of how their partner sees them, whereas those with higher self esteem believe their partners view them very positively which gives them self confidence in the relationship. If anything, they over-estimate how their partner regards them, but this gives them greater feelings of security than those who believe their partners do not regard them highly. This is one major reason why self-esteem and self confidence impact relationships either positively or negatively.
Another reason why self esteem affects self confidence in relationships is suggested by Leary and Baumeister (2000). They explain that one way we can understand self esteem is that it is how we value ourselves as suitable for social groups and relationships. Low self esteem will cause someone to believe they are not equipped to handle relationships and that they are not seen as a suitable partner or member of social groups. In other words, these attitudes will cause self confidence to be high or low in regards to interaction and relationships with others.
Also, Leary and Baumeister describe a universal human need to belong to a social group and to a need to form relationships, but if we feel a lack of confidence in our ability or suitability to form these relationships, this can cause conflict between feeling we don’t belong, yet wishing we did.
Yoshida (2013) claims that relationships are more satisfying for both partners when they feel equal. This would suggest that if one of the people in a relationship feels inferior in any way, they might feel unhappy in the relationship. It is likely that could result in a feeling of lack of control and probably a lack of confidence in the insecure partner. The self esteem of this “less equal” partner may fall and this could cause resentment and frustration in the relationship. There are only two ways to overcome potential problems that could result from this, either the partner experiencing the negative feelings associated with lack of self confidence could work on their self esteem and change their thinking, or the “more confident” partner could try to help the other by letting him or her know they are loved and valued in the relationship. Both cases would require that the partners were aware of the problem of confidence and also able to do something to rectify it.
How Does Self Confidence Affect Relationships?
A person tends to feel happy in a relationship when they feel secure. This feeling of security comes from self confidence they feel as a result of trust in their partner. After several studies carried out by Collins (1996) and by Collins and Allard (1999), those who feel secure think better of their partners when their behaviour is negative, than those who feel insecure. Those who felt secure in the study appeared to believe their relationship involved a strong sense of love, security and intimacy. They felt a stronger connection with their partner. Secure people generally feel better about themselves and others, and have more self confidence. As a result, such a self confident person can give much more to their partner and this is likely to improve the relationship.
When someone feels insecure and lacks self confidence they are less likely to respond in a way that will increase intimacy and love within the relationship. Lack of self confidence increases feelings of insecurity and can lower self esteem. This can create negative emotions and behaviour which can damage a relationship. This would be a good moment to review how self confidence and self esteem are related to better understand the connection.
An interesting article by Iskender (2018) discusses how social self confidence can affect relationships. If a person has poor social self-confidence, they may feel emotional lonely within a relationship or even avoid social interactions completely. Iskender’s research actually studied how feelings of loneliness, self confidence and internet addiction might be connected and found that they are interconnected very closely at least for high school students.
The above suggests that even if there are no obvious problems in a relationship, a lack of social self confidence in either partner can be very damaging to a relationship. Reasons why include that to engage effectively with a partner requires social skills, communication, honesty and patience. When someone lacks confidence in him or herself behaviour can become quite negative and inability to share or express feelings can create barriers.
Vohs and Finkel (2006) explain that people in relationships can be divided into three groups; secure, anxious and insecure. Those who are secure believe that they will be able to get the support they need from their partner when they feel stressed or are having problems. The anxious person is unsure of the help and response that partners will give them, and the insecure have difficulties with relationships because they do not believe that a partner/ friend will give them sufficient support when they need it. This last group may avoid close relationships because of this lack of trust in the emotional support of others.
We have generally looked at how a person’s relationships improve with more self confidence, but the reverse is also true. Some partners will create confidence in the other person(s) in the relationship, and some may decrease it. As Gabriel et al. (2007) advise, it is important to spend time in friendships/ partnerships which make you feel more confident.
The reason why partners can affect each others confidence, lies in what each partner sees in the other and whether this helps the other person. Vohs and Finkel go into some detail on how this works. They explain that each partner can say positive things about their partner which may agree with what the other person wishes to become. On the other hand, although he or she may compliment their partner about something, it may not be in tune with what that person wants to be. For example, a man may compliment a woman on her ability to run the household and consistently be there for him, but she may wish things to be different. She may see herself as more adventurous, as an entrepreneur, or as someone who shares responsibility more with her husband for the finances. She may not see herself ideally as a housewife and in that case his comments are not so positive and lower her self-confidence.
Couples are most happy when each of the partners encourage each other to discover more about themselves and compliment each other when they recognise positive qualities which help the other become more like their ideal self.
In short, self confidence is vital to anyone wishing to develop healthy and happy relationships with others. But what steps can we take to build more self confidence to help us in this area?
Before moving on I would like to suggest you download a copy of my 60 minute audio “A More Confident You” and get started now on your self confidence building program! Special price for a limited time…
How Can You Build Self Confidence In a Relationship?
According to Yoshida (2013), happiness with relationships is one of the most important features of life satisfaction. Anything you can do, therefore, to help yourself feel more confident in your relationships will make your life so much happier.
Gabriel et al. (2007) go even further and say that your relationships make you who you are. The way we interact with others has so much to do with our personal identity and how we view ourselves.
In this section we look at how you can build self confidence in a relationship and how that will improve your life in so many ways.
I have written about how to build self-confidence elsewhere on this website, so do go check out the following articles for more general ideas and tips that will help you:
- 30 Affirmations That Will Improve Your Self Confidence
- 9 Journal Prompts For Self Esteem and Self Confidence
- Believe You Can and You Will
Now let’s continue with some of the best ways to build your self-confidence in a relationship.
1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is something that has been successfully used all over the world for thousands of years and is still very popular today. However, the addition of mindfulness training to the meditation will really help you to learn to accept yourself, your feelings and emotions. It will help you to stop judging your own actions or feelings or those of others. This will really enrich your relationships! Go find out more about mindfulness meditation and how you can listen to them on your phone or laptop.
According to Cayoun (2015), Buddha taught mindfulness which starts with the idea that the body and your actions should be observed without judgement and that becoming aware of the moment is vital for growth. Mindfulness meditation is said to be 2500 years old and has the aim of freeing you from unhelpful thinking and distraction. It has also been shown that meditation can extend your life and reduce stress and anxiety, all helpful for your relationships with others. Cayoun continues to describe the benefits of mindfulness meditation in his book. They include becoming less judgemental, experiencing a more balanced mental state, improved coping with and understanding emotions, and understanding and sympathising with the suffering and problems of others. I’m sure you can see how the aims of this meditation fit very well with our aim of improving relationships.
2. Build Your Self Esteem
We have already mentioned that self-esteem is a vital factor in your relationships, and the fact that building self esteem is beneficial. I established this website way back in 1997 with the aim of helping others to build more self esteem so there is a wealth of advice on how to go about this here. I recommend you go check out this page to start building your self esteem now!
Another technique that can be used to build confidence and benefit your relationships is to practice yoga.
3. Have your individual life
While being in a relationship means that you and your partner will do many things together, you must not lose your own individual interests. It would be a big mistake to try to completely merge your life with your partner’s because you are likely to lose your sense of self. Psychologist Sol Gordon advises in his book “How Can You Tell If You’re Really In Love?” that you are better off getting used to being on your own and being self-reliant before getting into a relationship with another person.
4. Be the partner you want the other to be
You get back in return what you give, so give positively and then positivity will most likely come back to you. As much as possible, focus on the positive aspects of yourself and your partner. When you do this, you will build self-confidence. Instead of criticizing your partner, give them compliments, but make sure they are genuine. More often than not, you will receive compliments and encouragement back.
Even if you are in a long distance relationship or possibly hooked up online on a dating site like Happymatches, you need to keep your conversations positive when chatting online or writing each other emails. You should be slow to judge or criticize when they do not call as they said they would. Always listen to his or her side of story and be as empathetic as possible.
3. Try Self Hypnosis
How can this natural tool help you? Well it is a simple and easy way to connect with the power of your mind to heal yourself or change your behaviour and emotions when you encounter challenges in your life. It is a way to overcome fears, relax and is very similar to meditation as explained above. I have written this page all about self hypnosis, which will introduce you to its benefits and also offers you the opportunity to download some amazing audios which can boost your self confidence, increase your self esteem and will open up a new world of positive change and hope for you. So if you haven’t used self hypnosis give it a try today!
4. Taking Responsibility
There is another important factor which affects self confidence. In this paper by Benebou and Tirole (1999), an important point is made that when we get help, we forget any effort we may have made, and if a person receives too much help from another they can lose self confidence in their own ability to solve the issues they face. We could imagine this in the context of a relationship where one partner might do too much for the other. Although a person might do this meaning well, they can destroy their partner’s confidence in their own capability. This can lead to the person who is constantly being helped becoming dependent on the other.
So, it is fine to receive help from your partner but do not forget that you must take responsibility for your own life and for your personal problems. With responsibility comes a trust in oneself which can transform your character and improve not only your self-confidence but your level of self esteem as well.
5. Be True to Yourself
The closer you are in a relationship to your true self, the more self confidence you will have (Gabriel et al. 2007). So, being yourself and adhering to your values will make you feel you are the real you in the relationship which will give you added security and a positive feeling. Just knowing that your partner loves and respects you for who you really are is very reassuring. Furthermore, it is much easier and less stressful to live honestly and not have to create a different person in order to feel comfortable in a relationship. The one downside is that to live authentically and show your partner the real you requires risk and you need to have trust in order to do this.
There are lots more ways to build your self confidence which I don’t want to repeat here, so please visit this page filled with my best tips to become more self confident today. I wish you the very best of success!
- Benabou, R., & Tirole, J. (2000). Self confidence: Intrapersonal strategies.
- Cayoun, B. A. (2014). Mindfulness-integrated CBT for well-being and personal growth: Four steps to enhance inner calm, self-confidence and relationships. John Wiley & Sons.
- Gabriel, S., Renaud, J. M., & Tippin, B. (2007). When I think of you, I feel more confident about me: The relational self and self-confidence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(5), 772-779.
- İskender, M. (2018). Investigation of the Effects of Social Self-Confidence, Social Loneliness and Family Emotional Loneliness Variables on Internet Addiction. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 6(3), 1-10.
- Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). The nature and function of self-esteem: Sociometer theory. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 1-62). Academic Press.
- Morry, M. M. & Sciangula, A., (2009). Self-esteem and perceived regard: How I see myself affects my relationship satisfaction. The Journal of social psychology, 149(2), 143-158.(2009). Self-esteem and perceived regard: How I see myself affects my relationship satisfaction. The Journal of social psychology, 149(2), 143-158.
- Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (2000). Self-esteem and the quest for felt security: How perceived regard regulates attachment processes. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(3), 478.
- Owens, T. J. (1993). Accentuate the positive-and the negative: Rethinking the use of self-esteem, self-deprecation, and self-confidence. Social Psychology Quarterly, 288-299.
- Simpson, J. A., Fletcher, G. J., & Campbell, L. (2001). The structure and function of ideal standards in close relationships. Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Interpersonal processes, 86-106.
- Yoshida, E. M. (2013). Understanding how deciding and relationship confidence predict relationship satisfaction.
- Vohs, K. D., & Finkel, E. J. (Eds.). (2006). Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes. Guilford Press.
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.