In order to regulate your self-esteem, you may depend on external sources in healthy or unhealthy ways. Being close to others, gaining acceptance from those you love, seeking admiration or validation from others, and using controlling behavior or power tactics in your relationships may elevate your self-esteem temporarily. However, an excessive reliance on external sources for self-esteem regulation puts you in a very vulnerable position.
Katherine, an overly-empathic white knight, realized that she relied on reassurance from her partner to positively alter her self-esteem. If a telephone call ended without her receiving the validation she was seeking, she felt bad about herself for hours. If her partner did provide validation, her mood immediately became elevated. As we’ve discussed previously, your self-esteem naturally fluctuates as a result of your moods, experiences, and interactions. However, an excessive need for reassurance may indicate a need to develop stability in one’s sense of oneself. In contrast, Joel, a tarnished white knight, would habitually point out to others his affiliation with important members of the community in order to bolster his own self-esteem. Joel required admiration from others as a mirror for his own self-worth. And Ashley, a terrorizing-terrified white knight, would denigrate her partner at social events whenever she imagined that someone else might be interested in him. Her controlling behavior and power tactics enabled her to feel securely attached and important to her partner.