We all suffer from moments of self-doubt and insecurity, but when self-esteem is an ongoing issue, it can affect everything in your life – including your ability to obtain, sustain, and maintain healthy relationships.

Self-esteem is not a woman’s issue – men suffer just as easily as women from lack of self-esteem and suffer the consequences in terms of failed relationships and seeking out people who do more harm to their psyche than good. You have to love yourself before you can truly love and be loved by others.

Lack of self esteem can cause you to enter into a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you, someone who treats you poorly, or someone who is downright abusive. If you’re in an abusive relationship, there are people and community agencies that can help. You can call the domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Self-esteem has an affect akin to a snowball rolling down a hill: the better you feel about yourself, the more positively others perceive you. Then, because you are being positively responded to by others, you begin to feel even better about yourself. But how do you start this snowball?

There are several things you can do to improve your self-esteem. The first thing you have to do is silence that voice inside your head that is always telling you how badly you are going to do or how ugly/fat/stupid/unsuccessful you are. You know the voice. What you may not know is that you can engage it in conversation – you can retrain it to be your cheerleader!

It takes work to get out of a negative mode of thinking, but if you catch yourself every time you think something negative (“I’ll never get that promotion”) and force yourself to turn it around (“I deserve that promotion because I’ve worked so hard this year”), you’ll start to see a difference in the way you feel about yourself.  The process can be slow, but it will make a difference.

Another thing you can do to improve your self-esteem is to perform positive affirmations. Look yourself in the mirror each morning and tell yourself you are awesome, beautiful, smart, or successful – whatever it is you need to hear. I know it sounds ridiculous and hokey, and you might even feel silly doing it, but it really does work. At night before you go to sleep as you lay in bed, think of only positive things about yourself.

In time, you will start retraining your mind to think positively about yourself; the more positively you think of yourself, the more positively others will see you. You’ll begin to expect more from your relationships, and you’ll be able to see through those who are or have been mistreating you and you will begin demanding more from all of your relationships.